How to Wipe Personal Info from Electronics

Do you have a bunch of gadgets gathering dust in your home? Want to make some extra cash by selling your old devices? You can – just make sure to clean all your personal info before selling them. Tech Talker teaches you how!

Eric Escobar
5-minute read
Episode #63

The holidays have been over for a while now and odds are, you probably have more than one device that is now sitting lonely on your shelf, ever since it was replaced by that shiny new phone, tablet, or computer you got as a gift. In this week’s episode, we will be dusting off those old electronics, clearing them out, and getting them ready to sell!.

Say you decide that you want to sell one or more of your older devices. However, now more than ever, these devices hold so much information about us that selling one that isn’t properly cleared is like giving away your identity to the highest bidder! This is a huge problem, but one that is easily avoided.

How to Erase Personal Data from Your Computer

Let’s talk about computers first. Computers hold a ton of information about you, and many people fear selling or even donating their older model computers because they don’t want the information stored on their hard drive getting into the wrong hands. It’s a very legitimate concern. You may have heard that formatting a hard drive is the answer to getting rid of all of your private information. While formatting a hard drive can certainly harm your data, it is definitely not a foolproof way to actually erase your data.

See also:  How to Safely Recover and Delete Your Files

In fact, formatting the hard drive is just step one in the process of wiping your computer clean of your sensitive information. Formatting the hard drive is a lot like taking the label off a can of soup. It makes things a little ambiguous, but still leaves clues as to what is inside. What we want to do is open up the can and clean out the inside or, in the case of the hard drive, all of the ones and zeros that make up our pictures, videos, addresses, and operating system that were once stored on the hard drive.

This is a pretty painless process. For Mac users, simply insert the operating system disc that came with your computer and press the “C” button as the Mac boots. This will load an operating system from the CD which will allow you to make some changes. From here you will click Utilities and then Disk Utility and choose Erase. This selection will give you a number of choices for what to do next. You can simply record all zeros to the hard drive or write random data to the drive from 7 to 35 times. Just keep in mind that writing all zeros will take about half an hour, 7 passes of random data will take a few hours, and 35 passes of random data will take days!

After this step is complete, you’ll reinstall the operating system and voila, your Mac is clean and ready to sell!

If you have a Windows machine, this process is a little bit more difficult. My go-to solution is to get a free program called Darik’s Boot & Nuke. This program makes formatting your hard drive super simple. You download it, burn it to a CD, start up your PC, select the drive, and it takes care of the rest.

Once that’s done, just reinstall the operating system using the discs that came with your computer and your PC will be squeaky clean and good to go! This is because Darik’s Boot & Nuke takes care of all the deleting!

Here’s how to do it on Windows 8!


About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.