Here are some tips on ways to thwart identity theft when you sell, give away or recycle your computer!

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1. Remove the hard drive or drives. This is the simplest solution. It’s quick and relatively easy to do (do an online search on “remove hard drive from” your brand of computer).But you’re still left with the data-packed drive. Plus, opening up your computer has risks. You may unknowingly damage other parts — or yourself!

If you do choose this route, you can still erase the drive later by connecting it to another computer with a special USB cable (search for “USB hard drive adapter cable”). You can also go the destructive way and take a hammer to the drive but that is messy and can create toxic hazards. We do offer data destruction as part of our service so please keep that in mind.

2. Erase part or all of the drive and leave it in your PC. This might seem easy but there are two main caveats:
One, erasing the drive, by reformatting it or deleting individual folders and files doesn’t actually delete the data. This only removes pointers (or really the table of context that is used to point to that data) from the drive’s master index and the files themselves can still be easily read with any type of file recovery software.
Two, you can’t reformat your main drive (usually the “C” drive on a PC) while it’s in use so what you will need is special software (you can search for “file shredder”, “file eraser” or “erase hard drive”) that deletes all data by overwriting the drive with zeroes several times.
Mac users can use the built-in Disk Utility and perform a secure deletion of all free drive space.
Once the drive is completely erased it will no longer harbor any data which includes the operating system may it be Windows or Mac OS. You will need to boot (launch) your computer from a specially prepared CD or USB device once you have wiped out your operating system.

3. Erasing just the data and personal information can be done but is a bit trickier and you will have to take extra precautions when doing going this route. However, choosing to do this will leave your operating system and maybe other programs intact for the next user. You will need to use a dedicated file deletion program to completely wipe your personal data folder by folder. Always remember to back up all data prior to going through this process.

You will want to make sure to be aware of any programs that could leave personal information, like passwords or details of sites you visited specifically with internet browser programs.
You should be able to either uninstall these separately or delete personal information from them.

4. Remove all other portable media. Make sure you check that there is no other media in the computer’s Floppy, CD/DVD drive, USB Memory stick, Compact Flash or Secure Digital. Are you donating an external hard drive, floppy, Zip disks along with the machine. If so, make sure they’re erased as outlined above. Also if you are disposing of any types of backup tapes make sure they are erased or you can even run a rare earth magnet over the tapes to make sure that the data on the tape is corrupt.

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