What information is stored on your computer when you give your computer away?
Computers, they seem to be what drive the world today, at least in the USA. But what does this really mean for the average computer user? Sure, you can get on FaceBook, Twitter, check your email, see how much money is in your bank account, and chat with relatives anywhere there is internet access. But what is really going on behind your desktop picture?
Inside a computer there are many components, which is a subject that many people find a little confusing, so I'll break it down into some very basic terms. Think of a computer like an actual desk, you have a pad of paper/storage (hard drive), a pen/input device (keyboard and mouse), a telephone and mailbox (internet/communications device, and email), the physical desk/table itself (motherboard), a whiteboard (RAM, to write down reminders for quick and easy access), and you (the Central Processing Device in a computer).
When we break a computer down to these terms, we start to understand how the computer works. The pen and paper can be used in manny ways; to write a letter, do math problems, create to do lists, reminders of birthdays, etc. In this example, you will use them to record your conversations, and take notes on everything you do. You, as the CPU in a computer control what is to be done, and how to store the information (using your pen and paper). The telephone acts as an information source, as well, it gives you the ability to communicate with your friends, family, and other people (just like you would in a chat program. Your mailbox (postal service) will be how you create emails. The whiteboard will be used to write down important information (such as an important event that will happen today). The table/desk you are sitting at will be the platform, where you sit and do all the tasks.
Now start writing on your pad of paper (do not tear off any pieces of paper). When someone calls you, and has an important pice of information for you, write it up on your whiteboard, and copy the information to the pad of paper. Write a letter to someone, and photocopy the letter (while still attached to the pad), then mail the photocopy of the letter. Keep writing on your pad of paper, and call a friend, record your conversation (very good notes) on the pad of paper. Now call your bank, write your SSN Number on the pad of paper, all your banking information, and the amount in your bank. Pretend that you have done this the whole day, and have at least 3 pads of paper completely full.
What information is stored in those pads of paper? Well, when we start remembering the day, we remember that we have very personal information in there, right? You wouldn't want anyone else getting that information, so what do to you do with it? Do you put it in the trash, and hope that no one finds it? Do you leave it on your table, and hope that no one breaks in and steals it? What does that pad of paper represent, and how do you "shred" that information?
The pad of paper represents the Hard Disk Drive (HDD) inside your computer. And yes, all this kind of information is stored there! Pictures, email, chat logs, banking information, and any other information that you have typed in, or accessed with your web browser. This information could bring you a lot of trouble if someone were to get ahold of this one little computer part, that is slightly bigger than your hand. You could be the next victim of identity theft, all because someone obtained your Hard Drive.
So you may be wondering "how do I get that little bugger out of there?!" There are some good tutorials on YouTube, for the do-it-yourselfers. Or you can take it to a local computer shop, where they can not only remove the hard drive, but may be able to dispose of it for you as well. Since a hard drive is made out of steal, and/or other metals, it doesn't quite go through a paper shredder, like your pad of paper would, and requires special care. There are tools that you can download that will securely "wipe" your HDD clean, or devices that can produce an electromagnetic charge that will destroy the data mechanically.
Whatever you do, don't just give your computer to anyone with your data intact! You could be giving away your home address, banking information, personal conversations, Pictures of your children, and much more information that could be used to take everything you own away from you.
This has been a Tech Tip from CFI. Please feel free to leave comments, and share with your friends!
This article was written by the Center For Independence.
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