UK Consumer Watchdog magazine, Which?, has advised its readers to destroy their hard drives to prevent fraudsters and cybercriminals from stealing their personal information in a bid to stop identity fraud.
Computer Which? purchased eight computers off Ebay and recovered more than 22,000 files which were supposedly erased from their hard disk drives. Second hand computers can be purchased for as low as £10 on Ebay and server job lots could be an absolute boon for criminals.
Unbeknown to many, sending files to the recycle bin in Windows does not actually "permanently" delete anything and there are dozens of freely available applications online that can recover such files.
The easiest (but probably not safest) way to dispose of a hard disk drive is to destroy it with a hammer (but beware of the bits). You will also need to remove the hard disk drive (which is probably beyond the technical abilities of most people) and you will be left with a heap of material to recycle.
Sarah Kidner, editor of Which? Computing, told the BBC that "PCs contain more valuable personal information than ever as people increasingly shop online, use social networking sites and take digital photos".
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You don't necessarily need to go for such extremes. Rather than destroying the hard disk drive (and risking hurting yourself in the process), you can give the whole computer to a relative, use the hard disk drive as a removable storage (always handy), fill it with downloaded movies or songs or (my favourite), use Eraser or Cr!ptAES (read Cript-AES) to shred/encrypt every piece of information using military-grade techniques.
Smashing PC 'only way to cut fraud'