A long time ago I bought a bunch of 1U servers from EBay and was also to recover the hard drive partitions and found web pages and data from an ISP. If I dug further and tried to recover all the disks who knows what I might have found, billing information? network or administration passwords? Just because you format your hard drive doesn’t mean it’s safe.
A friend of my just bought a refurbished Sony Vaio from Sears and it came with some unexpected surprises in the line of wedding photos and videos, personal information and other data. It’s something that creeps up from time to time that someone bought a used hard drive off of EBay and it had someone’s personal information on it.
I recently bought a Dell Studio 1557 laptop just before PDC and had some issues with it, after working with tech support for a little while Dell sent me out a replacement. Now my broken one, with some personal data needs to sent back to them. Which could result in someone getting my refurbished laptop down the line, and possibly my data.
So what are you to do? Personally I use a program called DBAN that works very well and will write random data to your hard drive, making it extremely difficult to recover. I’m currently using DBAN on my old laptop before I send it back to Dell.
I used to work with a man who would buy a secondary hard drive when he bought a computer or laptop and swap out the one that came with the unit. Anytime he had to drop it off at computer repair place or send it back he would swap the drive back. This solution had it’s pros and cons, for example if a computer repair shop is trying to fix a problem on your OS, then you have to leave it in.
If your hard drive is completely dead you might consider a handheld eraser, which the ‘home’ version would run around $80.00. Whatever you do ensure that if your sending your computer away or having it replaced your data is either cleaned off of it or encrypted, with TrueCrypt.