Your storage device isn’t going to last forever. Either it’ll break or you’ll need to upgrade it. Chances are that device has stored some sort of personal or confidential data. If it’s an enterprise, that’s almost a given. In fact, you don’t need to intentionally store personal data on a drive for someone to be able to find out things about you – consider things like your email or internet history.
If you’re stuck with an old storage device and are looking to dispose of it, there are a few things you need to know. First, simply deleting all the files isn’t secure. When you delete files, they aren’t removed immediately. Instead, that space is marked as being free. It’s only when another file overwrites that space that the original data is removed. If you have a large drive or one with a lot of free space, it might take a very long time for that data to be overwritten and you have no easy way of establishing when that is.
This is how consumer data recovery programs work. They scrub these hidden sections of your drives to unearth data you thought had been deleted. These utilities are easy to use and freely available online; if you’re able to do it, so is someone with malicious intent. You might think that reformatting is the next choice. Indeed, that is a better option, but that still doesn’t completely do the job.
Alternatively, encryption is something that some people turn to. Encryption is a great way of protecting your data, and is legally required for some things. It’ll be a good defensive layer against those trying to secure your data. However, encryption is only as strong as the key to unlock it, so it shouldn’t be relied on when removing data.
There are two ultimate ways to ensure that your data has been completely removed from an old device. The first choice is to physical destroy the device. There are companies out there who will destroy your device to a certain standard, which will be required by law depending on what type of data you store. Heat, magnetics and shredding are all different ways that a device can be destroyed.
The second option is to securely wipe the drive using an overwriting tool. This will constantly overwrite the drive so that all of that hidden, original data is removed. If you want the drive to still be useable after it has been wiped, this is the route to take.
Of course, if your drive is still functional but just doesn’t meet your primary storage capacity need, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a use for it. If you’re a keen photographer then you could use it as a memory archive for some of your prized photos. Or perhaps you could give it to a family member for them to make use of it. Whatever you decide to do, just remember that you need to have securely wiped all of your data from it. You don’t know where it could end up…
What To Do With Your Old Storage Devices
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