Take These Steps Before Getting Rid Of An Old Flash Drive

Flash drives have become a common feature of everyday life, and if you've ever received promotional flash drives, you know how convenient it can be to start storing bits and pieces of information on them. But that does mean that you and others can end up with many flash drives, and eventually, consolidating the data and getting rid of older drives is necessary.

Be aware -- you need to treat these like hard drives instead of trinkets. These are repositories of potentially valuable personal information that shouldn't get into anyone else's hands. That means you should destroy them, but USB flash drives have a special problem in that they're small but relatively thick. You can't shred them in a shredder like you can a CD, but they're so small that industrial and commercial shredding companies don't always take them, and smashing them can still leave enough circuitry intact that someone could try to access the information. That means you have to take a few extra steps when getting rid of the drives.

Erase

Obviously, start by erasing what's on the drive. But take it a step further after that and save, and then erase, other random files that don't contain personal information. Repeat this process a few times, filling up the drive (for example, with several copies of an MP3) and erasing it repeatedly. What you want to do is create a few layers of old data, so if someone finds circuitry from the drive and tries to hack into it to find erased files, they'll be more likely to find the newer layer of erased files. However, don't stop with this -- it's only one step toward protecting information before you get rid of the drive.

Encrypt

Next, fill up the drive with copies of useless, random files that don't have personal information in them, and encrypt the drive. The point here is that if, through some bizarre event, someone manages to get enough of the circuitry in one piece, he or she is still going to have a difficult time accessing anything on the drive. But this can't be your only step, either, because sometimes encryption can be broken.

Destroy

Now it's time to destroy the drive, but you'll need to be careful. Don't just take a hammer to it -- take a small chisel and tap it into different points on the drive, smashing through the circuitry. Create as many holes as you can, all the way through the drive. Then take a hammer and smash the drive into as many small bits as you can.

If you want more information about keeping your information safe when consolidating the flash drives you have and getting rid of old ones, talk to companies that sell flash drives, as well as local shredding and e-waste companies.

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