If you want to sell a storage device, first back everything up on it with a flash drive, external drive or automated backup service. For Android or iOS, activate the Google Auto Backup service or Apple’s iCloud.
Next, wipe the device. No, not with a rag, but wipe out the data, completely. Reformatting the hard drive can still leave data. Hitting “delete” won’t work, either.
To wipe a Mac, use WipeDrive or the OS X Disk Utility. For Windows PCs, use Active KillDisk or McAfee Shredder. For most recent smartphones, do a factory reset, but also remove the SIM card. For extra security, use Blancco Mobile for the Android or iOS.
If you want ultimate reassurance of destroying data, destroy the device with a hammer or drill through the drive with multiple holes.
If your device is headed for recycling, make sure that the recycling company is a part of Responsible Recycling (R2) or e-Stewards certification programs. This way your recycled device won’t end up in the wrong hands.
If you donate your device, hold onto the receipt for a tax write-off.
Did you just buy an external drive or flash drive? You should format it to rid the extra software that it probably came with. This will give you more space for storing data.
How do you format an external drive in Windows?
- Plug the drive into your computer or wall outlet.
- Open Windows Explorer, click “Computer” and locate the drive.
- Right-click it and hit “Format.”
- Under “File System,” select the desired file system.
- Under “Volume Label,” name your drive, then check “Quick Format.”
- Hit “Start.” Confirmation will take a few seconds.
- In Windows Explorer, open the drive; it’s ready to use.
How do you format an external drive on a Mac?
- Go to Finder, then Applications/Utilities; double-click Disk Utility.
- Click on your drive, go to “Erase.”
- Under “Format,” select the desired file system.
- Name your drive, then click “Erase.” Formatting will take a few seconds.
- In Finder, click on the drive; it’s ready to use.
How do you format a computer’s main hard drive?
This is more complex than the above tasks. You will need a bootable USB drive or a CD. If your plan is to sell your hard drive or computer, you’ll need to completely wipe the device. Wiping is the only way to eradicate all data. Once this is done, you can reinstall the operating system by inserting the installation disk or drive.
Of course, before you reinstall, make sure that all of your data is securely backed up!
Additional instructions for installing: For Linux or OS X, you’ll probably need to just select the option to install from scratch, and this will erase the drive. For the Windows installer, wait till you see a screen that has a list of your drives. Hit “Drive Options,” then hit “Format,” and this will format your drive as NTFS. After this, click “Next” to install Windows.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.