SIMPLITECH When you delete something on your mobile (or your computer), what it does is remove the reference information of the file. But the data in the file remains. That’s how recovery software ‘recovers’ deleted info.

You have just seen an advertisement of a smartphone and you think it’s time to get rid of your old one. You had bought it just a few years ago, but already it is looking outdated.

You are mentally prepared for it as you are aware that phones age faster than you. You think the old one is still worth something and you go to a dealer to get it exchanged for the new one you have in mind.

Factory reset

You take it to the retailer who looks at it and mentions the price. You negotiate. You think you have got a good deal. You take back the phone, hunt for the ‘restore factory settings button’, press it, and wait till it deletes all the information. You give the phone to the dealer -- wait.

Don’t think you have deleted all the information. Though technically you have, the fact is that most of it can be recovered. More than the contacts and songs, what could be potentially embarrassing are pictures and videos. Yes, you don’t have sexually explicit pictures or videos, but that doesn’t mean you have media that can’t be misused. The pictures you clicked or asked your friend to click at the parties. You may think they are clean and won’t do any harm, but you are wrong. There are sites waiting to lap up your pictures and what you have to be bothered about here is that the sites your pictures will be found are not clean sites. Before you can blink, the photos and videos will be across hundreds of porn sites. And imagine a situation when your classmate (with whom you had a bad relationship) stumbles across one and shares it with others.

Easy recovery

Now connect your phone to your computer and wipe whatever is possible. Why wipe? And what is wiping? When you delete something on your mobile (or your computer), what it does is remove the reference information of the file. But the data in the file remains. That’s how recovery software ‘recovers’ deleted info. Wiping is overwriting the file several times with garbage info so that the original file becomes unreadable or unrecoverable. There are simple to use software such as File Waster for this. Once you connect your mobile, select the mobile and the drive and wipe it clean. There is also other software available, but handling it may require some expertise. File Waster can also be used to wipe any folder in your computer.

If your phone has a format option, do it, even though you have wiped your data. All this is ok, but what about the pictures and other data you want? Won’t wiping, resetting or formatting the phone deprive you the pictures you took or the videos you have saved? Or even what about the contacts? Is it really good practice to start looking for options to backup the data? Unfortunately, this is what many of us do. One fine day, we suddenly realise we have lost all the pictures or contacts. It is important that you keep backing up your data at least every month. Every month? Yes, you may not know when your mobile will decide to call it a day or some pickpocket decides to change the ‘ownership’. There are people who think backing up data every month is too much. What they have to remember is that mobiles are not just mobiles any more. They are mini-computers. Even a back-up every week will be in order. Almost all what I have said above applies if you are replacing your computer or laptop. You HAVE to wipe all the data and format the drives. Even if you computer goes kaput suddenly, try to revive it -- at least briefly enough to ‘wipe it’ clean.

dinakaran.rengachary@thehindu.co.in