IT Security fully supports efforts to recycle obsolete electronic equipment. However, it is important that you first take a few precautions. Before donating that personal PC, Mac, iPod (or other mp3 player), digital camera, cell phone, USB drive or other digital device capable of storing data, REMOVE your DATA to avoid any data theft possibilities. While a PC, Mac, or large USB storage device (e.g., an iPod being used as an external drive) is more likely to contain sensitive data than a small mp3 player or digital camera, the latter may contain personal photos worth keeping private. Not all of these devices will contain sensitive data – it depends on how the device is used.
1) Back up all important data BEFORE beginning the removal process. Take inventory of the files you want to keep and copy them to an external drive or other removable media (DVD, CD, memory card, or USB). Ensure that your backup copies work (i.e., your music plays, your pictures and docs open, etc.).
2) Use a disk wiping tool. Simply deleting the data or formatting the drive is insufficient and almost always leaves the previous data accessible. A disk wiping utility will overwrite the data in a manner that makes it much harder, if not impossible, to retrieve. There are many disk wiping utilities to choose from, including DBAN, which is open source, free, and has a good reputation. DBAN can be downloaded here.
Additional disk wiping tools include:
Eraser is the simplest option for wiping digital USB devices clean (including mp3 players and digital cameras). Once Eraser is installed on your computer, simply plug in the device to be cleaned and drag the files to be erased to the Eraser tool. Eraser will remove the files from the device and make them unrecoverable.