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New devices for holiday gifts? Be sure to wipe the old ones.

David Pollino

It’s that time of year for giving and receiving. With giving and receiving comes the all-important erasing.

Tablet wrapped with a red, festive ribbon with long curly bow.As I did at the end of last year, here’s my guide — updated for 2015 — to resources for removing private information from your electronic devices.

Annual worldwide mobile phone sales in 2014 surpassed 1 billion. That’s a lot of phones. And you can bet for every phone sold there’s probably a previous model being tossed — many, no doubt, chock full of personal data.

Erasing isn’t enough?

So before you dispose of old phones, laptops, desktop computers, or — I’ve added this year — portable storage devices, take a few minutes to securely wipe your hard drive.

“Deleting,” “wiping,” and “zeroing” a hard drive are not synonymous. Simply deleting or reformatting the hard drive is not enough. When you delete files, you’re making the data invisible, but you are not erasing the data. However, wiping or zeroing data completely erases the existence of the data which prevents a third party from recovering those deleted files.

Here’s a simple holiday gift idea: If you’re giving a new device to someone — a family member, friend or employee — also take a minute to show them how to protect themselves by removing their data from old devices.

Resources that can help

Regardless of whether your hard drive is internal or external, you should protect your privacy by getting rid of data on your old devices. Instructions for completing this important step can be found on the manufacturer’s websites:

The other option for clearing a computer of data is to use a software program, many of which are free. One of the more popular ones is Darik’s Boot and Nuke, or DBAN, designed for personal use. A business may want or need a more powerful program.

Have fun with your new devices. Just make sure hackers and thieves don’t have fun with all the data (personal information, pictures, documents, etc.), on your old devices.
Statistic: Vendors' sales of mobile phone sales to end users worldwide from 2010 to 2015 (in million units), by quarter | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

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