With new hard drive technology like solid state drivers (SSDs) and serial advanced technology attachments (SATA) quickly overtaking the hard drive market, almost all of us have old, out-of-date hard drives sitting around on dusty shelves. If you’re thinking about selling those hard drives, you better wait until you delete your data. Here are a few facts:
- Recent research found 37% of used hard drives are sold with personal data and identifiable information still on them.
- Worse yet, 15% of drives have personal information such as birth certificates, credit card details, Amazon accounts, Social Security numbers, and addresses.
- This makes used hard drives gold mines for threat actors.
Don’t let your old external hard drive expose you to identity theft, security threats, or spam issues. Wipe your data before you pass it off to the used market or the dump. Here’s everything you need to know about getting data off an old hdd — the right way.
Why You Should “Delete” Data Off Your Old Hard Drive
Hard drives are essentially treasure chests of personal information. From corporate data to personal details, the pure scale of data and information on the average hard drive is mind-blowing. The average person spends almost 7 hours online every day, and we (as a whole) generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data during that time. By the end of this year, we’ll generate 40 times more bytes of data than there are stars in the observable universe.
Every single byte of that data may contain critical personal information:
- How often do you purchase food from your phone or computer?
- How many emails have you opened?
- How many work files have you saved into your Documents folder?
Recent research has found 33% of American adults have experienced identity theft, and that a new victim is added every two seconds. For those who have already experienced it, the bad news is you’re likely to do so again: One in five identity theft victims has been caught in this loop more than once, and identity theft causes more than hours of headaches and months of time. It also costs your wallet approximately $1,343.
Which Hard Disk Data Should You Keep?
Don’t just delete all the data on your hard drive! You may have old data that’s important to you, so you’ll want to triple-check the following types to ensure you actually want to delete it:
- Old business documents
- Text documents
- Phone numbers or contacts
As you browse through your old data, arrange it into “keep” and “discard” folders. Transfer the “keep folder” to another hard drive, then take the “discard” folder and proceed to the next step.
How To Delete Data From Old Hard Disk Drive
Let’s look at a few of the most common ways of deleting data from old hard drives.
1. Via The Recycle Bin & Control Panel On Windows
Using the recycling bin is, by far, the most common method of data deletion. There are two ways to drag files to the recycling bin:
Alternatively, you can drag the file you want to delete into the recycling bin by holding click on the file, dragging it, and dropping it in the recycle bin icon on your desktop.
Once you’ve finished deleting your files, you can right-click the recycling bin and select “empty” to “delete” all of the files in the bin.
2. Via The Control Panel On Windows
Programs like Microsoft Office or games are made up of complex webs of data, files, and folders. You can’t simply drag a program to the recycling bin. Instead, you can use the Control Panel to delete all the program’s associated files and folders.
To delete installed programs, you need to use the Control Panel.
3. Via The Trash Can On A Mac
With Apple’s operating system, the recycling bin is called the “trash can.” Here’s how to delete files on Mac computers.
Why Deletion Isn’t Enough
The term “deleting” data is a little deceptive. You may think of it as permanently erasing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Here’s what you need to know:
- Whether you use the recycling bin on Windows or a Mac, “deleting” data in the traditional way doesn’t actually erase it permanently.
- Instead, dragging a file to the recycling bin deletes the pathway to that file.
- The data is still on your hard drive, and it will exist on your hard drive until your computer writes over every bit of that data — which it likely never will.
- Your “deleted” files can still be recovered with the right data recovery tools.
- This is incredibly important for those who are throwing away or selling a used hard drive, desktop computer, laptop hard drive, or even motherboard.
- If you simply emptied the trash can or recycling bin, your data is still on the drive, and threat actors can still access it with the right tools.
In today’s hyper-digital landscape, it doesn’t take cool techies with sunglasses that work at the FBI to retrieve data on your hard drive. Virtually anyone can download tools that allow them to recover deleted data.
How To Permanently Delete Private Data On Old Drives
Despite the name, “deleting” data on your computer doesn’t actually delete it. With threat actors on the rise and private information commanding higher prices on the digital black market, you need to be sure that your content gets properly deleted before you dispose of your old drive.
If you want to securely and permanently delete data on your old hard drive, you need to use a digital file shredder. Unlike traditional deletion methods, a file shredder can permanently delete your data for good by breaking the files into countless tiny, unretrievable pieces and enabling your device to write over those bits. This means you can nearly instantly delete data for good.
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