How Does an Operating System Affect Data Destruction?

Apr 3, 2019

Most businesses are constantly adding to the data stored on devices and in their network, and some data must be maintained for ongoing usage and compliance with associated legal requirements. However, there will come a time when certain data must be destroyed.

This could be related to consumer requests, compliance with privacy laws (or in-office privacy policies), or risk mitigation. When you leave unused data languishing, you unnecessarily increase risks for having that data stolen and used in an illicit manner.

Before you undertake a scorched Earth policy, however, you need to consider whether or not you want to reuse hard drives and devices. If you plan to shred hard drives, you can simply hand them off to your trusted partner in data destruction.

However, if you want to reuse computer equipment and devices, you have to consider what will happen with your operating system. Is there a way to wipe data without disrupting your OS?

Why Do You Need to Salvage OS?
You might not see any problem with simply wiping hard drives to remove all data and then reinstalling your OS, or alternately, upgrading to a newer version, but there are a couple of potential drawbacks. First, there is the cost. Even if you’re able to reinstall old hardware, it’s going to cost employees time that could better be spent elsewhere, and you may find that you can’t reinstall, if, for example, you’ve misplaced the disc or security key.

If you upgrade, there is, of course, additional expense. If you’re able to eliminate specific data while retaining the installed OS, you could more quickly repurpose hard drives and devices (i.e. hand them off to new employees for use) without worrying that employees might accidentally gain access to confidential data they shouldn’t see.

How To Destroy Data while Maintaining Your OS
Windows is arguably the most ubiquitous OS in use today, and the good news is that the program has options in place for data destruction. Overwriting is the easiest option to preserve your OS while permanently deleting unwanted data.

One of the most common overwriting tools used with the Windows OS is Cipher. This tool is easy enough to use with a simple command prompt (“cipher /w:C” to remove data on the C drive, for example). There are a number of other programs that can be used to wipe data without harming your Window OS, as well.

The Argument for a Total Wipe
The potential problem with trying to avoid a total data wipe (including installed programs and your OS) is that there’s always a possibility something could slip through the cracks. As a business owner, you naturally want to minimize costs by reusing hard drives and devices, but you also have to make sure you comply with applicable privacy laws where data destruction is concerned. This could mean completely wiping devices to ensure sensitive data is completely eradicated and absolve yourself of liability.

Whether you decide to wipe hard drives for reuse or destroy them completely, a certified ITAD service provider like SEAM can provide the services your Sioux Falls, SD business requires. Contact us today at 605-274-7326 (SEAM) or online to request a quote and learn more.