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Keeping personal information safe on old laptops

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Updated: 9/03/2013 9:27 am
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Justin Ritter just started school at St. John's River State College.

With a new workload, he's looking to get a new computer, which means his new computer now will soon be on the way out.

"I was thinking about putting it in the back of my closet or giving it away to one of my friends who needs one," said Ritter.

Computer repairman Tim Arvin said if you give your computer away to friends you trust, that's one thing, but if you're selling it to a stranger, you need to be careful.

Your personal information could easily be in the hands of a criminal.

Action News asked students what they thought they should do before giving a laptop away.

"I would try to just revert back to normal settings and give it to somebody," said Ritter.

"Erase the hard drive, delete everything off it, all personal files, all music, all types of identification," said student Chris Griffin.

But Arvin said reformatting the hard drive may not erase everything.

"What that does it scatters the information across the hard drive so the operating system can't read it. but it still can be read if you have the right tools to do it with," said Arvin.

Instead, Arvin suggests destroying your digital information completely by using a software program and leaving the hardware intact.

"I don't destroy it physically. A lot of people try beating it with a hammer, I've even heard people putting it in the microwave, but they're very toxic, don't go that route," said Arvin.

Arvin says software that can be purchased at a store must be able to wipe the hard drive back to "DOD" standards.

"You can run it on the hard drive and make sure the data is completely destroyed."
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