Information Protection @ MIT

Media Sanitizing

What it is

Media sanitizing is electronic file destruction. In the same way paper files containing sensitive information can be shredded or burned, electronic files can be destroyed using various methods. The most effective form of electronic data destruction is done with file shredding software.

Shredding Your Own Files

You can shred your own computer files if the computer is still in use. By shredding the files (rather than just "erasing" them by putting them into the computer's trash), you are ensuring that they are truly gone and can not be retrieved by someone using the right tools.

Software for file shredding comes in many versions and price ranges. PGP Whole Disk Encryption and IdentityFinder, both products currently supported by IS&T, are just two of the many software applications with a "file shredding" option that delete files according to Department of Defense standards. Some of these tools will also work on external hard drives, flash drives and CDs. A list of software that does file shredding on computers can be found here (this page also provides tips for erasing cell or smart phones).

If the computer is to be repurposed and you want to make sure the hard drive has been completely "wiped," thereby removing any trace of sensitive documents, you should see the services for IT asset disposal listed below.

If needing to delete files from devices such as a tape or a drive no longer connected to a computer or working device, physical destruction is the best route. Using a hammer to smash the item, or burning it (if environmentally safe) are a few ways the files can be destroyed and made irretrievable.

Using a Service for IT Asset Disposal

Using a service for computer and other electronic waste disposal is helpful for when an office or department is getting rid of a number of items at a time and doesn't have the time or resources to remove the data themselves.



If you only have a few computers, hard drives or thumb drives, MIT Facilities will pick them up at no cost (items must weigh under 50 lbs). Recycling bins for small electronic items have been placed in some buildings on campus (as these are not secured, it is recommended to not use these bins for anything containing sensitive or personal information).

Facilities will NOT remove the data from the drives they pick up. The items are prepared for pickup by third-party vendor, Arrow Value Recovery, a recycling company who destroys the drives of computers they recycle. They guarantee to remove data according to MA data protection law standards.

Contact for more information, or visit the Properties page to learn more about eWaste disposal at MIT.

If you have a large amount of computers in one area that are at end of life and being replaced, contact Arrow Value Recovery. They pick up a minimum of one pallet of equipment. Arrow will ensure with a certificate that the computer drives are wiped securely prior to repurposing or recycling them. Please contact them directly at to arrange for the pick-up and disposition of equipment.

If not using either of these routes, make sure to use vendors who are National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) certified.

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