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How to secure dispose of old storage media, like hard drives and SSDs

Macworld reader Phil wisely asks how to erase securely the data on old Macs and external drives before sending them off to electronics recycling centers. He asks about hard disk drives (HDDs), solid-state drives (SSDs), and RAM.

We sometimes feel our digital memories are highly transient, given how readily a disk drive crash or broken device makes them irretrievable. But it’s not so: data lingers! Reports regularly emerge of TV news stations or security researchers buying everything from surplus laptops to old photocopiers that used hard drives for storing documents and finding secrets and personal information in huge quantities.

Any qualified electronics recycling center should make some representation about what happens to your data. Some will disclaim all responsibility. Others have specific polices. In the latter case, you might also wonder if they follow those policies or not, so there’s an element of trust (though some have certifications).

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