Secure PowerBook disposal?

My husband and I have three old PowerBooks that we want to discard. He will remove the hard drives from the laptops before bringing them to the recycling center. Is there anything else we should do to make sure that they don’t contain recoverable personal data?

Thanks so much,


A screw gun and a few 1” screws.


Nothing with regard to the laptops, but what are the plans for the hard drives?


If they are Powerbooks with old school, spinning hard drives, removing the drives will remove all useful data. Seems like a lot of work to me, instead you could recycle them with Apple and trust that the company uses a reputable process that will destroy your info.


I think removing the hard drives and destroying them yourself is a good idea.

Why? Because even if you turn over your hardware to a trusted company, a lot of this type of work is done by third parties. That could mean you drop off your machine at a store, a store worker throws it into a bin, and the contents of the bin are then shipped somewhere (very possibly to a developing country). If you have anything that is private, sensitive, or confidential on your computers, why take any chances?

There has been a lot of coverage of e-recycling practices over the last decade or so. Here is one recent article:

And an older one:

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Everyone has a different comfort level, but unless you have unusually sensitive data or a specific reason to fear that you would be targeted, I’d be quite comfortable using Apple’s Disk Utility to perform a “secure erase” of the hard drives. It can take a while to do this, but it often is easier than trying to take apart some PowerBook models.

The easiest way to do this is to boot the PowerBooks from the DVDs that came with the laptops or a compatible OS X installer DVD. Depending on the version of Disk Utility, look for something like “Security Options.” For most people, a “7 pass erase” is more than sufficient.

Another option is to remove the drives and connect them to a more recent Mac using a USB-PATA adapter. Then you can use the more recent Mac’s Disk Utility to erase the drives. The only caveat is that very old PowerBooks use a different type of drive (called SCSI), and it can be difficult to find ways to connect SCSI drives to modern computers. If you share the specific models of PowerBook that you have, perhaps I can give better tips.


What my former company used to do when retiring an old computer was take the drives out to the California desert and shoot them.

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