Tech Blog


Saying goodbye to your old computer – what happens next?


So, you have taken the plunge and you have purchased a new computer. If you are like a lot of people you may hand it down to a family member or friend, sell it on Trademe or stick it out on the side of the road for the next inorganic collection.

Or do you have old computers lying around and you don’t know what to do with them. As you part ways with your computer, think for a moment of what data is left on your hard drive – pictures, financial information, documents, spreadsheets, private correspondence – sensitive information you may not necessarily want out in the public domain.

Do you really want that information becoming the property of someone else?

Many people understand the risks inherent in reselling or delivering the system ‘as-is’, and will readily accept the assurance that the computer will be wiped and reloaded, but what does this mean?

Why should I not trust a ‘wipe’ by formatting the drive and reloading the system?

  • The act of formatting the disk tells the drive to create a new container for information to go in to. In this condition, the data is still present, and in many cases when seen early enough, it is possible to successfully ‘un-format’ the drive meaning that a near perfect recovery is possible.
  • Reloading the operating system will destroy some of the data on the disk, although there is no guarantee that your most sensitive information will be among that which is destroyed.

What kinds of sensitive information can be recovered from ‘wiped and reloaded’ computers?

In most cases, a lot! Using off-the-shelf software, often you can find and recover: spreadsheets, documents, pictures, and full or partial email repositories.

A more determined person with forensic tools or more specialist knowledge, alters this significantly because the types of information that can be recovered is then limited only by:

  • The skill of the operator
  • How hard they want to look
  • How much time they have
  • Whether the information exists on the drive

With this combination: financial databases, customer lists, creditors, debtors, and intellectual property are all able to be collected, used, abused or otherwise disseminated to other parties.

What can Brainworx do to prevent this possibility of disclosure?

  1. When you don’t want to keep the computer – we can remove the hard drive, physically disassemble the drive and render the data impossible to recover. We then dispose what is left of the computer in an environmentally appropriate manner whereby the parts are recycled.
  1. If you want to pass the computer on with a working hard drive to somebody else, then we can securely destroy the data on the drive to the extent that all current forensic approaches to recovering the data are not possible.

So if you have any old computers lying around call us today to discuss your data destruction requirements.

Mark Coleman
About Mark Coleman
Director of Brainworx Computer Services and the sub brands of Mailworx and Dataworx

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