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Ensuring Private Infos On Defunct Computers Permanently Gone Forever


FULLTIMEWANABE

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We have been doing a lot of purging and everything has gone to Charity shops, Women's Shelters and so on. It's quite enlightening, but we have one very major concern for disposal........

 

I have a few old computers/PDAs/Smartphones that I need to ensure the data is totally never possible to be retrieved again (PIPA = Privacy of Information People's Act). Some of these have no readable screen so I can't even do a format on them, hence why they were replaced.

 

I am not techie in the least so can someone please advise how to ensure without a shadow of a doubt how I can easily destroy the information on these?

 

I've googled and it says format them, but I can't because I have no screen to view and in addition I'm not convinced if they got into the wrong hands that the wrong person couldn't restore? The government on recycle and the source they use to recycle them, plus others after double digit phone calls and emails haven't been of any help.

 

Really appreciate knowing how we can best protect not just our own privacy with these defunct electronics but that of others in our databases on them.

 

Many thanks in advance.

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I have a few old computers/PDAs/Smartphones that I need to ensure the data is totally never possible to be retrieved again (PIPA = Privacy of Information People's Act). Some of these have no readable screen so I can't even do a format on them, hence why they were replaced.

 

I am not techie in the least so can someone please advise how to ensure without a shadow of a doubt how I can easily destroy the information on these?

 

Hard drives are easy to destroy with just a few hand tools. Many of them have a simple cover that you can remove and expose the platters, if they have security screws or just ones you don't have a driver for a pair of side cutters will usually remove them. Stick one point into the screw hole and hold the other down against the cover, squeeze and cut into the screw a bit and then twist. Once the cover is off you can grab the platters with a pair of pliers and mangle them or you can remove them and mangle them worse. I always take the drive apart and recover the magnets, they are amazingly strong and handy to have around so I offer to destroy drives for friends and neighbors just to get them. If the screws are really stubborn just use the side cutters and pliers to rip the cover off, gloves are recommended for this method as the cover will be sharp where torn.

 

Smart phones are a bit more work but what you need to do is get to the guts and smash each chip, if you know which ones hold the data you can just smash them but an extra 30 seconds and smashing the lot is the simple and error free method. Wrap them in an old towel, hold them with your pliers and bash them with a hammer until they open up and you can see the chips. Check both sides of the board inside as they put chips on either side.

 

USB thumb drives, SSD drives, SD cards and the like also fall to the hammer method.

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Drilling holes through hard drives works pretty well. I think that NSA could recover the data if they wanted to badly enough but probably no one else. There are also utilities you can use on PCs that over-write the hard drive platters. This takes a lot longer than drilling six or seven holes.

 

As Stanley mentioned, smart phones are a bit more problematic. If you want to get some value out of them (or a tax deduction for donating them) then you have more work ahead of you. Otherwise, just follow Stan's instructions.

 

If you want a workable device afterwards you can try a few other tricks.

 

Connect the phone to your PC with the USB cord. With Android and iPhone smartphones you can usually gain access that way. Then delete the data. A determined hacker can recover them, however.

 

For Android there is a utility called "file shredder" that purports to destroy data. The reviews are spotty but it might work.

 

You can use something like App Manager III to move applications and data to the SD card and then simply remove that card and burn it. I am not sure what will get deleted and it might be possible to recreate the files that had been on the main device.

 

You can delte files manually and then download severa very large files that will be overwritten onto the main RAM and probably destroy whatever was on there before (if they're large enough).

 

There are many, many applications that will restore delted photos, messages, contacts, emails, files, etc. on Play Store. The only way to eliminate the data for sure is to physically destroy it.

 

WDR

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NSA had a little device they approved for erasing our Army disks, a super-magnet on a flexi handle. You ran it over each disk surface five times while spinning the disk one direction, then five more the other. The disk was then considered safe, drive was also then worthless since it was scratched up and dirty. It was faster than a full disassembly and sanding the platters (the old method) since you just needed to peel back one corner of the cover for access. Pliers were the only tool needed too.

 

We never got a full approval for any software erasing method on hard drives, too many chances for something to go wrong. Bad sector remapping, track data written off track that the drive couldn't reach to erase or just whatever hardware failure that was causing problems bollixing the erase process. With silicone memory the software has an even harder time getting past the controller to the actual memory so aside from a block erase failure you might not even be able to get to a block to try to erase it. Had little luck getting low-level access information from the drive manufacturers to try to bypass the onboard controllers.

 

Drives are cheap and a hammer is fun to operate!

