Q: I have two old computers that I would like to donate to a school or organization. How can I erase any personal information on the hard drive before I donate them? Is there an inexpensive way to do this?
A: We've talked about this once before, but it never hurts to repeat. You have the right idea. You definitely want to wipe your computer before you give it away or sell it. If it’s a Windows PC you’re getting rid of, use a program like Eraser or CCleaner, or if it's a Mac, there’s a program called Permanent Eraser. All of these programs will completely eradicate any data, and they are free.
However, one of our listeners pointed out that these programs will not wipe the entire hard drive clean unless you wipe the operating system. This is true. To wipe the entire hard drive clean, you need to either boot it from the USB or CD/DVD drive or remove the hard drive and use a USB adapter to attach it as an external hard drive to another computer.
Most computers these days come with a recovery partition. Depending on who made your computer, you will press a button like F11 during the boot up process to access the recovery procedure. A prompt will tell you what button to push when you boot the computer. If you can create a bootable DVD or CD, there will be an option in the recovery menu. You'll have to look for the option in the menu or check the manufacturer's website for more information.
If you don't have a recovery partition, you should have received a bootable recovery disc. If you don't have a recovery partition and/or you can't find your recovery disc, you'll have to get one or create one. Check the manufacturer's website. If they offer one to download or send you for free or cost, you'll be able to order it there.
Another option is to take the hard drive out of your computers, and plug them into an external hard drive adapter. Then, plug the hard drive into another computer and run Eraser or CCleaner Also, If you simply can't get, find or buy a bootable recovery disc, you can create a Ubuntu Boot Disc that you can use to wipe your hard drive clean. Unfortunately, both options will leave your computer without a copy of Windows, but you could just install Ubuntu on it once you're done cleaning it out.