Donating your old computer or laptop is a great idea, as there are many students who need them but cannot afford to buy one. You can easily find a non-profit organization, charitable institutions, school, and libraries. You can even give it directly to the person. But before you do that, make sure the computer is still usable and that all your files are totally removed. This includes your passwords, addresses, phone numbers, bank account numbers, email addresses, as well as your browsing history.
Unfortunately for many people, they thought that simply deleting all their personal files is enough to say that their computer is already cleared. In fact, it is not even enough that you clear your Recycle Bin or reformat your hard disk. If the next owner is smart and he wants to check your old files, he can easily undelete them by using a data recovery program. And yes, such programs are legal. In fact, many of them are free. They are really designed to recover files in case you accidentally delete them.
Another problem that you might be facing is when you have already purchased any software online using your computer. Most of these programs have registration number or license key that you need to enter into your program before you can activate it. Therefore, if some criminal-minded people were able to retrieve it, they can use it for themselves. Once this happens, you cannot use the software even if you paid for it. And mind you, the same thing can happen for even your own OS (such as Windows).
So, whether you want to donate your computer or laptop, sell them, or even give them away to a recycling company because you’re planning to buy a new one, you should know how to protect yourself from potential identity theft. These days, you don’t really need to be a techie person to be able to do it. Here are some useful tips that you can do: (Note: The tips below are only applicable if you want to also give away your hard drive. Otherwise, you will have no problem at all.)
Save or a have a backup of all your files
Sort all your files and delete the ones you don’t need any more. This will not only help you save space but can also save you money. Check how big (Megabytes or Gigabytes) your files are. This will help you decide on the storage capacity of the USB or external hard drive you need. Thanks to Google and its competitors, you can also save them in the cloud such as Google Drive and Dropbox. Most of them are free, and you only need to pay if your files are really big. Just make sure your files are secured.
Download a hard disk wiping software
The job of the disk wiping software (or data destruction tool) is to completely erase all the files stored in a hard drive. You can find tons of them online, but the most popular so far is the DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke) disk. Don’t worry; it’s totally free. Just like most of similar software, DBAN is applicable to all platforms such as Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. However, you will need a working CD/DVD drive or a USB flash drive. Please note that you cannot restore your files anymore after you delete them.
Create a bootable DBAN disk
Again, you can use other data erasure programs you like. But because DBAN is considered as the most reliable software, let’s focus on it. If you prefer DBAN, you will need a CD/DVD burner. If your computer doesn’t have one (which is very rare), you can easily download the program also for free. To create the bootable CD, install a blank CD on the drive and simply follow the instructions on your screen. If you are quite confused, DBAN has a free step-by-step CDBurnerXP ISO burning tutorial on their official website.
Reboot your computer
Once you have created the bootable DBAN CD, which takes a minute or two, it’s now time to reboot your computer. Also, double check if you already have a backup of all your files. Remember, these data erasure programs will overwrite an entire drive, including any recovery partitions. Then, put the CD inside the drive and restart your computer. If it works properly, which usually does, you will see the DBAN blue screen. If you’re not sure on what to do, ask someone to help you or search online for some tutorials.
Make sure that there are no external drives in your computer. Otherwise, all the files in them might also be deleted. The steps in the rebooting process may vary depending on the manufacturer of your computer, but you can select which drive you want to wipe. The wiping process time depends on how large your files are. In some cases, you might need to go to the BIOS menu and change the boot order.
If it works properly, which it usually does, you will see the DBAN blue screen. But normally, you can repeat the process if the blue DBAN blue screen will not appear. If there is no problem, you will see a “Boot Mode” on the screen and you can start from there. While the process is running, sit tight as you say goodbye to your beloved old files. Hold your breath and pray hard that you really have backup files.
If everything goes well, it’s time to install the new operating software. Afterwards, double check if there are really no files left. But if you have doubts, ask help from someone who knows better. In very rare cases, you will have mysterious problems in rebooting and you cannot solve it. Once this happens, remove the hard drive and don’t include it in the donation. The best thing you can do is to destroy it using a hammer and dispose it properly. As the saying goes, prevention is always better than cure.