What steps should be taken to clean a pc when moving to a new job? I don't want to leave behind any personal information on my work computer.

  • 2
    Definitely need more detail here, this is far too vague to properly answer.
    – Phoshi
    Dec 21, 2009 at 15:53
  • It is a vague question but I'm hoping for suggestions :) Dec 21, 2009 at 15:56
  • 3
    You should NOT have ANY personal info on your work PC, if you do, you're off to a bad start already. And all that data could be recovered. At my company we physically destroy drives still from old PCs or ones that are donated.
    – Jakub
    Dec 21, 2009 at 16:01

8 Answers 8


Given the code on my work machine i think having it burned by a priest, extinguished with holy water and buried in a nuclear waste store is the only way to be sure!

  • I'm tempted to mark this one as the answer! :) Dec 21, 2009 at 16:23

Give the guy a break. Sure, he shouldn't be using his work PC for personal use but that doesn't answer his question. Holy terrible attitude Batman.

Run Temp File Cleaner - it will remove temporary files from your computer. It is better than CCleaner.

Delete email you don't want to leave behind. There is a chance that it's backed up somewhere but not always (you'd be surprised!). At my company, the only email we can recover is whatever is left in the Exchange mailbox. That being said, some people have Outlook archives that are kept on the file server which is backed up nightly. However, I've yet to see a backup restored to recover a .pst file from an old employee.

Use Add/Remove programs to remove software you may have installed.

Delete files that you don't want to leave behind. If the files were stored on a company server there is a good chance that it may be backed up. But, unless there is a reason I don't think anyone will be going back to snoop on what your documents may be.

Depending on how important your job was or what kind of company you were working for will determine how far they will go to recover deleted data. If you're that worried, use DBAN to wipe the drive and give them back a computer with nothing on it (that will surely anger someone though and you may not want to burn that bridge).


At my company they have a data retention policy, all email etc is hosted on the mail server, so you can't really delete it, even if you did, there is usually a policy (at least at my corporation) that email is to be left intact, and besides they have backups if need be, which I think they require by law).

As far as personal data, you should NOT have any personal data @ work, it is NOT your PC (unless you bought it and own it and have that in writing). Usually corporate PC's have corporate policies applied (which applications can/cannot be installed) and 3rd party apps are usually forbidden. I know at my company they are anal about non-standard apps (most dumb users get infected apps / screensavers / garbage) that is not good for a corporate network.

I think your best approach (I am assuming here due to your lack of information) you should talk to your HR person / IT manager, see what data is retained, and what you should remove. Like I said, at my company they do a full GHOST image of a persons machine when they leave/terminated (usually terminations result in immediate migration of individual away from PC / Servers so that no damage could be done).


I would use this question thread as a plan for your future job, don't put personal data on your work PC. That's a big no-no. Depending on your future company they will monitor your usage both on the web/email/programs you use, some will say "who has time for that", machines do... They log stuff ;)

Then if need be they get a human to read the logs. Most corporations do this (I'm not saying its a good thing, just something to keep in mind at your next job.)


You may want to look at Eraser if you're worried about your personal security. CCleaner is good for cleaning up browser and temp data that you may not want the IT dept to see.


It depends on the policies your implemented by your company. Since it's a work PC, you shouldn't have anything personal on it. Any business-related documents should live on a server somewhere, but if you have any local information that should be provided to your replacement/manager/hr.


Give him a brake, it may not be the type of personal info your thinking of. For all we know it could be a home email address he setup with imap at work.

Simple thing is to delete the files, securely if you feel the need to. with Eraser or similar products. Run ccleaner, or glary utls. and then wipe free disk space to make sure its not recoverable.

Portableapps.com has a lot of these apps that can run off a USB stick, if you are not allowed to install apps on the work computer.


If the company IT knows what it's doing then it should reformat your PC anyway, so a simple delete of any personal data should suffice, despite what anyone says you will have accumulated some over the time at your company - if only browsing histories. Any more and you're doing your IT department's job for them.

Also, most people aren't going to have the time or inclination to download undelete utilities and the like to investigate what what on the machine previously - I know I wouldn't.

  • However, the reformat will take place AFTER they archive the contents of the drive (in case they need it later, either to try to locate missing data or in case of discovery for a lawsuit). Or, they'll simply replace the drive and archive the entire old drive. Dec 21, 2009 at 16:09
  • What if there is a legal issue? Then the COMPANY would be inclined to do so, say if you had warez, or copyright material on there. Or something else questionable.
    – Jakub
    Dec 21, 2009 at 16:15
  • @Jakub - then you've got serious problems.
    – ChrisF
    Dec 21, 2009 at 16:20

A single zeroing should be enough to ensure data is not recovered, there is a ongoing challenge for professional recovery firms, to recover data from a single zeroed hard drive, and no one has taken the challenge so far

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