Your organization’s devices may contain sensitive data such as financial, PII (personal identifying information), or client information on it. Before you dispose of computer hardware you must first delete your personal information from the hard drive so it doesn’t end up in the hands of an identity thief. Here’s how.

Migrate Your Information to a new device or location

Before you get rid of your old device, consider about what important information you want to save and how much storage space will you need to save that information.

Transfer your files to your new computer. If you bought a new computer, you can transfer information from your old computer to the new one. Most operating system manufacturers have support articles that tell you how to do this.

Migrate files to your organization’s network. This will allow for…

Save your files to an external storage device. A USB flash drive is an affordable option that offers a moderate amount of storage. Another option is an external hard drive. It might cost a little more than a USB drive, but it can give you more storage capacity and transfer data faster. You can decide which files or folders to back up, and you may be able to schedule automatic backups.

Upload your files in the cloud. There are many cloud storage services that let you save files and data online. You may be familiar with some, like Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, or iCloud, but there are many others out there. Many of these services come with some free storage space and you can pay for more storage.

When you save your information in the cloud, you’re trusting someone else to keep that information safe. If you’re thinking about using cloud storage, find out what level of privacy or security the different services offer. Do they have privacy and security settings you can adjust? 

Do they use encryption to protect your data? (Encryption is the process of scrambling the information to hide the contents of the file.) A service that encrypts your data when it’s transmitted to and from the service, or when they store it, provides a higher level of security than one that doesn’t.

Sign Out of Accounts, Disconnect peripherals, and Reset Your Hard Drive

After you save your personal information, however you save it, sign out of all your online accounts from the computer you’re getting rid of. Un-pair your computer from Bluetooth devices like a mouse, keyboard, or wireless display.

Then, erase your computer’s hard drive. Look for a program or function on your computer that will let you erase all your files from the hard drive and reset it to factory settings. If it doesn’t have one, look for expert reviews online to see what programs are out there and which ones are compatible with the type of computer and hard drive you have.

Safely Dispose of Your Computer

You’ve migrated your personal information and now its time to wipe your hard drive clean. For Microsoft Windows, MacOS, to restore your iPhone, iPad, or iPod to factory settings.

If you aren’t going to sell/donate your devices remember that most electronics contain hazardous materials like heavy metals that can contaminate the earth and don’t belong in a landfill.

Local governments, electronics stores, computer manufacturers, and other organizations have computer recycling or donation programs. Check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s Electronics Donation and Recycling page to learn about recycling your devices

You saved your personal information. Wiped your hard drive clean. And safely disposed of the old computer. Now learn how to protect your new computer from hackers with these computer security tips.

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