PSA: A Holiday Privacy Reminder


If you happened to receive a new computer, and are tossing out an old machine, please remember to permanently erase any personal data. Otherwise, someone like me* just might find your discrete photos, bank account numbers, SSAN, and so forth.

In Windows, merely “deleting” the files doesn’t do it; deleted files sit in your recycle bin until you actively empty it…

Which also doesn’t do it. A deleted file isn’t truly deleted until the portions of the hard drive on which it sat is overwritten. “Deleting” just changes the file header to “this space available”. Until it’s overwritten, someone like me — or worse, someone not as honest as me — can recover the data.

So delete all your data using a file shredder like this one before that computer goes out to the curb.

* The last three computers I acquired by scrounging — including one last night — all had extensive files left completely undeleted: pictures of kids, vacation shots, financial data, personal letters, and more. I’m nice; I just wiped it all.

3 thoughts on “PSA: A Holiday Privacy Reminder

  1. MamaLiberty December 29, 2015 / 3:03 pm

    One other little hint… Before you wipe it all completely, make sure that whatever you backed it all up to will actually be available on the new machine. Check compatibility of old and new programs.

    My first computer was an Atari 64K. No internet, of course. It had a wonderful word processor, but the memory was all on the same floppy disk with the entire OS and all the programs. Not much left over for one’s own files. The Atari CPU was in the keyboard, and when that died there was no way to read any of the disks. Once I got a new computer, I was never again able to access the documents I’d saved to the disks.

    Then, years later, proceeded to do the same with a box full of CD “backup”… Not. The pictures were ok, but the text files could not be opened in WP I had on the new machine. I had bought “lotus” for Windows for the earlier computer, and it would never successfully install on the new machine.

    Last time, I had everything saved to a USB stick… and what do you know… it worked. But by then I just installed the same OS to the new machine and there was no real problem.


  2. MamaLiberty December 29, 2015 / 3:05 pm

    Oh, and of course the last ten years or so I’ve run nothing but linux. Still looking for an OS flavor I can truly love, but Fedora is not too bad. 🙂


  3. Unclezip January 4, 2016 / 7:26 am

    It’s relatively easy to pull the hard drive from any computer, and the drives make wonderful practice targets. I’ve got a stack of eight or ten in the corner ready for explosive dispersal. As soon as the snow clears…


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