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Tech tips

Biggest mistake people make when getting rid of old computers and phones

During this pandemic with time at home, many people are cleaning and organizing their closets, garage, or attic. It makes sense. Afterward, you have a sense of accomplishment and a pile of things you can sell or donate.

Since 1995, Craigslist has been the internet’s classifieds site, but now you have other options. Tap or click here for 9 other sites to turn your old treasures into cash.

If you’re on Facebook, there’s the Marketplace. You’d be remiss in not checking the Swip Swaps on the site. Tap or click here to find Swip Swaps in your hometown.

But there is one critical step many people forget to take before getting rid of their old devices.

Proof is in the discarded

One security researcher decided to find out how many people remember to delete their personal information before handing over their old devices. Josh Frantz purchased 85 devices from businesses that sold refurbished, donated and used computers. He spent about $600 on a bunch of desktop and laptop computers, flash drives, memory cards, hard disk drives and a few cellphones.

Frantz posted what he discovered on his rapid7 blog — and it was shocking! Of the 85 devices he bought, only two were correctly wiped. Most of the devices still had tons of information on them.

With help from a script he wrote, Frantz found 214,019 images, 148,903 emails and 3,406 documents. From all that, he was able to see email addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and credit card numbers.

AUDIO STORIES: Hear about the world’s largest site that tracks data breaches and learn how you can see if your personal data is being sold on the Dark Web. Tap or click to listen now.

Don’t let this happen to you. Before donating or selling a device, make sure everything has been appropriately deleted.

If you don’t wipe your device, your data can be found later on down the road. All those deleted letters, financial documents and compromising photos are still lurking on your old devices. All it takes is a little know-how to recover them.

When a file is deleted, your operating system removes the file’s link and marks the space as free. Until it’s overwritten by new information, that file will still exist on your hard drive.

If you consider the hard drives’ size, it could be some time until that file is gone for good. You could be turning over your entire digital life to a stranger. Who wants that?

RELATED: How to erase everything that Google knows about you

Permanently erase sensitive data

Before selling or donating an old computer, you need to erase sensitive data for good. Here’s how:

Windows PC

You can get rid of personal data by using a software tool such as Eraser. It shreds files by overwriting the data before deleting, making recovery impossible. It will also let you set a schedule to delete information.

Mac

To delete files on your Mac, use a shredding app like Permanent Eraser.

A great download for PCs and Macs

CCleaner for PCs and Macs not only does automatic clean-up of your browser cookies, trackers, internet history, download history, cache, and even individual session activity. It also has an option for the Secure Deletion of files. Tap or click here for more information on CCleaner.

iPhone

If you’re getting rid of an old iPhone, you must do a hard reset first. This step will make sure none of your sensitive data stays on the device.

To hard reset an iPhone on the device, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Settings > General > Reset. Then tap Erase All Content and Settings.
  2. If asked, enter your passcode or Apple ID password. Confirm that you want to erase your device.
  3. Wait for your device to erase. It can take a few minutes to erase your data completely.

Android

To perform a factory reset on an Android phone, follow these steps:

  1. Go to your phone’s Settings > Backup & Reset > Factory data reset.
  2. Choose Reset phone. Enter the passcode and Erase everything.
  3. Reboot.

If you have further questions about resetting your Android device, visit Google’s support page.

Getting rid of a printer? You need to erase its storage too. Tap or click here for the steps.

While some of these devices are extremely simple to wipe clean, others require a bit more work. Either way, it’s well worth the effort. The next time you want to get rid of your devices, make sure you’re not handing over your digital life, too.

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