Consumers Beware: Old Hard Drives Still Hold Personal Information

As technology continues to advance your new computer can quickly become old and obsolete. So many people donate their old PC's, throw them out or sell the parts. That's how old information left on your computer becomes available to computer savvy thieves.

"If you delete something on your computer it's not gone, it can be recovered easily," Justin Hutcheson, manager for CPU in Tyler.

Financial records, tax information, billing and account information, even your Social Security number, still lie on your hard drive.

"When you delete something off your computer it just tells the hard drive this is free space you can write over it," Justin said. "But, until that space is actually written over the actual data that was there before is still on the hard drive."

Your junk can turn in to a thief's gold mine. Justin said a thief simply has to plug your old hard drive into a new computer and with a few clicks of a mouse, all your files can be opened.

"All that data can be pulled back off," he said.

To protect yourself, there are software programs that sweep the hard drive clean. They cost $50 or $60. If you don't want to spend the money, take the cover off the hard drive and destroy the hard it yourself.

"The safest way to do it you could either take the platter out or the easiest way is mark over it with a sharpie or permanent marker."

Justin said actually destroying the hard drive is the only sure fire way to make sure no one else can ever get a hold of your old files. He said Windows XP has higher security measures so it's harder to obtain information from an old hard drive.

However, even with a password protection, someone can still work around the system. Again the best way to protect your personal information on your old PC is to destroy the hard drive.

Maya Golden reporting,