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How to more safely dispose of computers and other devices

How to more safely dispose of computers and other devices

When you get rid of sensitive paper documents, it’s a good idea to shred or burn them to help protect your privacy and prevent identity theft. Similarly, it’s important to erase your personal information from computers (desktop, laptop, or tablet) and other devices (smartphone, gaming console) before you dispose of them.

If your device was provided to you by an employer or if you own a small business, you may also risk loss of intellectual property, legal penalties, and damage to your corporate reputation.

So, what should you do? Take the following actions.

Back up files or data you want to keep

Back up files or data you want to keep

Start the process by making a copy of your information somewhere else. To create a backup of the files on a computer running Windows, you can use the Backup and Restore feature that’s built into Windows Vista and Windows 7. You can also use Windows Easy Transfer to transfer your files from one computer running Windows to another.

Choose the best option for removing your data

Choose the best option for removing your data

Simply reformatting a disk or reinstalling the operating system does not guarantee the old data is unreadable. Your two options for data removal are to use a certified refurbisher (preferred) or do it yourself. The following table will help you choose what is most suitable for your situation.

Option A – Use a certified refurbisher

Option B – Do it yourself

Select this option if you:

Have any data that is high risk (bank account
numbers, passwords, etc.).

Have a computer or device that is less than five years
old and in good condition.

Want to use environmentally sustainable best
practices and donate equipment to people in
need all over the world.

Select this option if you:

Have data that is low to medium risk (no personally identifiable information).

Have a computer or device that is more than five years old and you want to recycle it so that various components can be salvaged for reuse or disposed of properly.

Feel comfortable performing advanced computer tasks.

Recommendation:

Locate a Microsoft Refurbisher that will
safeguard your data stored on hard disk files
by using secure data destruction standards.

Recommendation:

Wipe your hard drive by using specialized software that is designed to government standards and will overwrite your information (Active@ KillDisk and Softpedia DP Wiper are free downloads).

Then, find a list of Microsoft-sponsored recycling opportunities in your area.

Removing personal information from a smartphone or gaming console

Removing personal information from a smartphone or gaming console

Again, the recommended approach for removing high risk data from smartphones and gaming consoles is to use a certified refurbisher. For low risk data, see details below.

For Windows Phones: Follow these four steps or contact your service provider for instructions.
  1. Tap Start and flick left to the App list.

  2. Tap Settings and then tap About.

  3. At the bottom of the screen, tap Reset your phone.

  4. To confirm the reset, tap Yes.

For Xbox consoles: Copy your games, movies, and other files onto a new device and then wipe the old one. Learn how to copy, move, or delete files from your Xbox and then reformat the hard drive.