When you’ve worked with computers, chances are good that you’ve heard the terms wiping, shredding, erasing and reformatting. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to permanently removing information from a hard drive, it is not accurate to do so. And the differences in meaning between these terms could be bad news if your company recycles its computers and there is data still on the hard drive that identity thieves can uncover.
It’s therefore crucial to understand what these four computer terms refer to when it comes to deleting information from the hard drive.
To make data on a hard drive or another storage device irretrievable, you need to overwrite the space with fresh data. Programs that can erase entire drives are called data destruction software programs. They do so by overwriting or wiping every part of the drive by one of a few different data sanitization methods. Essentially, a data sanitization procedure writes new random data over top of the previous data.
Generally, a single pass with a disk wiping program is enough to prevent anyone from recovering useful data. However, if your company deals with particularly sensitive or important data, you may want to do two or more passes with the wiping program to ensure complete data destruction.
One way to delete (but not permanently erase) data is to reformat a drive. Reformatting is the same as deleting a file on a hard drive, except every file is deleted at once. However, while the drive may appear empty, the data may be recoverable either through the use of data recovery software or with the services of a data recovery specialist.
So What Does It Mean to Erase a Hard Drive?
The term erase is what most of us think of when we want to “get rid of” files for good. The three main ways to erase data are to wipe it using a special program (see above), to disrupt the magnetic field of the data storage device (degaussing), or to physically destroy the device.
The Confusion With Shredding Data
The term shredding can be confusing because it is used to refer to two different things: digital shredding and physical shredding. Digital shredding is the same process as wiping in that you erase a portion of the hard drive and overwrite it with random data. Physical shredding is taking the hard drive and putting it in a machine similar to an industrial paper shredder.
Choosing the Best Data Destruction Method
Whether you decide to reformat a drive to delete data (not a permanent solution and best only if you are not immediately disposing of the computer) or you choose to permanently erase data by wiping a drive, disrupting the magnetic field of the drive, or physically destroying a drive, make sure that your choice provides adequate protection for the data your company is entrusted with. When your company is disposing of old hard drives, it is imperative to ensure that no data remains for someone unscrupulous to retrieve.
Where Can I Find a Recycler Who Handles Data Securely?
Companies that deal with sensitive data need to ensure it is handled responsibly. When looking for an ethical recycler, choose one that is PCI compliant and has multiple industry certifications such as R2, R2O and NAID-Canada. You are right to be concerned about your company’s data!
If you’re ready to schedule a free pickup of your company’s hard drives or related items, contact Quantum today.