Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Skills -

When you hit “Empty Trash” on your com­puter, those pho­tos and Word doc­u­ments don’t get de­stroyed. They’re just more dif­fi­cult to ac­cess. Op­er­at­ing sys­tems use a master in­for­ma­tion ta­ble to find your files. Hit­ting Empty Trash deletes only the master-file ta­ble ref­er­ence for that file. The ac­tual data is still on your phone or lap­top, just hid­den away some­where. Here’s how to get rid of sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion, in ascending level of para­noia:

➨ Af­ter you’ve backed up ev­ery­thing or ex­tracted the im­por­tant files, be­fore you do­nate or give your lap­top or phone away, set a re­ally com­pli­cated ad­min pass­word. Don’t worry about re­mem­ber­ing it. ➨ Do a fac­tory re­set. The lap­top or phone runs like it’s fresh out

of the box. At this point, your old files are still in there, only now they’re pro­tected by that com­pli­cated pass­word you set, which turns them into il­leg­i­ble non­sense to any­one try­ing to get ac­cess. ➨ If you’re still wor­ried, fill the de­vice with new data to over­write your files. Try high-def­i­ni­tion

TV sea­sons. ➨ If even that isn’t enough, a rare-earth mag­net dis­torts hard-drive data be­yond re­con­struc­tion. ➨ Fine. Now you can get out the drill. Aside from the ob­vi­ous de­struc­tion, the heat it cre­ates will fur­ther de­grade any re­main­ing data.

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