Thursday 25 June 2015

Selling or giving away your Laptop/PC, take this 5 simple steps to ensure you erase all personal details from your laptop/PC

Whenever, you are selling your laptop it is essential to double check that you have not only copied your data into some safe hard disk but also as a thumb rule ensure that you delete all your personal and traceable data from all the drives.

Most of the times you might hand over your laptop to some criminals and potential hackers who might use your laptop to get access to your confidential data such as the bank details, certain important documents, photos of your family, automatic sign-ins into your Google and iOS profiles.

The same is true when you buy a second hand laptop or PC. A second hand PC/Laptop may come to you with illegal content. You dont want to be in the shoes of an user called Sunday_Account who bought a second hand laptop for $250 listed on Craiglist only to arrested and spending $12,000 to avoid jail term.

However, by following the below given Top 5 steps you can ensure that you have deleted the confidential data from your laptop for a life time.

  1. Backup of essential Data and permanently erasing all the folders: Once user decides to sell off their laptop, they need to copy all the data to some external drive or thumb drive or even use the Cloud services to get a proper backup of their essential data. Next, delete all the files and folders including the Documents, Downloads, Temp, Dump etc. For different Operating Systems the commands would be different.The command <Shift>+<Delete> is used for deleting the folders / files in Windows and Linux, whereas Command+Delete is used for OSX. Another simple method that ensures complete deletion of all files and folders would be to get the freeware app "FileShredder". This app not only deletes the files and folders but also overwrites that location with some random data making it impossible to recover the deleted file ever.
  2. Uninstall the programs: Paid programs usually are accompanied with some license that can be used for subsequent computers. Hence, it becomes all the more important for users to uninstall the programs that they have downloaded in their laptop. This hold true for programs that comes with the DRM i.e. Digital Rights Management, these programs gets locked with the laptops and hence it is important to uninstall the program so that users can avail the service for their subsequent laptop. Even for the non paid versions it is advisable that user uninstalls the program before selling off their laptop hence indirectly concealing their preferences of programs from their buyer. Further, it is good to know that when any program is operational it utilizes the Temp folder for saving transient files hence uninstalling of any programs calls for deleting the contents in temp folder as well. In case of Windows OS user needs to go to their File explorer, then to C: drive and click on the Properties. Click the "Disk cleanup" button. Now the disk partition gets scanned and it will display the Temp files, Recycle bin etc. Users can choose which all folders they wish to delete, once they click the button 'OK' it will permanently remove the files from that location. This can be done for all the partitions of the hard disk including all the drives.
  3. Clearing the Internet browsing details: It is of utmost importance to clear the caches, passwords, autofill settings etc including the browser history as it may contain some data that would give an easy access to user's potential data. For Firefox and IE users they need to launch the browser and give this command <Ctrl>+<Shift>+<Delete>. This results in a pop up which will clear all the required data that is connected with the internet browser. Automatic sign-ins seen in case of Google accounts also needs to be disconnected without fail. In case of Chrome users, they just need to click the icon on extreme upper right corner, click on Settings and Disconnect the Google Account. Users would further need to check the box to get all the data removed.
  4. Uninstalling the Google Drives: In case, user has been using the Google Drives or Dropbox then it is essential to delete the local sync folder as it may store certain important data. This local folder need to be deleted prior to uninstalling the Google Drives.
  5. Disconnecting and removing the Wi-Fi networks from the laptop: During the life time of the laptop user must have used various Wi-Fi networks in their office and home. The smart laptop get automatically configured to these networks and hence it is essential to delete these network links from the laptop. In case of Windows OS, user needs to open the Wireless Network configuration, right click on each of the wireless network that the laptop has recognized and click Remove. User needs to do this for all the individual networks into which they have logged in during the life of laptop.

With these 5 steps users can be sure that they have completely removed the data from their laptop.

Further to be on the safer side users can also use a disk wipe software known as DBAN (Darik' Boot and Nuke). Most of the times the deleted data can be recovered by using file recovery software. To ensure deleted data is never recovered users need to rewrite it with some random unwanted data. 

Instead of so much trouble users can use DBAN which ensures that all the data is permanently deleted from all the partitions. However users need to be very cautious because using this tool wipes the entire drive even erasing any recovery modes provided by the manufacturer.

There could be other methods which our readers use that ensures permanent deletion of essential data from the laptops before it is sold off. Feel free to mention it in the comments section so as to benefit all of us.

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