I have some old computers that need an e-waste removal service in Toronto. How can I protect any personal information that might be on the hard drives?

With all the increasing incidences of identity theft and fraud in large urban centers like Toronto, in order to protect all of your sensitive personal information, there are some simple steps that should be taken before you decide to have an e-waste removal company take away your hard drives. This will give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your information is not floating around in cyber-space for everyone to see.

Many people believe that if they delete files and then clear out the recycle bin that all of the information is gone. That is simply not so. Many e-waste removal companies will explain exactly why if you ask them, but in a nutshell, if a person who has a data recovery program were to get their hands on your computer, it is possible that they would be able to recover some or all of your data files. For those who have inputted their credit card numbers, this can cause numerous problems since there is a good chance that if you have ever done some shopping online your browser may have saved this information in a cached file. What this means is that your sensitive credit card data is out there just waiting for some unscrupulous person to reel it back in.

Before contacting an e-waste removal company, it is in your best interest to assume that there is sensitive data on your hard drive and that you should follow the steps below to protect yourself:

  • Begin by saving all of your data to a flash drive or USB. Copy absolutely everything!
  • If you do not have one already you will need to download a free copy of DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke). Choose the file that is for CD and DVD media.
  • Next you need to burn a copy of the DBAN CD in your computer. Start your burning program and choose the option that allows for the burning of images. If your program does not allow for images to be burnt, ImgBurn can be downloaded for free (look for the 2.4.0.0 version).
  • Once you have successfully burned a copy of DBAN, place the disc into the computer’s drive and restart it. To start in interactive mode simply press enter. In the next screen look for “Disks and Partitions”. Once you find the name of your hard disk manufacturer make sure that every box has been “checked” so that all of the hard drives will be erased.
  • Pressing F10 will begin the wiping process. It can take hours so be prepared to wait. Once the program has finished running, simply take the disk out and shut down the computer.

Keep in mind that even though the hard drive has been wiped and erased, there is only one full proof method of making sure that no information is retrievable — destroying the hard drive. In order to do this before e-waste removal, simply take the hard drive out of the computer and physically destroy it. Then it can simply be placed in your regular garbage and put to the curb for pickup in Toronto.