Tips to wipe old electronics clean of personal data - KCTV5

Tips to wipe old electronics clean of personal data

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A survey recently released by an online re-selling site suggests old electronics are likely among the stuff that has been sitting unused for years. A survey recently released by an online re-selling site suggests old electronics are likely among the stuff that has been sitting unused for years.
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Chances are when people buy a new cell phone or an old laptop stops working, it gets tossed into the back of a closet somewhere.

Many wind up with quite a collection of old electronics they no longer use. So how do you get rid of all that stuff that can contain private data?

For many people, spring cleaning also means purging.

A survey recently released by an online re-selling site suggests old electronics are likely among the stuff that has been sitting unused for years.

USell.com asked 1,000 Americans how long they keep devices they no longer use, and 68 percent said they had held onto something they haven't used for two years or more.

"I'd fit that. I'd fit that for sure," said K.C. Doan, as he hopped off of his skateboard in Westport. "I have a game cube at my house. I have a laminator. Yeah, lamination was cool in middle school."

"I have a Game Boy," Nate Vanderpool said. "I haven't used it in three years. Still have it though. Why would you throw it away?"

Perhaps the better questions is, "why would you keep it?"

Nate Kettlewell, a computer expert at Depth Security, says for some people, it's hard to let go of something that was such a big financial investment at the time.

"I think a lot of people feel attached to things because they've spent so much money on it," Kettlewell said. "A lot of it just isn't really worth very much anymore. Technology evolves so fast that something that you bought for a fair amount of money even a little while ago is now worth literally nothing."

Another aspect is sentiment. Doan is the expert on that.

"My first girlfriend," he explained. "I swear I created the relationship over a flip phone - actually it was a slide phone - and I have that slide phone still in my desk."

Kettlewell says selling used stuff makes sense only if it was bought it two years ago or less. If someone is replacing their iPhone4 with an iPhone5, go that route. If they have a 5-year-old laptop, he says, don't bother.

What people should bother with, however, is wiping the device clean of any sensitive data.

"Even if you have deleted it, it's still technically there," Kettlewell said. "I mean a lot of people use PCs to do very important things. Doing your taxes. A lot of people do their taxes on their own computer now."

The same goes for smartphones.

Just think of the sites visited, like banking sites or Facebook, and the passwords entered. All that can remain stored on those devices. Newer model TVs that have built-in Wi-Fi can get re-sold with a Netflix password still set up.

For an iPhone, clearing the data is simple. There's an app for that. For a PC, Kettlewell suggests downloading a free data wipe program.

"One of the more popular ones out there is called DBAN," he said.

DBAN is short for Derek's Boot and Nuke.

Put it on a CD to clear the drive of the PC or put it on a USB card to clear the drive of a netbook. There are computer recycling services and donation services that offer to clean the data, but it never hurts to be sure.

"Because you never know who's going to end up with it at the other end," Kettlewell said. "You may think that you are donating it to school children or something like that. They've shown that a lot of those devices end up overseas in other countries with the data still attached."

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