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Are You Erasing Your Data Correctly?

Are You Erasing Your Data Correctly?

Posted by Briony Lawless on 24th May 2019

Think of all the data you wouldn't want anyone else to have access to on your laptops, mobile phones or work computers: log-in details, banking apps, photos, spreadsheets, email threads - you get the picture. Now imagine it's time to upgrade to a newer model of that laptop or phone. You're thinking you'll just throw out the old device, it's cracked, old and you can't think of anyone that would pay money for it. So, you chuck it in the bin. Ready to be picked up on bin night and no longer your problem. Easy as that. But is it?

Hypothetically, on the night before bin night, an opportunist comes along, checking out bins, and finds your old device. They think, cool, something to sell! So they go ahead and take a look. And there goes your identity. It may seem far-fetched, but it is typically pretty easy to get into devices that use passcodes. Although, with the introduction of more sophisticated authentication processes, such as Touch ID and Face ID, it is definitely becoming more difficult. 

Aside from the environmental impact, the problem with throwing out or reselling your old tech is that sometimes people can get hold of your personal data, and use it for their own gain. It takes you, the user, to erase that data yourself. If the device is from an employer, it is likely they would have their own policies related to data erasure. But you should take personal devices into your own hands and ensure nothing can be stolen from them. Each brand and type of device is different, but there are options within them all to ensure data is erased. 

Not sure how to do that? For Android users, head to the Settings app then tap System > Advanced > Reset options, and then Erase all data (factory reset). On iOS, the equivalent option is in Settings under General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. On a Windows computer, head to the Settings app, click Update & Security, then Recovery, then Get started under the Reset this PC option. Choose to remove all personal files during the process. If you're using a Chromebook or Chrome OS tablet, open up the Settings pane and pick Advanced, then Powerwash to get your computer into an as-new state. Mac is a little more involved. You need to restart macOS, then as soon as it begins to boot up again, hold Option+Command+R until you see a spinning globe. Release the keys, then choose Reinstall macOS, then choose Continue. Follow the on-screen instructions and select your main hard drive when prompted.

It's important to remember that if you haven't backed up your personal data to the Cloud, or an external hard-drive, and you erase your devices, you lose all that data forever. So, make sure you're all backed up before you go wiping away your things! And have a think before you throw away that pesky old device into the rubbish bin - is there a better way for me to get rid of this? Because every little thing counts when we are in a climate crisis.