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  • Erasing Your Old Computer
    An overlooked identity theft risk
    Everything you do on your computer leaves a trace. Before you hand your old machine off to that worthy charity or sell it on eBay, you need to make sure all traces of your personal information are gone. The last thing you want is for some unscrupulous individual to use your cast-off to uncover your passwords, logins, financial date, or anything else that may be lurking, hidden, on your old machine.

    Delete, delete, delete
    The first, and most obvious, thing to do when cleaning your old computer is to manually delete every single file you can. However, this alone is often not enough. Any hacker worth his or her weight can usually piece deleted data back together from the hard drive. You need to be thorough.

    That means you need to remove:
    • All documents
    • Any files in the trash/recycle bin
    • Internet files, cookies, and passwords
    • Email files
    • Contacts, appointments, etc.
    • Any software that can't be transferred
    Sounds like a lot of work? Fear not, there're plenty of hard drive cleaning software utilities available for purchase to do the work for you. This software will take you step by step through the process of turning your computer into a complete and total blank slate. You can also get help from your manufacturer, if the computer is still under warranty.

    Also, you can reboot your machine from the "System Restore" disk, which generally wipes your computer clean, replacing it with a ready-to-go, empty operating system. However, true professionals may be able to piece some of the information back together, though it is extremely difficult and unlikely that anyone would go through the effort required to do this. (I know this from personal experience: I once accidentally rebooted my machine without meaning to—wiping it clean. I eventually found someone who, for a considerable sum, was able to get about 50% of my information back, the rest had been damaged beyond repair.)

    Recycling your old computer
    Once you've erased your hard drive, if you're unsure of what to do with your old, obsolete, and now EMPTY computer, here are some links to nation-wide computer recycling programs: New computers are a lot of fun, just be sure you've taken proper care of your old machine, before you turn you back on it for good.