How to avoid a data breach when discarding your old computer

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Unlike reselling, most PC users forget or simply don’t erase their files when discarding their computers. The primary reason for this is because getting rid of your computer in most cases is a result of complete damage to the PC. So, they see no need to erase their data since the laptop doesn't turn on.

What these users don’t know is a computer is made up various components that are useful individually, such as the screen, motherboard, hard drive, and other parts. When you carelessly discard your old computer without making sure all your information has been cleared, you are putting yourself at risk of a data breach. A third party can gain access to the disposed computer and retrieve your hard drive, which contains all your information.

How can you avoid this?

There are several ways which you can protect yourself from a data breach when discarding your old laptop.

The first step I recommend you take is logging out of all your accounts – if the PC is still functioning. If not, then the best thing is to erase the hard drive.

There are three primary ways of erasing your hard drive, depending on your need for it after that.

Formatting or factory resetting your computer

The first method is to format your computer, which is also referred to as a factory reset. All windows supported laptops have this feature, and it will erase all your data – at least to an extent. A factory reset should do the job, but if you have life-endangering information on your hard drive that might not be enough.

The reason is that your data can still be retrieved by a hacker using a sophisticated computer program. In this case, you have two main options, which are also the last two ways of completely wiping your computer.

Destroy the hard drive

You can do this with a hammer or whatever tool you use but destroying the hard drive will you put you out of harm’s way and any possible data breach. If you still want to make use of the hard drive, then you can retrieve it and keep it instead.

Use a data destruction program

A data destruction program is a software that can completely wipe your computer of all data, including its OS, and it is the only guaranteed way to do this without destroying the drive.

There are many free data destruction programs on the internet, but my top pick is the DBAN. After downloading the software, follow the instruction on it to completely wipe your computer. To save you the stress, here’s a detailed explanation of how to use the DBAN program.


Before you erase all your data ensure you have backed up the important files you need else, it will be impossible to retrieve them once the wipe is done.

Once you’ve done this, you can now safely discard your old desktop or laptop without the risk of a data breach.

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