How to Permanently Erase Personal Data from your Electronics


klAs our civilisation progresses ever-onwards, so does the way we consume. The recent boom in microprocessor technologies paved the way for cheap and powerful computation, resulting in today’s world where laptops can be bought for less than £100, and the average UK household owns 7.4 internet-capable devices. With so many devices swimming around, it’s easy to see the appeal of the burgeoning market in second-hand tech: cash-strapped families could afford reconditioned smartphones; people with spare tech can sell it on and earn some valuable extra monies.

But amidst this rich economy of sell-your-phone companies and eBay auctions is an issue often ignored by proponents of the second-hand sale: the issue of personal data. Much of everyday life is conducted through a computer, from banking to shopping and even relationships, leading to an inevitable trail of sensitive information – Paypal and banking details, personal messages and pictures, in-app purchases from gaming sites such as Slotocash, addresses and more.

One might think a factory reset would suffice to completely remove personal data, but as security company Avast confirmed, they simply aren’t enough; with the right technology (including easy-to-access smartphone apps) any data deleted the standard way can be brought back courtesy of a few cursory clicks. The reason for this is that any deleted data is not completely removed from the drive on which it dwelt. Instead the pathways to that data are affected, which gives hackers the opportunity to create new pathways to the information. So here are a series of suggestions for just how to guarantee the complete erasure of your personal information, before selling or passing on your tech.


To remove the data yourself, some technical know-how and/or specialist software is required – though the software is often user-friendly and easy to find on most app stores and retail sites. E-shredding involves the complete overwriting of the hard drive in question with new, junk data, the effect of which is the destruction of the data and the pathways to it simultaneously. This is possible to do yourself with a factory reset, password encryption and some large-scale video or audio files, but might be tedious with large-storage tech like laptops. In these cases, software which completes the process for you might be preferred.

3rd Party Removal

The internet is host to a wide array of phone-recycling companies, which pay cash for your old tech. Some of these companies offer in-house data removal as part of the deal, taking any pressure off you attempting to do so yourself, and making the phone-selling process far simpler.

Hard Drive Destruction

A perhaps heavy-handed, but nonetheless 100% effective alternative would be to completely destroy the drives on which your information is held. This option would certainly not be viable for those hoping to sell a complete artefact on, but is ideal for those who don’t mind selling by the component. Simply remove the hard drive component from the device, and render it physically unusable by bisection, immolation or blunt force.

With the application of one of these solutions, you can be sure to sell on your old devices without fear of reproach!

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