Let's face it. There always comes a point in your life when you have to get rid of your old computer or laptop. Whether you plan to resell the device, give it away to someone, or recycle it, you need to make sure that your device is thoroughly cleaned up and restored to the original state before it is disposed off.
Simply deleting your files or reformatting your hard drive won't cut it. In fact, this will leave many files behind, which any hard drive recovery tools can easily pick up. If you want to make sure that your personal information such as credit card and banking details, family photos and other sensitive documents are completely erased, you need a good powerful tool to rely on.
In this post, we take a look at how you can avoid identity theft when you sell or throw away your old laptop or PC.
4 Things To Do To Avoid Identity Theft When Disposing Off Your Old PC
If you plan on selling or disposing your old PC or laptop, there are 4 very important things you need to do to stay safe and avoid identity theft.
- Backup Your Personal Data
- Remove Authorization for Digital Software
- Securely Erase Your Hard Drive
- Reinstall the Operating System
Let's take a look at these steps in detail.
Backup Your Personal Data
This is obviously a no-brainer. You're going to want all your personal and important files backed up so you can move them to your new PC. The idea of doing a backup is not that you save your data in one device or location and erase the original. You never know when your backup might die on you. Therefore, the best way to go about doing a backup is to make a local backup as well as an online backup.
The easiest and quickest way to do a local backup is to create one on an external drive or in another PC. There are several applications that can help you make a backup, from the default one in Windows to the free EaseUs Todo Backup solution or Stellar Insta Backup solutions.
Also make sure you backup your data in the cloud. There are plenty of solutions out there, Dropbox being the most obvious option, but just remember that this is only a secondary backup solution, which is time consuming.
What Files to Backup?
So what files should you backup?
Documents: Always backup your documents folder.
Music: Make sure you backup your music folder, especially if you have purchased a lot of MP3 files. If you have purchased from iTunes, also make sure you backup your iTunes folder.
Pictures & Videos: The Pictures and Videos folder holds a lifetime of good memories. make sure to include them in your backups.
Email: If you are using Outlook email client, make sure your PST files are also backed up.
App Settings: Also make sure to backup your application settings from C:UsersUsernameAppData so you can simply restore the settings as they are without having to manually tweak or customize everything again in your new PC.
Bookmarks: You'll always want to carry your bookmarks to your new PC and a sensible solution would be to sync them to the cloud. Google Chrome and Firefox come with a built-in sync feature, while LastPass and Delicious are other handy options for most browsers.
The best option for backup is basically the Users folder (C:UsersUsername), which will encompass most of the items mentioned above.
Remove Authorization for Digital Software
Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology locks content and programs to the PC you are using and many times, you will not be able to carry forward your DRM protected content to another device (despite the fact that you can have up to a "n" number of devices authorized to use them.) In such situations, it is best to de-authorize your PC in the respective applications such as SnagIt, iTunes or Adobe.
While you're at it, make sure that you also remove any two factor authentications you have tied down to the old PC. Although the next step should help prevent access of your password, you may still want to de-activate and then re-authenticate the apps on your new PC.
Securely Erase Your Hard Drive
Once you have backed up your data and de-authorized your digital software, you can securely wipe your hard drive data. To erase your hard drive using Windows 8.1, you can go to the Change PC settings->Update and recovery->Recovery and select the Remove everything and reinstall Windows option to get started. Follow the steps in the wizard to erase all drives.
The Windows 8.1 built-in solution is handy, but if you are concerned about your extremely sensitive documents, its best you go in for a more robust solution like CleanExit from Prosoft Engineering, who are well known for their robust #1 hard drive recovery solution Data Rescue.
CleanExit is a simple, easy-to-use tool that can cleanly wipe out your internal hard drive, making it impossible to recover any data from it later on. (It overwrites the data so that recovery is impossible). It works on PCs and Macs (with CD/DVD drives), as well as any Intel based Linux computers and offers support for IDE, SATA, USB, eSATA, FireWire, Flash media and Digital Camera Cards.
Check Out this Quick Tutorial on How to Wipe your Hard Drive with CleanExit
Reinstall the Operating System
Finally, you can reinstall the OS. If you are using a Windows 8 device, reinstalling the OS should be a breeze as you only have to follow the instructions in the wizard (mentioned above) for the factory reset to be completed.
Otherwise, you will need a Windows disc or a recovery disc the manufacturer provided at the time of purchase. If you are using a third party hard drive eraser, you will most likely not be able to use the default built-in recovery partition, as this gets wiped off along with the rest of your data. If you are using CleanExit, you can create a Bootable CleanExit CD on your PC before you go ahead with the hard drive wipe.
When you have completed all the steps, your device is as good as new, at least when it comes to the software side of things. You can now confidently pass on the device to the new owner or dispose it as you see it.