Home Security Data & Storage How to Wipe Sensitive Data from Any Device

How to Wipe Sensitive Data from Any Device

Your devices must be well-wiped before selling

If you are wiping your devices and hard drives to get rid of them, you wouldn’t want sensitive files to be obtained in the wrong hands after all. It does not matter if you are selling it, or disposing it, even giving it away to someone you trust, you should always make sure it’s been erased securely.

That’s because the data can be recovered from various devices, meaning it’s not really deleted when you empty the recycle bin.

External hard drives, SD cards, USB drives

Wiping data from the hard drive

Ensuring data is wiped from these devices is important, even on external hard drives with solid-state memory and/or drives. It’s something you need to consider.

The USB interface does not support TRIM, thus the potential exists for recovering sensitive files once you pass on the USB drive.

CCleaner – PC Cleaner and Optimization Tool

When wiping an external HD for Windows, there are various tools available for wiping drives, such as CCleaner which is easy to use and has a free version too. Simply insert the USB drive, or the external HD and open the program. Navigate to Tools > Drive Wiper.

Keep in mind that doing this is going to shorten the lifespan of your drive, even more so on cheaper flash drives. However, if you are going to be disposing or selling the drive, that’s fine.

With Mac OS’s, you will open the Disk Utility app, then find the drive within the list and select it. Clicking on Erase, then click Security Options and choose erase drive.

Desktops, laptops, internal hard drives

Getting rid of laptop

If you are using a desktop or laptop, the internal hard drive is only going to need wiping if it’s a mechanical HD or a hybrid. When files are deleted on solid-state drives, it gets auto-wiped from the HD thanks to TRIM, which assists in keeping the SSD fast and reliable.

The following tips and tricks are for those hybrid or mechanical hard drives, not solid state drives. Not only is it going to simply waste time, it will case wear to the SSD.

Windows 8 and Windows 8.1

Windows 8 interface

Just find the ‘Reset your PC’ option, then tell Windows to securely erase the desired drive. You will want to go with ‘Fully clean drive’ to be sure no files are recoverable at a later time.

Windows 7 and Linux

Linux interface

If you are using either of these operating systems, just boot your PC using a tool such as DBAN, which boots up and erases the hard drive by overwriting it with randomized data. It will require that your OS be reinstalled once finished, as it also wipes the operating system files.

Keep in mind, one wipe is enough, it does not take multiple wipes!


iMac and MacBook cleaner

If you use a Mac, you can securely erase files by booting with Recovery Mode, then using the Disk Utility app erase the drive, and reinstall OS X.

Tablets and smartphones

Cleaning iPhone and iPad

Devices such as iPads or iPhones are encrypted, meaning you simply do a factory reset using the ‘Erase All Content and Settings’ feature. This will wipe all of the personal data on the device, with any data that remains being encrypted so no one can open it.

Android devices

Android devices the encryption feature has a history of not being enabled by default. Therefore, a factory reset in this state will not do the trick and your information may remain afterwards.

In order to wipe Androids, you will need to enable the encrypt storage feature within the settins. Once this is turned on, you will be able to reset to factory and erase sensitive data. This works by encrypting the data prior to resetting, so any remaining data is unable to be opened.

Thinking ahead with encryption

Encrypted files

Another approach is to think ahead and enable full disk encryption. When using encryptions, your data requires an encryption passphrase to be recovered. That means any data or file that are left are encrypted and unable to be opened without your code. Even forensics software would be unable to recover it at this point.

For instance, the Chromebook uses encryption, so a simple factory reset (aka ‘Powerwash’) would do the trick.

CDs or DVDs

CD and DVD cleaner

If you are needing to delete and wipe a disk such as a DVD or CD, simply erasing the files works if it is rewriteable. However, if that is not the case, and you want to ensure sensitive data is not recovered you should simply break the disk prior to disposal.
One way to do this, use scissors to cut them in half or simply snap them.

Check out how to protect your family’s data online and what you need to know about your private information while entering USA.