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ITS Safe Computing

Remove Data from a Hard Drive

When you sell or recycle an old computer, you need to take extra steps to remove all data from the hard drive to prevent unauthorized use of sensitive information on the drive.

Vulnerable Data

Even after you remove files, data remains on the hard drive. Among other things, it may include:

  • Your bank or investment account password.
  • Your credit card numbers.
  • Information in databases, spreadsheets, tax software, and more.
  • Data from research projects.

U-M Property Disposition provides a data removal policy and procedures for cleaning hard drives on a number of types of computers.

Data Removal Tools

To ensure that you have completely removed all personal information, you can clean your hard drive with a data removal tool. The commercial products listed have more features than the free or open source products, but they all work well at erasing a hard drive. This is not an exhaustive list; you may find other tools that work well. We recommend that you select the tool that best meets your needs at the lowest cost.

Using these tools to remove data from your computer before you dispose of it can help prevent ID theft.

Additional Resources