MSU IT Techbase

How to sanitize data for disposal - TB6567

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As a precaution in securing institutional data and safeguarding the privacy of confidential data, it is advisable to remove confidential data from hard drives and computer disks before the computers and/or disks are transferred to another person or area or discarded. This disposal process is referred to as disk sanitizing, wiping, cleaning, purging or scrubbing.

Caution: A reformat and reinstall of the operating system is not sufficient in wiping sensitive data. Many programs exist that can filter through reformatted and reloaded storage devices to retrieve deleted data if it is not sanitized properly.

Before disposing of a computer, the disk should be wiped. Wiping is the process of sanitizing the entire machine from later file retrieval. Be sure to retain copies of any institutional data as required by federal or state law, contract, or MSU policy.

Many do not realize that operating system file deletion commands do not physically remove data from hard drives and other storage devices. Instead, file deletion merely marks the area of the hard drive as available for re-use.

Sanitizing for disposal: Windows

  1. Click on the following link to visit the Active @ KillDisk website:
  2. Review the instructions in the user's guide(s) provided at the site
  3. Sanitize your machine.

Sanitizing for disposal: MacOS

Data wiping MacOS systems is done through disk utility software included with the OS. Apple provides some limited details in their (archived) article.

Sanitizing for disposal: Linux on X86 hardware

  • Click on the following link to visit the Active@KillDisk website:
  • Review the instructions in the user's guide(s) provided at the site.
  • Sanitize your machine.

Sanitizing data on removable drives, optical disk, internet browser cache and e-mail clients

It is highly advised to securely clean any storage device of data before transferring ownership or disposing of the device.

Numerous freeware or low-cost utilities are available for the purpose and may be found by searching a service such as using terms such as "sanitize" or "data cleaner."

Keywords for this Document

Data data removal, scrubbing scrub wipe wiping sanitize sanitizing

Date Last Modified: 12/10/2012 10:43:19 AM

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