Article — Scrubbing Your Computer

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Thinking of donating or disposing of your old computer? Then you’ll want to scrub it clean—and there’s more to scrubbing a computer than dusting off the case.

As you know, computers are full of personal information. In addition to the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of friends and relatives, you may also have stored tax returns, bank statements, and medical information—none of which you want anyone else to have access to.

That means you need to clear your hard drive before you give your computer away—and you need to know that deleting files and sending them to the trash is not enough, even if you empty the computer’s trash can.

Image source: Simon Speed, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Image source: Simon Speed, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Maybe you’ve already moved the files to a flash drive, a CD, or your new computer. Is that enough? Nope, they’re still on your current computer’s hard drive, waiting to be discovered.

To truly get rid of the files, you need to scrub your computer. Scrubbing means using a program that writes over the information on your disk with meaningless, repetitive data so no one else can extract it. You can download free scrubbing software, or buy a name-brand.

Depending on what you plan to do with your computer—give it to a trusted family member, a nonprofit organization or a recycler—you may choose to wipe more than data files. You might want to clean the hard drive completely, including programs and operating system. Why? Because some programs store passwords and other information in places on your computer that might not be affected by simply cleaning up data. In addition, you may violate software licenses by giving away a computer with original programs intact.

If you want to be absolutely certain your computer hard drive is unusable, you can go one step beyond scrubbing by removing the drive from your computer and physically destroying it.

Whatever method you choose, remember that cleaning the case before you donate or dispose of your computer is optional. Cleaning your hard drive is not.

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