Completely erase information before disposing of equipment
Information can be stored on a wide variety of devices, from pc hard drives, flash drives, CDs, cell phones and tablets, to copiers and scanners. A simple “delete” command will not sufficiently remove personal, confidential or other sensitive information. Though you may no longer see the files after they're deleted, their contents are still intact and readable by anyone who has the device, unless you overwrite the old data with new data – i.e., secure erase. Securely erasing, or wiping the device overwrites the drive with new data, providing assurance that the storage device has been sanitized and the information cannot be re-constructed.
- Back up important files that will be needed – e.g., academic or work-related files, personal documents, photos, videos, or music.
- Plan for enough time to wipe the drive. Wiping usually takes a long time—several hours or more, depending on the size of the drive.
- Remember that smartphones and other “personal” devices can store confidential information. They usually have an option to restore the factory settings or completely erase the device. For more information, search for the name of your device and the word "wipe" (e.g., "wipe iphone").
- Consider securely recycling/destroying the equipment or storage media if it is unserviceable or at end-of-life.
Faculty & staff guidelines
Talk to your departmental IT Professional or the IT Support Center before permanently erasing media on University of Delaware equipment—especially if you are uncomfortable using the software recommended on this page.
Prior to disposing of surplus University equipment or material with digital storage, all University information must be securely erased from the equipment or material containing electronic storage or the storage media itself must be completely destroyed.
Serviceable equipment or material with electronic storage media containing University information must be securely erased before disposal if it is to be re-used by a non-University entity or another University department that has no need for that University information.
University information stored in electronic storage media contained in unserviceable equipment or material to be junked must be completely destroyed using approved University protocols by either sanitizing the electronic storage media or secure destruction of the unserviceable equipment or material that contains the storage media or the storage media itself.
Erase an entire disk
Erasing an entire disk should be left to the professionals. Contact your IT Professional or the IT Support Center if you're replacing old University equipment (e.g., personal computer, laptop, external drive, smartphone, etc.)
Securely erase a file(s)
Most modern hard drives have a built-in, secure self-erase feature that can be activated with the proper software. Besides being very secure, this method of erasure is much faster than traditional software methods, with times of 30 minutes to a few hours rather than times of a day or more.
AxCrypt "shred and delete"
If you have Axcrypt installed (Windows only) it has a “Shred and Delete” option.
Bootable recovery disc
One software utility that supports either type of erasure is Parted Magic. This utility is a bootable CD that has a Disk Eraser that will allow you to do the quicker secure erase if your drive supports it and also provides the software erasure if it doesn’t.
Because of the power of the utilities included in Parted Magic, this freeware should only be used by experienced and/or advanced computer users--or with the help of a departmental computer specialist.