Are you the "tech guy" in your family? If so, a lot of responsibility come with the title.
I don't know about you, but I get requests to fix everything from my family and friend's computers, printers, even televisions! Plenty of times the result of the "fix the computer" call is me taking away a sad old PC to be recycled. When this happens I usually take the retired PC to Goodwill (who recycles PCs for free) but I always remove the hard drive first.
Regardless of the state of the PC or the hard drive, I always wipe the hard drive before recycling it.
It's obvious, but the hard drive usually contains all kids of sensitive data, from financial data (like credit card numbers), to passwords and logins, to seemingly mundane things like email -- which are pirate booty to a hacker. Used hard drives are often discovered with loads of private data on them, so you can't just drop them off behind your neighbor Goodwill store with a clear conscience.
ZDNET's Robin Harris noted that there are legal implications to being promiscuous with used hard drives:
Besides identity theft, data loss may leave you or your company liable under federal laws such as HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, Graham-Leach-Bliley or other state laws. Criminal penalties include fines and prison terms up to 20 years. Not to mention the civil suits that can result.
[And don't forget that almost every photocopier manufactured since 2002 includes a hard drive that stores a digital copy of everything it copied.]
In the past, I'd connect the End Of Life (EOL) hard drive to a drive dock, then use Disk Utility's Security Options to overwrite data 7 times, which meets the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) 5220-22-M standard. The problem is that this can take hours (sometimes days) depending on the speed of the Mac and the size of the drive.
Enter the Drive eRazer Ultra ($249) from Wiebetech. It's the technical equivalent of a giant magnet -- purpose built to wipe hard drives with a press of a button, and without the need of a dedicated PC.
The Drive eRazer Ultra is a standalone hardware device that attaches to any 3.5 or 2.5-inch SATA or IDE/PATA hard drive. It includes a handy LCD panel that allows you to select an erase mode and then displays an estimated time to completion. It also includes 10 presets and a DoD spec erase method.
Most importantly, the Drive eRazer Ultra is fast, operating at 7GB per minute on newer drives, erasing a 500GB hard drive in just over 70 minutes in my tests. It also includes a pass-through USB port to preview or verify the drive and a printer port for a Zebra serial printer to easily create verification labels.
Whether you sell/donate/recycle one or one thousand hard drives per year, I highly recommend the Drive eRazer Ultra because it's super convenient, it doesn't tie up your computer for an eternity, and it gives you the peace of mind that no one is going to recover data from a drive that's been in your chain of custody. It should be a staple on any self-respecting computer tech's bench -- and is handy for "tech guys" like me too.
What do you use to wipe drives before you dispose of them?