Macs tend to have a longer useful life than comparably priced PCs, but there will still come a time when your needs outgrow the abilities of your current computer and it will be time to get a new one.
However, it’s important to give some thought to what you do with your old Mac because if you sell it or give it away Or even leave it on the street to be taken away, whoever receives it will have access to whatever personal information was stored on it.
In these days of identity theft and prevention plans, it would be a mistake to forget how much data you has stored on your computer. What kind of data is on your Mac? Well, every time you send an e-mail or enter a password into a website, the information remains somewhere no matter how often you may delete your “cookies.”
Up to 9 million Americans suffer identity theft each year, and often this happens because of one small mistake, such as disposing of a computer improperly.
Dragging files to the trash and then emptying the trash is not enough. You see, that only deletes the directory information about the file. The actual data still remains on your Mac, and a computer expert could use special software to retrieve data that you thought you had deleted long ago.
The Mac does have some special features, such as “secure empty trash” that is accessible by right or option clicking the trash can, but you have to remember to do this every time you emptied the trash.
Anytime you use your credit card to order something through your Mac, that number may be stored to make shopping and paying easier the next time.
Some of the things identity thieves can do with your personal information are to open up credit cards under your name, obtain illegal employment using your Social Security number or get a loan or mortgage using your identity.
Needless to say, the capacity of such thieves to do evil stretches even further if they have access to your payment records and e-mail accounts.
To protect yourself against such identity theft, you should be a knowledgeable consumer and carefully watch your credit history, making sure that your billing statements match your personal buying history each month. By carefully watching over such things, you can ensure that you are the only one making any purchases through your accounts.
None of this is to say that you should be afraid to store personal data on your Mac. After all, that’s what it’s for. However, when the time comes to either sell or discard your Mac, you will want to be sure to dispose of or recycle it properly.
Presumably, if your computer is no longer functional it should be sent to a computer disposal company in order to adhere to environmental guidelines. However, some computer users will be reluctant to do this since data could still theoretically be retrieved from the hard drive. And because of residual electrical charges, users of electronic electrical devices are warned not to open them due to the danger of electric shock, making removal of the hard drive impractical or impossible for many.
Larger companies will have the resources to properly dismantle and dispose of their unusable computers in order to remove all sensitive data so that they can be properly refurbished. If you are selling your still functioning Mac, however, you should be sure to erase the hard disk thoroughly and not depend on emptying the trash routines to secure all your data.
You can do so by opening Disk Utility, located in the Utilities folder of your Applications folder, clicking on the name of your hard drive in the left panel, clicking the Erase tab and then clicking the Security Options button. You can then choose the number of passes Secure Erase will make to write over your data.
That way, your years of private information will be thoroughly wiped away and you will not have to worry about your identity traveling with the computer itself.