So you want to recycle your old PC and donate it to a good cause. What a great idea! Just make sure you take the effort to permanently delete your data first.
Permanently delete your data – Background
Every file on your computer is simply represented on your hard drive as 1’s and 0’s. When you delete a file, you aren’t actually deleting the actual 1’s and 0’s (bits); you are just deleting the “link” that points to this data on the hard drive. When this link is deleted, your computer then sees your old data as free space on your hard drive, ready to have new data written to it.
This is where someone with readily available un-deleting software can recover your deleted data. This software scans your hard drive, reads the bits and restores the “links” that pointed to the bits so that the data can be read again. So how do you protect against this?
You need to permanently delete your data. Good news is, there’s free and easy software that can do this for you. For Windows, the Freeware Free File Shredder is a great application. With this program, you can choose the files and folders you would like to permanently delete, or you can even permanently delete your “free” disk space. This is great for permanently deleting files that you deleted some time ago.
Free File Shredder and other similar programs will then use a choice of algorithms that will permanently delete the data. This is typically done by writing random bits of 1’s and 0’s across your hard drive where your data use to be. So if someone does un-delete your drive, all they’ll recover is the random bits that were written across your drive.
Now that you understand that, lets get ready to recycle your old PC.
Permanently delete data – Step by step on a Windows machine
- Create a new user account with Administrator privileges
- Delete ALL your old user accounts.
- Re-boot the machine and log into the new user account you just created.
- Browse to C:\Users\<old-user-account-name> – and delete this folder and then also clear it from the recycle bin. Do this for all the user accounts that were on your machine.
- Re-boot the machine again and log into the new user account you created in step 3.
- Download and install Free File Shredder
- Run Free File Shredder and select “Shred Free Disk Space”. Then choose D0D 5220-22.M as the Secure Algorithm – This will write random bits across all your data that used to be contained within your User Account folder that was delete in step 4.
You are now ready for the last step to recycle your old PC.
Recycle your old PC
No one likes to receive your old junk, so when you recycle your old PC, make sure it is factory restored and ready for the lucky recipient to boot it up and make it their own. This will make sure that any remnants of old programs, any viruses or spyware that may have snuck in are gone for good. When the new user boots up for the first time, it will be like they’ve just opened this computer out of its box.
Depending on the computer and the operating system, there are different ways for Factory Resetting your computer before you recycle your old PC.
Factory reset your old PC – Step by step
On Windows 8 systems:
- Go to Settings.
- Update and Recovery.
- Remove everything and reinstall Windows
Follow the steps, pack up your computer and recycle your old pc to a grateful recipient and enjoy your warm karma knowing that if anyone pokes around the computer they won’t stumble across any of your old data.