Discarding an old device? Don’t forget the data dump.

David Pollino
Posted by David Pollino

You got a new smart phone or tablet as a holiday present, or maybe your business is ordering new laptops to kick off the new year. So what will you do with your old devices?

Hand holding old smartphone suspended above a garbage can, with palm trees in the background.Whatever your plans for old phones and computers are, do this first: Erase your data.

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in new electronic toys that you forget that everything left on the old toys is easy pickings for fraudsters, hackers, and criminals. Help protect yourself by taking that little extra time to wipe out all your old data. Remember, just deleting items or dragging them into the trash folder does not remove them from a device.

There are two common ways to “sanitize” electronic equipment: (1) the device’s own privacy or security settings or (2) a software program designed to “nuke” a device.

Mobile devices

Mobile phones and tablets generally can be wiped clean by going into settings or preferences and resetting the device to the original or factory settings. Each operating system does it slightly differently, so here are several links to help you out:

Computers and laptops

For computers, the cleaning process is different.

On Windows 8 computers, the process of sanitizing the hard drive is pretty straightforward. Go to PC Settings, then to General, and select Remove Everything and reinstall Windows. Users of prior versions of Windows should be able to find the particular steps for cleaning data from their computer in their manual.

On Macs, consult Apple’s support page on what to do before selling or giving away a Mac.

The other way to clean a computer is with a software program. One of the more popular ones, which I have used, is Darik’s Boot and Nuke, or DBAN, a free program designed for personal use. Your business may want or need a more industrial-strength program.

There are dozens of other programs, some free and others that charge. If you want to review free options for sanitizing a hard drive, you may want to read Tim Fisher’s article “42 Free Data Destruction Software Programs.”

So, enjoy your new toys. Just be sure not to discard all your private information with your old ones.

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