Remove personal files from your PC

Last month, we told you how to recycle an old PC more safely. We suggested that you use an authorized refurbisher or disk-cleaning software to make sure that all of your personal information was removed from your computer before you gave it away.

Since we posted that information, we’ve received some feedback asking us to go into more detail about how you can remove this information yourself.

Empty your recycle bin. It’s not enough to delete files and send them to your computer’s recycle bin. You also have to empty the bin. To do this, right click the Recycle Bin on your desktop and point to Empty Recycle Bin.  This sounds pretty basic, but easy to forget.

Delete documents that might contain sensitive or personal information. Do you keep a password file on your computer? How about tax or other financial records? Delete these and other personal documents before you give away your computer. Then empty your recycle bin…again.

Delete your Internet browser’s cache cookies, and history. If some websites have saved your password so you can log in quickly, make sure you delete it from all of those websites, so a hacker can’t do the same. Learn how to delete your browsing history in Internet Explorer. And then empty your recycle bin again. It’s fun!

It’s not enough just to empty the recycling bin. What? But you’ve gotten so good at it. The truth is that when you empty your recycle bin you protect your personal information from inexperienced data thieves. The most expert hackers, however, know how easy it is to recover information, even when it’s been deleted from a recycling bin. To be safe, use software that overwrites your information with random ones and zeros.  You can get some recommendations for free and inexpensive software in this article, about how to protect and purge your personal files.

More information about how to prevent fraud.

About the Author
Eve Blakemore

Group Manager, Trustworthy Computing

Eve Blakemore is a Group Manager for Trustworthy Computing who delivers consumer guidance around the latest trends in security and privacy. Eve joined Microsoft in 1998 and has worked in corporate and field roles with Microsoft Learning, US Public Sector, Read more »

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  1. Anonymous

    Thanks – very useful info

  2. Anonymous

    I like to remove the motherboard and hard drive and thoroughly destroy them both.

  3. Anonymous

    This tells me that I have several hundred archives! What does that mean? What am I doing to cause this much activity?

  4. Anonymous

    Why not just take out the hard drive and smash it with a doz. hammer blows!

  5. Anonymous

    Thank you for the info. I have printed it out and will file it for future use.

  6. Anonymous

    Why not tell us how to reformat the hard drive?

  7. Anonymous

    Very helpful, as usual!  Thanks!

  8. Anonymous

    I just discovered files the other day on my computer (over 10,000) referencing files I deleted from my Windows 7 computer. I think they were just index files, found when clicking on some type of personal folder from the start menu. Just warning others.

  9. Anonymous

    Very useful & Informative.

  10. Anonymous

    Simplest method I have found; remove hard drives from computer. Hit them twice with a peen hammer. Guaranteed to work

  11. Anonymous

    Why not just remove the hard drive & destroy it seperately.

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