If you have ever stored data on your computer that you would not want someone else to see - financial information, password lists, sensitive business data, love letters from (or to!) old flames - it's important to be aware that this data may still be there - even if you have deleted it!
If you're like most people, when your computer goes >fzzzt!< or gets too slow to bear any more, you'll throw it out and buy a new one. Perhaps, if it still works, you'll pass it on to a friend or family member.
However you dispose of your old computer, it's vital to be aware that any data stored on it can be recovered (unless it has been securely wiped).
If you know your way around inside a computer, you could take your hard disk drive out - and (if it fits) put it into your new computer. (This is what I do, and it not only gives me extra storage space in the new computer, it also means that I have access to all the files on my original machine.)
There is software that you can get to completely remove data from your hard drive (this is achieved by overwriting the data several times with random patterns).
Or: a hammer does a neat job of rendering your data safe from prying eyes. Making good on all those threats you ever made to smash your PC to bits can be good for the soul* :) Make sure you smash the hard disk, or your destruct-o-fest will be wasted effort, however much better you may feel afterwards.
*Note: although it can be thoroughly satisfying, I don't recommend smashing up old machines - it's far better to recycle. Have a word with your local council: they should be able to advise you how to dispose of your old equipment in an environmentally-friendly way that doesn't expose your personal data.
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© Colin Reynolds / Typocheck 2007