Hazard-Free Hand-Me-Downs

June 18 2007

Picture this: You've just upgraded your all your workstations to shiny, brand-spanking-new models. You're looking forward to miles of trouble-free operation ahead.

As an afterthought, you wonder: What to do with your old hardware?

Many companies now choose to donate old equipment to schools, churches, or other non-profit organizations (see back page for info on Free Geek). This makes great sense, since computers that are outmoded for business may still have useful life in these settings, and their path to the landfill is slowed.

The only catch is to make sure you aren't donating your company data along with your company equipment. Even if your business operations aren't top secret, you'll want to remove proprietary information from the hardware you donate before passing it on. Fortunately, this isn't hard.

What to worry/not worry about

In the past, monitors required degaussing to neutralize residual images. With today's monitors, this isn't necessary . Nor do you need to worry about printers, since they store no data. Your computer's RAM (its short-term memory) is wiped clean every time you turn the machine on and off.

That brings us to the hard drive. If your data is so sensitive that you don't want even a world-class data-recovery expert to extract it, your best bet is to remove the drive's magnetic components and grind them to dust. For the rest of us, a less invasive and costly procedure does the deed just as effectively. "Boot and nuke" software is available for various operating systems (Windows, UNIX, etc.) to wipe out all traces of data from your hard drive.

While someone with a million bucks to burn might still recover your data, these solutions meet international security standards for disk erasure. They'll leave you breathing easy while helping your community!