Last year, my flat was burgled. I was only just in the process of moving in, and so they got barely anything for their efforts apart from three battered laptops.
These machines were near relics. One hadn’t been turned on for years, the other two didn’t turn on at all. I kept them in a mix of laziness and fear that they still held fragments of data.
At some point, I intended to safely erase this data. Problem is, now I will never know where it’s gone.
Putting aside my skittish paranoia, the likelihood is those laptops ended up in the bin. I can’t see anyone wanting to buy them, or viewing it a worthwhile endeavour to recover the hard drives.
However, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t just wipe the machines when I had the chance, and maybe even sold them when they did have some value.
Even those who do sell their devices don’t always wipe them.
In 2014, researchers at security firm Avast extracted a mind-boggling 40,000 photos from just 20 Android phones it bought on eBay, including over 1,000 featuring nudity.
Our investigation into deleting personal data
As featured in the latest edition of Which? magazine, we sent Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, along with PC and Mac laptops, off to specialist data recovery lab, Kroll Ontrack, to see what data was left on them.
The good news is the majority of devices in our snapshot research were clear of data. However, a few still had personal emails, photos, text messages and documents left on them. It was clear that they hadn’t been wiped properly.
You can make hundreds of pounds selling an old phone, tablet or laptop, so it’s a great thing to do when you’re ready to upgrade.
Have you sold on a device? Was deleting personal data upmost in your mind? Or have you bought a second-hand gadget and found information or photos left on it?