Did you know that deleting your files does not remove the data? When you delete a file, Windows clears a flag to show that space on the hard drive is available for new data, but it does not delete any of the data. There are many tools freely available to recover deleted files. Even if you delete your files and reformat your drive, it only clears the directory structure. The data areas of the drive are not affected. If you throw away an old computer without using a special program to wipe, or overwrite, the data, anyone can easily recover all your files. Think about it… Your financial data, private photos, business documents, everything could end up in the hands of a thief looking to steal your identity! There are many tools available to overwrite the data areas, known as sectors, of your hard drive. The US Government Department of Defense has two standards for wiping data, depending on the security level of the data contained on the drive. These standards overwrite the data three or four times. Other countries and various security experts recommend overwriting as many as 35 times! You may be asking, why so many? After all, if you replace “financial” with “000000000”, wouldn’t that mean your data is gone? Not necessarily. As far as the average thief is concerned, yes, the data has been removed. However, if you use special tools to review the data on the platters of the drive itself, you would find much of your old data remaining in the areas to the side of each sector? Why does that happen? The platters of your drive are spinning at 5,200 or more revolutions per minute. The read/write heads are floating over the surface of the platters on a cushion of air. The heads tend to wobble a little as they float. To give you an illustration, imagine this: A group of people are ready to ski down a mountain. Just before they hit the slope, they each had a few drinks. Now the object is for each successive person the ski directly in the tracks of the person before them! As you can imagine, there would be many sets of tracks all over that run. Well, the data stored in the sectors of your hard drive would look just like those tracks on the slope. The most recent track the most visible and this is what your hard drive would display, but to the sides of each sector are all the other tracks the heads have taken, which all include pieces of your data. Therefore, the object of multiple passes is to ensure all visible tracks contain only garbage data. No matter how many passes you choose, and what data to write, it is important to overwrite every sector at least once to keep your data safe from prying eyes. What if your computer is broken? That does not necessarily mean the hard drive is dead. Even if it is, the platters could be removed and inserted into a new drive motor/head assembly. Again, this is something far beyond the resources of your average thief, but if the data is NOT overwritten AT LEAST once, anyone can easily recover the data. You can do this yourself by downloading a copy of Darik’s Boot and Nuke from www.dban.org. Keep in mind however, depending on the speed of your computer, the size of your hard drive, and the wipe option you select, this process could take days or weeks! At Irwin Electronics, we have professional grade tools that cut this time down to hours, and we can give you a certificate of data destruction. We can also recycle your drive. We charge only $40 for the first drive, and $10 for each additional drive. This includes wiping to the US Government Department of Defense DoD5220.22M standard. This is a four pass standard. For the truly cautious, we offer additional standards up to Peter Gutmann’s Method (35 passes) for an additional $20. Before you throw out that old computer, be sure to call us at 480-382-4761 to make sure your data does not fall into the wrong hands!