Playing Data Hide And Seek: How To Make Sure Your Hard Drive Is Really Clean

Recycling computer equipment is an environmentally-friendly choice for disposing of old equipment, but it is not always the safest option. In fact, disposing of computer equipment improperly can put your company's data at risk. Before you hand over your computer for recycling, make sure that you take all of the possible steps to protect the integrity of your information. Follow the tips here to ensure that your company data is secure.

Why Deleting Isn't Enough

When you delete a file from the hard drive of the computer, it disappears from the directory and you can no longer open that file through normal avenues. But, in many cases, you can recover that file by choosing an "undo" option in your computer's right click menu or by pressing the shortcut keys. Much like you can hit "CTRL" and "Z" on a Windows computer to undo something in an application, it will often restore a deleted file if done right after you delete it.

This restore option works because most computers use a temporary disposal system for files. It appears on the desktop as a "Recycle Bin" or a "Trash Can" on most platforms, and it's where files are stored when you delete them. It gives you the option to change your mind and recover the file before the file system overwrites it. When you choose to purge those files by emptying that folder, it then deletes them completely so that this restore option will no longer work.

Even if you choose to erase the file without sending it to the recycle bin, as some operating systems permit, some specialized file recovery applications can still restore them. Deleting the file just makes it so that the computer's operating system can't see it anymore. Unless you actually write over that portion of the drive through elaborate measures, that file is still recoverable.

Formatting Fundamentals

Formatting the hard drive appears to wipe the drive clean of any data. When a formatting process is complete, a drive space analysis will show that the drive is all free space, less the space needed for the operating system. The fact is, all of the data that was there before you formatted is still there. The operating system just can't see it anymore.

The formatting process doesn't actually erase the data. It erases the information that tells the operating system where the data is. Without its roadmap to the files, the operating system acts as though those files aren't there anymore. All it takes is a data recovery tool to restore those files as they used to be. In the wrong hands, this can give someone access to everything that was on that hard drive.

Wiping the Drive Clean

In order to clean up a hard drive so that the data isn't recoverable, you need to go beyond just deleting files and formatting the drive. The best thing to do is use a disk wiping application. These programs, sometimes also called hard drive erasers, are destructive programs that overwrite the sectors of the hard drive repeatedly. It overwrites them so many times that it makes it virtually impossible to recover any data from the drive at all.

This is a necessary step to protect your company's information, especially if there is any chance that the drive may be used again in the future. If you're recycling your computer or donating it to an organization, you'll definitely want to invest in one of these applications.

With computer technology advancing faster than the consumer marketplace can follow, data integrity and protection is paramount. Your company's hard drives may contain valuable, confidential information about your business operations, finances and strategic planning. By following the tips presented here, you can be sure that when your data is gone, it cannot be restored. Check out the site for more information.