Apple just announced a new program where they will pay for shipping and environmentally friendly disposal of any old computer with the purchase of a new Mac from the company's retail or online stores.
Here is what I do to my hard drives before I donate a PC to charity. The same applies to selling your old hard drive, or sending your PC to a recycle program such as the one soon to be offered by Apple.
I take the following precautions to ensure that my data is properly and permanently deleted from my old hard-drive.
- Go to my existing account and create a File Vault to encrypt the entire contents of my user folder (or my documents folder under Windows). Do this for every existing user account.
- Create a new user account. Log in to the new account and delete all your original user accounts telling OS X to save their personal file contents under your existing account. The files will be save in their encrypted format
• Select all of the saved files from the deleted accounts and send them to the trash. Use OS X Secure Empty Trash feature to delete the trash. Not only were the files encrypted, but now they will be written over 35 times just to be sure.
• Go to ~/applications/utilities and run Disk Utility. Under Disk Utility, select the hard drive that you are going to donate and securely wide all free disk space.
Boot your computer from a separate hard drive and use Disk Utility to format the drive you want to donate - do not use the quick format option.
This is not a quick process, but you can feel very confident that, if you follow it completely, your old data will be permanently deleted from your hard drive and can't be restored by any 3rd party software or forensics process.