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2,810 Tutorials

How to safely dispose of an old PC

Migrate from PC to PC in safety

It is terrifyingly easy to give up your personal data - regardless of whether or not you're a gin-sodden civil servant with a laptop full of national secrets.

Where there's muck, there's brass. Bin an unshredded bank statement and, even if you've never ventured online, you run the risk of handing over your name, bank details and address in one neat (albeit smelly) package. And it doesn't take a huge amount of rat-like cunning for a criminal to convert your rubbish into a spoofed ID and a line or two of credit.

Perhaps you've already been a victim of fraud in this way. The chances are your experience was relatively benign - the bank replaced the cash and life went on. But financial institutions are keen to devolve responsibility to customers and you won't always be so fortunate. You need to take responsibility for disposing of your data.

In these environmentally friendly times, consider how much more you use your Windows Recycle Bin than you do your waste paper basket. I'm willing to wager the price of a new hard disk that your PC contains enough passwords, account numbers and personal details for a so-minded ruffian to live it large at your expense.

As long as you control access to your PC while you're still using it, this is fine. It's when you decide to dispose of it that it can become a real worry. In fact, dumping old PCs and hard disks is a data-security nightmare.

So what should you do with your old system? Before you make that choice, make sure you dispose of all your data.

Our walkthroughs will show you how to migrate from an old computer without emptying your wallet.

Clean up a hard drive before you dump it

1. Let's deal with the basics. Reformatting your PC's hard drive - or even deleting its partition - won't place data out of the reach of thieves. And ‘deleting' files by putting them into the Windows Recycle Bin won't do any such thing - any data-recovery software will be able to get at them.

Step 1: Clean up a hard drive before you dump it

2. A block-erasure utility such as Darik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN) overwrites each ‘block' of data on your hard drive many times. This makes it unreadable. You create an ISO file that you burn to a CD. Boot up your PC using this startup disk and, after a few simple keystrokes, you can destroy your data.

Step 2: Clean up a hard drive before you dump it

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