November 22, 2017

How to completely and securely wipe an old laptop hard drive

Emma Baumhofer - Digital Manager

Most of us have an old laptop sitting around collecting dust. It might even be joined by a few old phones and other outdated hardware in the old tech graveyard in a corner of the house. Well, the hardware itself might actually be useful to someone. You can donate it or perhaps even sell it depending on its age and condition. But one thing you definitely don’t want is someone stealing your data, all the old files you’ve built up over time, pictures, documents, spreadsheets, you name it. So before you go donating your old devices, make sure to fully wipe clean the hard drives first.

Formatting your drive is NOT enough. It actually leaves your data intact and there is software out there that can recover it. There are four ways to COMPLETELY erase your hard drive so that nobody can ever crack into it and steal your data. In the video and podcast below the Paul Bristow, the Gadget Guru at World Radio Switzerland, explains option number four on this list. Hint: you will need power tools! But you’ll also be able to rest 100% easy that your data will be completely irrecoverable.

Four ways to erase a hard drive

  1. Use a special software to overwrite the drive – this option takes awhile, like all weekend potentially. It’s also a bit more advanced, so it’s probably only an option for tech geeks
  2. Buy a drive erasure – this is the pricy option as they run at about CHF 250 or so. So if you just have one hard drive to erase, it probably not worth the investment. It also requires that the laptop still turns on, which may not be the case anymore with your really old gear
  3. Use a very powerful magnet – theoretically, this option will erase your data but it would actually be hard to tell if it’s all gone. Not to mention the initial hurdle of minding a magnet powerful enough to do the trick. Anyone have any friends at CERN?
  4. Physically remove the hard drive and destroy it – winner! This is the DIY way to clear your data and make sure no one will never EVER get it. This is the way Paul explains in the podcast and video.


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