Cyber Security Today – How to safely destroy data on old devices

How to safely destroy data on old devices.

Welcome to Cyber Security Today. It’s Friday August 2nd. I’m Howard Solomon, contributing reporter on cyber security for


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I’m away for a few days this week, so instead of news here are some tips for safer computing.

Buying new a computer or smartphone is fun: New devices run faster and help you be more productive. But what about your old hard drives and smartphones. There’s sensitive data on them — including passwords, contact lists, maybe income tax forms. Make sure that data is safely erased before you give old devices to a relative or friend, sell them on eBay or turn them in to be recycled.

You could, of course, take a screwdriver and hammer to them. There are better ways listed in a recent article by the ZDNet news service.

First, just deleting data isn’t enough. It can be recovered easily.

What you need to do is format the hard drive. If you’re experienced you can do that through Windows’ command prompt. The ZDNet article tells what to do.  You can also get instructions on formatting disks from the Microsoft site, or hard drive manufacturers like Seagate and Western Digital. The advantage of formatting through Windows is you can instruct it to do multiple formatting passes, which really destroys data.

This works for spinning disk drives. Solid-state hard drives need a different method. Manufacturers like Intel, SanDisk, Corsair and Samsung have free tools and advice on their web sites.

Remember, formatting completely wipes the disk, including Windows. New owners will have to re-install the operating system.

Formatting is what you do if you want to give away the device. If you want to easily make sure no one can use the device and you have a version of Windows with BitLocker or FileVault on a Mac, encrypt the drive. Use a long password with gibberish that you’ll forget. No one will be able to crack it and the drive is useless.

For smartphones it’s pretty easy to erase data. For Apple devices using the iOS operating system go into Settings>General>Reset and then tap Erase All Content and Settings.

On Android devices go into Settings>Backup & reset>Factory data reset and then tap Reset phone or Reset device.

That’s it for Cyber Security Today. Links to details can be found in the text version of each podcast at That’s where you’ll also find my news stories aimed at businesses and cyber security professionals. Cyber Security Today can be heard on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or add us to your Flash Briefing on your smart speaker. Thanks for listening. I’m Howard Solomon

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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