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Securely erasing all data from a hard drive
What is a safe way to dispose of personal info on an old laptop and what to do with said laptop?

I have a Dell laptop from 2006. I haven't used it for about 3 years and I have lost the power cord to charge it. But I want to put it on the street. I live in a neighborhood (the ghetto) where something like this will be picked up and salvaged in some way. But I'm afraid the hard drive is full of personal information that could be used against me. What should I do?

How can I put this computer on the street without worrying that the hard drive contents will come back to haunt me?

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marked as duplicate by Simon Sheehan, slhck, Shinrai, music2myear, Synetech Feb 28 '12 at 22:53

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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See also: How to delete my hard drive safely? –  slhck Feb 28 '12 at 22:25
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And: Securely erasing all data from a hard drive, as well as (remotely related): What to do with old hard drives? –  slhck Feb 28 '12 at 22:26
    
Sam, this question has been asked and answered in depth elsewhere on this site. Go ahead and look at those answers and if your situation differs or those answer are not applicable, feel free to edit your question here so that we can address your specific case. –  music2myear Feb 28 '12 at 22:35
    
@music2myear - I've marked the below answer correct. Mechanical destruction of the hard drive seems to be the way to go in a situation where I can't easily power my still-valuable computer. I've edited the question to specify that I want to keep the device useable. –  samthebrand Feb 28 '12 at 22:50
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One time when I had to return a device that had a storage medium, I simply used a hex-editor to open the drive in low-level mode, then selected all sectors/bytes and filled them with 0. Done. Obviously if I had credit-card numbers in plain-text files or incriminating information, I would use a fancy tool to write numerous, random bytes to it (followed by 0 to clear it out), but in general, even a single write to every byte is enough (unless you think the people in your “ghetto” are the types to use scanning electron microscopes or spend thousands to try to recover your password). –  Synetech Feb 28 '12 at 22:56

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

The surest way is thorough mechanical destruction of the hard drive - a drill, thermite, sending it to an industrial shredder, etc.

PRACTICALLY speaking, a thorough formatting with any number of disk wiping utilities will render it unreadable to anybody who isn't very knowledgeable and dedicated, but that would require another machine to slave the drive up to, or a bootable environment to do this in.

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