We have talked about data theft before on this website, but did you know that your old computers could pose a risk? Merely deleting files on your computer before selling it or throwing it away will not protect you from those who mean you harm. This is because there is easy to use software that can recover deleted files, such as Recova, even if the recycle bin has been emptied. Even a freshly formatted hard drive can give up valuable date to identity thieves and others who wish you ill will.
If you do not wish your log in information, passwords, and other financial data to fall into the wrong hands, you have only one real choice. In order to securely delete this information, you need to overwrite it all with new 1s and 0s. If the computer is not longer going to be used by you, even if you intend to recycle it, or throw it away, let alone sell it, you will need to make sure no trace of your data remains. This means wiping the entire drive. Sure you could try and wipe individual files, but you will likely miss important information, especially considering how computers often store information in multiple locations on your computer, such as your roaming files.
Wiping the drive completely is the best way to go. Yet this can pose an issue if you wish to pass the computer on to a loved one or sell it, in the fact that wiping the drive completely will also erase your operating system. If you wipe the drive you will need a recovery disk or a valid copy of Windows or Linux in the case of an Apple system. Yet this can destroy the Windows license on your computer.
Some software that wipes a computer clean will scrub your computer dozens of times, but the reality is in most cases you do not need to go that strong. You can use software that does a simple one pass wipe, and this will make any data unusable to most criminals. I say most because some really expert ones can bypass this, but if they have this level of skill, chances are they do not have time to do this to your computer. This is because as with this level of skill there is more lucrative fish in the sea to go after.