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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    March 04, 2010

    What Keeps You Awake at Night?

    Reader advice: What is the best way to get rid of computer equipment?

    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 83, No. 3, March 2010

    What is the easiest, least expensive way to get rid of old computer equipment?

    I have an old server that contains confidential information. What is the easiest and least expensive way to getrid of a server and other computer equipment?


    Apple, Other Manufacturers, Offer Recycling Programs

    I recently found some interesting news from Apple. It will recycle any computer for free if you buy a new Mac. Not buying a new Mac? Apple will still recycle any computer – you pay $30 to cover all shipping costs and for packing materials if you need them. More info is here:

    I haven’t used this program, so I can’t vouch for it, but Apple does seem to be known for making things easy. If you are buying a new computer, check with the vendor (Dell, HP, and so on) to see if it offers something comparable.

    Note that the Apple program still requires you to erase your data before you send your server out. Search the Web for one of several free software programs that erases and overwrites data, and use that if your machine still works. If your machine no longer works, take out the drive and physically destroy it with a drill or your choice of blunt instruments.

    – Atty. Mitch, Madison,

    Two Inexpensive Ways to Eliminate Sensitive Data

    Here are two inexpensive ways to rid your computer of sensitive data.

    1. Physically remove and destroy the hard drive. Destroy, not just incapacitate. It isn’t too difficult to remove the actual disk from the drive, which can then be destroyed, grinded, sandpapered, and so on.
    2. Download DBAN, Darik’s Boot & Nuke (, burn it to a CD, and run it. This is a free program. The computer is booted from the disk and runs its own Linux program. Multiple options for erasing the data are available. It can take considerable time for the program to run, especially on larger drives.

    Do not trust any recycling service to handle sensitive information unless the service is somehow certified and regularly handles destruction of sensitive data. There are companies that handle such things for hospitals, banks, and so on.

    There may be other programs, but the two options above generally have been considered secure. Reformatting a drive does not make the information on the drive unreadable.

    As a general comment, I think attorneys, like much of the public, have become used to cheap and easy when it comes to computer equipment and programs. Even in my (limited) experience, I am shocked at what people leave on their computers. It is very easy to find sensitive, personal data and files hidden in places you wouldn’t think of going. Many free programs exist that will undelete files, including on a reformatted hard drive.

    Remember, that little whirling disk has been collecting information about you, the user, and all your clients. It has done its job remarkably well by imprinting that information into itself. Windex, 409, even Mr. Clean, will not wipe it off.

    – Clarence Behrend, West Bend,

    What do employers expect from new law school graduates?

    With competition for entry-level positions skyrocketing in this economic climate, what is the “gotcha” asset that law firms are looking for in new lawyers?

    How to respond: Email your brief response (about 200 words) by March 20, 2010, to, subject line: New Lawyer. Include your name, affiliation, and city. The editors will select several responses for publication and will notify you in advance of publication if your response has been selected. The next column will appear in the April 2010 issue.

    E-cycle Wisconsin Regulates Disposal of E-waste

    By enacting the E-Cycle Wisconsin program into law in October 2009, Wisconsin joined 20-plus states that have passed comprehensive laws to regulate the collection and disposal of electronic waste (e-waste).

    E-Cycle Wisconsin’s first program year began Jan. 1, 2010, with some requirements phasing in later. Among other things, the legislation requires proper collection and recycling of e-waste, and bans landfill disposal or incineration of certain electronics.

    The Wisconsin law addresses some of the human health, environmental, and criminal exploitation of personal-identification-information problems associated with the disposal of electronic equipment. The Wisconsin law creates a system of mandatory labeling, registration, recycling, and reporting that applies to manufacturers, retailers, collectors, and recyclers. Under the law, the Wisconsin DNR will coordinate the registration of manufacturers, collectors, and recyclers, and will collect and monitor required reports on the amount of e-waste being collected and recycled.

    Please see our Jan. 6, 2010, WisBar InsideTrack article, “Comprehensive law regulating sale and disposal of electronics in effect on Jan. 1,” in which we summarize the law’s key terms and obligations. Registration forms also are now available on the DNR Web site,

    – Brian D. Anderson and Gretchen E. Cleveland, Madison, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C.

    Workshop Tools to the Rescue

    I personally use a drill press to put a few half-inch holes into the hard drive (the platters usually shatter in the process). That gives me complete confidence that the data is destroyed completely. Safety first, though. Clamp the hard drive down and always wear safety glasses. Remove the circuit board from the hard drive so it can be recycled (we don’t want lead in our landfills).

    – Ron Phillips, Cedarburg,

    Two Issues Arise in Disposing of Computers

    There are two issues here – how to protect your confidential data and how to dispose of the actual hardware.

    The hardware question is easy. Your local municipal dump might have regularly scheduled days to accept old computers, televisions, electronic gadgets, and so on. Also, Best Buy and American TV sometimes offer a free or nominally priced disposal program for things like televisions, monitors, and the like. Other sellers of electronic and computer equipment also might offer this service.

    You’ll also want to destroy data. I recall that Norton Utilities had a program that wiped data from a hard disk; I’m sure there are others.

    – Jim Eisenhauer, Wauwautosa,

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