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Monday, December 28, 2009

How To: Prepare and Sell A Used Computer & Hard Drive (Erase, Format, Wipe)

Did you get a new computer for Christmas?

I did not, but a number of my friends did. And on more than one occasion I have been told they did not know what to do with the old computer. When I asked why not sell it on Craigslist or eBay, the reply often was -- I did not know how to prepare it to make sure the data was removed from the old hard drive.

It immediately made me think that many people are not quite sure where to start when it comes to securing their hard drive before parting with it. If that's you, you may want to check this article out if you plan on disposing of that old hard drive or computer -- either by donating or selling on your favorite site, whether that is on eBay or Craiglist to see how you should prepare that computer for sale. That will enable you to get the most cash for your old machine and feel safe about letting it out of your hands; even if you had very personal data on it.

The first thing to realize is that simply formatting a hard drive is not enough to protect to remove, erase, wipe, or destroy the personal data that you may have on your hard drive. In fact, an article published earlier this year revealed that over 34% of resold hard drives still have personal data on them.

Unfortunately, in many cases it is all to easy with some basic utilities to scan a formatted only hard drive and recover most of the data if you have only have performed a basic format and have an unencrypted drive. Which today, is the most common scenario for most home PCs.

However, there is both a free and easy way to permanently wipe and erase you hard drive and making sure that nobody is able to access the data.

How you ask?

With Darik's Boot And Nuke, a free open-source software that enables you to boot via a CD-ROM, run the tool for a number of hours and wipe that data from your hard drive. Here's a little more on the tool:

Darik's Boot and Nuke ("DBAN") is a self-contained boot disk that securely wipes the hard disks of most computers. DBAN will automatically and completely delete the contents of any hard disk that it can detect, which makes it an appropriate utility for bulk or emergency data destruction.

DBAN is a means of ensuring due diligence in computer recycling, a way of preventing identity theft if you want to sell a computer, and a good way to totally clean a Microsoft Windows installation of viruses and spyware. DBAN prevents or thoroughly hinders all known techniques of hard disk forensic analysis.

DBAN is a free software product that can be used at home or in a business at zero cost. The only official place to obtain DBAN is by download at this web site. We do not sell DBAN media

Last time I wrote about DBAN a couple of years ago, the current version was 1.07. Now updated to version 2.0, it now supports AMD, Intel, and MAC PowerPC processors, so matter if you are running a Microsoft Windows or an Apple Macintosh (Mac) operating system -- you should be set to go.

If you are looking for more details on how to operate DBAN, please check out my old article here.

Once you complete the low-level format and completely wipe the data -- you are now able to reload all the original operating system and software. Once you have done that, you can put it up on eBay or Craigslist to maximize the value, while feeling safe about letting the old hard drive out of you sight.

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Raju Vusirikala said...

Good article. I dropped my old pc at goodwill few months back after doing the hard delete the personal files from the drive. So, hard deleting doesn't really delete the file from the system? I guess, if i do disk defragmentation after deleting stuff might work as well. right?

Ken Hanscom said...

Raju, formatting and defragging is usually not enough to wipe the data completely from you PC. Using a software tool to destroy the data like DBAN or some of the other commercial products out there are the only effective ways to do so.