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LOL - Stan, make that a pneumatic hammer / chisel and it is even more fun. Don't try it in the driveway though, use a scrap 4" solid. They bounce a bit and them you've done some bad damage. Or, a chunk of old rail track, that makes an excellent backstop. (I have a 3/4" welding table that does good also.

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On a Windows system, formatting a hard drive will not destroy the information unless you use the /p:count switch. However, since Vista that switch is assumed unless you do a quick format. Additionally, you cannot do a format on the drive containing the operating system currently in use so you must boot to an external drive etc. So sometimes the drive really isn't erased and few have the skills to really verify the erasure.

 

If the devices have no value, a physical destruction is by far the best. Destroy the drive platter(s) - not the electronics.

 

Walkerl

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Good info and discussion. I am provisioning my new Nokia Window phone and have yet to set up the 64GB SDXC card for it. Originally I was going to copy 50GB of music, a few GBs of pictures and documents. I kept my old Android phone as it makes a good mp3 player, and for security reasons. Now I believe I will wipe the WiFi connection so Google gets no more info from it, and only allow Bluetooth music and videos.

 

But I am going to set this one up differently. No private info will be on the internal storage but some music, and all docs and downloads will be forced to use the SD card, or will be set up to use it. Then I can just remove the card, and change any WiFi and see about wiping methods for Windows phones. I am so glad I buy last year's models cheap. I got three years out of the $99.99 Androids, and just got a great deal on an unlocked GSM Nokia 822 for $99.99. To be honest I would have no problem crushing them after a few years.

 

On computers I have no problems doing a format and military wipe of the hard drive then reload the OS only before donation. The military wipe would have to be done with a drive wire, external drive dock, or enclosure. Take the HD out of the computer connect it to your new one, long format the disk. Then, if you haven't already, download CCleaner free from Piriform, then after installing click on tools in the left hand menu, then click drive wipe. Drop down the menu and select complex overwrite so it makes 7 passes writing 1s and zeroes across the whole drive. I would feel comfortable with that because it would take a very long time to complete and the size of the drive. Then it can be reinstalled and the OS reinstalled only.

 

If recent enough to bring 50 buckshot, just buy a new drive, format and install the OS, and keep your old drive. I have several spare drives of both 2.5" & 3.5" size.

 

One thing many do not think about is sending their computer in for repairs. I image the system icons running fine, and only a mechanical issue like a replacement screen or still has the potential for others to pry who can. I am replacing one no, and sending another in for repair, both having passwords removed, all data backed up, and no images because the software is corrupted too.

 

But when I get this new one, once it is registered I will clone the up to date system with all my passwords and programs loaded, Then, anytime I have it worked on or sell it, I can delete and military wipe free space after cloning it. Or if for repair can clone the system if that is a good idea, but have the early clone to not have to reload applications.

 

Lots of thinking to do.

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When we talk Imaging and Cloning, these are somewhat more advanced techniques, but are some of the best backup methods for the entire disk. These techniques should be in addition to your regular data backups.

 

The last desktop I sold (was too good to destroy, I just did not have room once we went FT) I formatted the HD, then slaved the HD into another PC and did an overwrite technique (I'm not sure if the norm is 3, 5 or 7, etc. overwrites). Since it was slaved into my other PC I used CCleaner to do the job. After doing all this, I then reloaded the original OS (Win 7) onto the PC, again overwriting the space the original stuff was on. The new owner wanted a gaming machine for his son (was not a high end gamer, just to have some fun) and this cleaner and new OS PC was just what he wanted. I felt comfortable that it was clean of all my data.

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  • 3 months later...

Personally, there is rarely any information of mine that is worth the trouble to try to retrieve it even if there is no physical damage.

 

Still, finally being able to intentionally crash a Hard Drive with a hammer must have some cathartic value so save that for a bad day when it can be savored.

 

Me, I still have too much gut deep respect for the technology. I have a pile of old Hard drives to go through (sometime) but have never yet had a bad enough day to justify using the hammer engineering change. I just cannot destroy that which I respect.

 

What a conundrum.

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A few FMJ rounds from my .45 through the HD and I don't think even the NSA could get anything off what's left. :rolleyes:

 

Actually it isn't that hard to read any of the disk surfaces that aren't actually destroyed, so aside from the holes and a narrow band around them the data is recoverable. Probably not going to be done except for law-enforcement looking for kiddie-porn or tracks to stolen money or information.

 

Destroy the surface, disassembly and sanding work, rubbing each disk surface multiple passes with a high-strength magnet works, burning works.

 

 

 

A good hammer will work for destroying memory chips as long as you pound it enough to get past the packaging and destroy the wafer. The torch is less work if you have one.

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