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Lawyers, Here's How to Wipe Your Hard Drive Clean

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

You're finally upgrading to a new P.C., or you're getting rid of those old external hard drives you found in the storage closet. Maybe you have a ton of dated USB drives you no longer need, now that you're cloud-based.

Whatever you do, don't just toss out, sell, or give away your old hard drives. First, make sure you wipe them of their data. Here's how.

Make Sure You Wipe

Before we get in to how to wipe a hard drive, here's why. If you lose control of a hard drive, or any file storage system, you've lost control of all the information on it, and you have no idea where that information could end up. Even if you're just giving your old computer to your nephew, there's no telling who he may give it to next. The same goes if you're selling it or even throwing it in the dumpster. You'll want to make sure that your files have been destroyed, so that your information is not misused by others.

As Lawyerist's Sam Glover puts it, "Your hard drive is a malicious hacker's dream."

How to Permanently Erase Everything on Your Hard Drive

First, a note of caution: before you even start thinking of wiping your hard drive, make sure you've backed up any information you might want. Client files, emails, old draft documents can all be lost once you wipe your hard drive. And once your hard drive is cleared, there's no easy way to recover that information. (There are some relatively difficult ways, however.)

Once you're ready to wipe a hard drive, the process is fairly straight forward. You'll need to start by downloading a data destruction program. Darik's Boot and Nuke, or DBAN, is the standard choice, but there are dozens of free programs available if you want to explore other options.

Each data destruction program has slightly different steps, but the pattern is relatively the same no matter what you go with. First, burn the program to a CD or DVD, or install it on a USB flash drive. You'll then use that disk or drive to boot up the computer, at which point the data destruction program takes over and wipes your hard drive clean.

From there, you're free to give away, sell, reuse, or toss out your old hard drive. (Remember, electronics are toxic, so dispose of them at a proper e-waste center, not in your trash can.)

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