Discarding old laptops
I have two old dell laptops we don't want anymore. What do we do with them? Dumpster? Donate? If donate, how do we wipe them clean of any of our sensitive info like passwords etc?
I'm thinking the only real way to wipe a hard drive completely is to physically destroy it. And digging the drive out of a laptop can be frustrating. I've done it twice and I still have the drives sitting here. One is over 15 years old.
Maybe find a tree trimming crew that is running a large wood-chipper. Their boss might tell you no, but the guys running the equipment would probably get a big kick out of it.
I've simply drilled a few holes through each hard drive, platters, case and all.
You can use CCleaner or Glary Utilities (both free) to wipe the drive, and you can specify the level of security.
Basically, if you delete the data on your hard drive, it can still be restored -- maybe not everything, but you'd likely be surprised how much you can restore. When you "delete" data on your drive, the data stays there, but the hard drive sets those sectors as available so they can eventually be overwritten. As you use the hard drive after deleting stuff, it will slowly overwrite previous data in those sectors. But some stuff may never get truly overwritten.
So, what CCleaner and Glary do is they repeatedly delete and then overwrite those sectors with dummy data. You can set it to do it just a couple of times, or you can set it to do it 50 times, as I recall. I think at that point your data is truly gone. But certainly don't hold me to that -- there could actually be folks out there that could still retrieve (I find that hard to believe, but hey, I've been wrong once or twice 😉 ).
So yes, probably the absolute best measure is to just destroy the drive.
AR-15. Make it fun!