I was the in the process of moving last fall when I came across something that I had forgotten about, my Hard Drive Graveyard.
The Graveyard previously resided in a forest green laundry bin at the back of my office closet. In that bin was one dead PC laptop, an equally deceased iBook, and a hard drive from a former desktop PC, circa 2003. In light of the dust that had collected on them, it had been absent a caretaker far too long. And that concerned me.
Think about all the little bits of information our computers store for us. Shopping online can mean your credit or debit card digits are on your old hard drive. There’s also your contacts file, along with years of those email conversations. And don’t forget about your web browsing history, either. Between the family photos, tax documentation, software registration keys, legal documents, and perhaps even your social security number, there’s a lot of ammunition an identity thief could use to do some damage to your credit history.
I upgrade my computers every two to three years and proper disposal of the old computer and its mechanical brain had always vexed me. Recycling laws seem to change between upgrades, so the process lacks consistency. Places where you can recycle your computers will offer some services (appropriate handling of the recyclable materials), but not always the ones you need to keep your family safe from identity thieves (guaranteed removal of personal information from the hard drive).
So what can you do to keep your personal information safe when it’s time to bury the old technology?
How to protect your identity when recycling your hard drive.
- Transfer your files. Transfer everything you want to save to your new computer. It’s as simple as saving files to an external hard drive, plugging it into your new computer, and downloading the data onto the new unit.
- Erase your hard drive. Sure, you can clean out your hard drive using the technology that comes with your computer, but some experts suggest using an external program, too. You can read expert opinions, user reviews, and get great advice about which program meets your specific needs at Cnet.
- Be wary of handlers. You can probably find several places online that are willing to take your old computer and do this for you at cut-rate prices. Be careful. This is the kind of service that identity thieves love to set up online so that they can steal all that information off your old computer. Check out service providers with the Office of the Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau.
- Ditch the corpse. Make sure you dispose of the remains in a way that’s kind to the environment. E-cycle Washington helps consumers responsibly recycle computers, televisions, monitors, and a myriad of other electronics. Contact them to learn about a recycling center in your neck of the woods.
Sorry, comments are closed for this article.