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How To Sanitize Computer Equipment

Learn about removing sensitive data from computer equipment and electronic media.

About sanitizing

The process of removing data from computers and media is called sanitizing.

Computers and media that have held sensitive data must be properly sanitized before being repurposed, surplused, or recycled. Data may be considered sensitive for a number of reasons, including classification as:

  • Trade secret/ proprietary information
  • Student information (under FERPA)
  • Patient information (under HIPPA)
  • User id/ password combinations
  • Financial information
  • "Personal information" (as defined by SB 1386)

Sanitizing media

Magnetic media (hard drives, tapes, CDROMs) which retain no value or no longer function should be physically destroyed (by crushing, drilling, shredding, or incinerating).

Drives that will be repurposed or surplused should be sanitized using an appropriate program. Degaussing is acceptable for magnetic tape or floppy disks which need to be reused. Write-once media should be physically destroyed.

Some programs suitable for sanitizing disk drives are

UCSD Surplus Sales require that media or machines they collect display a "certified clean" label, containing information about who cleaned the machine, on what date, and the method/ program used. A template for stickers is available (PDF, prints on Avery 5160 labels).

Learn more