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How to Delete Your Data According to Your Level of Paranoia

It’s downright dangerous to leave personal files on a notebook you’re giving away, selling, or recycling.


by Todd Haselton on April 22, 2008

data_delete_intro_shIt’s finally time to get rid of your notebook, but what about all that data you have stored on your hard drive? Is it safe to just reformat and toss it? Will anyone actually take the hard drive out from the dump? It may scare you how easy it is to retrieve your personal files.

“For me, recovering data from a disposed hard drive is trivial, even if it has been destroyed. I buy them for a buck or two apiece on eBay and run forensics on them just to sharpen my craft,” said Paul Henry, vice president of technology evangelism at Secure Computing Corp. “I am amazed at the amount of personal data that is still on these hard drives.”

Henry warns that some big-box retailers have been known to sell hard drives taken from older computers for upgrades and replacements on eBay. That means your credit card data and social security numbers could fall into the hands of the wrong people. He suggests that users always ask for the hard drive back.

Sufficiently frightened yet? Fear not, because our guide will help you wipe the digital slate completely clean.

Paranoia Level 1 

Paranoia Level 2 

Paranoia Level 3 

Paranoia Level 4 
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