12 NEWS DEFENDERS: Hard drive headaches - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

12 NEWS DEFENDERS: Hard drive headaches - wiping your computer clean

Posted: Updated:

Some computers last longer than others. But at some point we all have to upgrade. Then the question becomes, 'How do I get rid of my old computer?'

Since private, sensitive information can be stored deep inside your old computer, it's important to erase it. Depending on your device, you can destroy it, reformat it, or wipe it clean:

1. Destroy it?

The 12 News Defenders thought up all sorts of ways to do it. We threw one computer off the building. We drove over another one. And we let staffers hit another with a sledge hammer.

After our experiment, we took what was left of our computers to WSFA 12 News IT Manager Caleb Hawk. 

"You destroyed the outer cabinet pretty good, but what you REALLY want to destroy is the hard drive."

That's right. Even after all of our abuse, the hard drives on some of our computers were still in tact.

"A hard drive almost looks like a mirror with a head that goes back and forth, almost like a vinyl record player," Hawk explained. "Now if you were to hit THAT with a sledge hammer, then no one could get your data."

Hawk recommends removing your hard drive from your computer, opening the cabinet, then hitting the shiny surface with a hammer. Other experts recommend drilling holes through it.

2. Reformat it?

But what if you want to save your hard drive for someone else's use? In that case, you can CLEAN the drive without destroying it.

Computer expert Mike Whitmore of Computer Renaissance in Montgomery says a high-powered magnet would work. But for most people, reformatting the drive is the best bet. 

Reformatting means means replacing old data with something new.

"It's like taking a piece of paper and writing your name, and then crossing it out and writing your name again, over and over," Whitmore explained.

But to ensure that you erase ALL your information, experts recommend reformatting your hard drive seven times. You can have someone at a computer repair shop do it for you. Or you can use reformatting software.

Consumer reports recommends D-ban reformatting software, which you can download for free at www.dban.org

"After it's been formatted seven times, you would need some really good tools to actually recover anything on there," Whitmore said. "And those are tools that aren't going to be released to the general public."

3. Wipe it? (for tablets, laptops & smartphones)

It is more difficult to remove a hard drive from smartphones, tablets and laptops. But most of these devices offer built-in ways to wipe your data.

For example, on the iPad:

  1. go to settings and selected "general."
  2. Look for the "reset" option.
  3. In the next window, choose "erase all content" and "settings." 
  4. A box will appear. Hit "erase," and you're done.

Many newer laptops also have built-in systems:

  1. Go to the "settings" control panel.
  2. Choose "change PC settings."
  3. In the next window, click on "recovery."
  4. Underneath the heading "remove everything" and "install Windows," click on "get started."
  5. In the box that comes up, click on "fully clean my drive."


4. Always Recycle

And when you're ready to get rid of your old device, don't just throw it away. Recycling it! Local electronic recycling drop-off locations include:

Best Buy
1580 Eastern Blvd.
Montgomery, AL
(334) 272-1552

McInnis Recycling Center
4341 Norman Bridge Rd.
Montgomery, AL
(334) 281-7366

C.E. and E. Solutions 
955 Washington Ferry Rd.
Prattville, AL
(334) 568-9621

There can be a nominal fee depending on the device (especially larger televisions), so it's recommended that you call before you visit.

Most electronics recycling services destroy the hard drive for you by drilling holes into it.

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Man found dead in 18 wheeler identified

    Man found dead in 18 wheeler identified

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 12:34 PM EDT2014-07-23 16:34:48 GMT
    The body of an unidentified man was found inside an 18 wheeler, Tuesday night. It happened at the weigh station on Interstate 20 westbound in Warren County. The State Highway Patrol and Warren CountyMore >>
    MDOT enforcement officers went to check out a suspicious vehicle that had not moved all day.
    More >>
  • Coroner: Girl's body was found in abandoned trailer's bathroom

    Coroner: Girl's body was found in abandoned trailer's bathroom

    Friday, July 18 2014 3:26 PM EDT2014-07-18 19:26:33 GMT
    It's been an extremely difficult day for family and friends as well as officers. So many people were crying, upset as the body of 5-year-old Janaya Thompson was removed from an abandoned trailer.More >>
    It's been an extremely difficult day for family and friends as well as officers. So many people were crying, upset as the body of 5-year-old Janaya Thompson was removed from an abandoned trailer. Coroner Gary Hargrove said Janaya's body was found in a bathroom.More >>
  • Biloxi approves ballpark construction bid

    Biloxi approves ballpark construction bid

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 6:53 AM EDT2014-07-23 10:53:07 GMT
    The Biloxi City Council met Tuesday to discuss the next step in seeing the first pitch thrown at MGM Ballpark. The Council pushed forward to approve a construction bid.More >>
    Construction of the new MGM Ballpark in Biloxi could get underway as soon as mid August. The city council met Tuesday to discuss the next step in seeing the first pitch thrown at MGM Ballpark. The council pushed forward to approve a construction bid.More >>
Powered by WorldNow

208 DeBuys Road
Biloxi, MS 39531
(228) 896-1313

FCC Public File
EEO Report
Closed Captioning

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Worldnow and WLOX. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.