How to Wipe a Hard Drive Before Recycling

Juliet D'cruz

Updated on:

With so much electronic waste out there in the world, you can do your part for the environment by recycling old electronic equipment. For example, you can recycle things like computer components or peripherals. 

These items contain materials that take an incredibly long time to degrade, so it’s really not possible to put them in the regular garbage. With that said, you should be cautious about recycling anything that stores data. 

If you recycle something like a hard drive without properly wiping the data, you could become a victim of cybercrime. So how exactly do you safely wipe a hard drive for recycling? This article tells you everything you need to know about the process. 

Don’t Just Delete the Files

You might be surprised to learn that your files are not gone when you delete them from your hard drive. The file on your drive is essentially a map pointing to where the data is on the drive. When you delete the file, you simply delete the directions to the data. 

The data is still on the drive and can be completely recovered. The data will remain available until you overwrite that data with something else. Cybercriminals often acquire old hard drives to use data recovery methods on them. 

If the previous owners were not diligent about wiping their data, they might be able to find sensitive information. 

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Use a Program to Wipe a Hard Drive

The only way to make the data on a hard drive completely unrecoverable is to use a specific type of software to wipe it. This software works because it overwrites the files with meaningless data. 

For example, you might use something like DBAN to completely erase any trace of your files from a computer. That includes your operating system as well as your personal files. 

Wipe the Drive Physically

Software isn’t the only option for rendering your data unreadable. You can also physically wipe the data by exposing the drive to a rare earth magnet. Proceed with caution though, these magnets are extremely powerful, and they can cause physical injury if you don’t use them properly. 

Why Is It Important to Wipe the Data? 

If you don’t wipe your data from the drive, it could fall into the hands of cybercriminals. They could then use this data to commit crimes such as identity theft or extortion. 

Given the complexity of digital systems, you might not necessarily realize that you’re giving away dangerous data. The safest move is to properly wipe the drive. 

You can also keep yourself safe by only giving your drives to reputable recycling companies such as

Keep Your Data Safe

The risk of cybercriminals getting their hands on your recycled drive is low, but the potential damage they could do is high. With the amount of risk you face, it makes sense to wipe a hard drive properly before giving it up for recycling. 

If you want to learn about other technology-related topics, check out the rest of our blog posts. 

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