Safely Disposing of Old Handheld PCs?

Reader T.W. writes: Hello, my name is [...] and I have a very odd question. I work for [...] and I happen to have lots of Sharp PV-6000 Pocket PC and the university doesn’t support these anymore. I am in charge of putting together older computers to put into this yard sale and I have to enter but I need to know something about them. Being that this is a state college before anything can be sold it has to undergo a Department of Defense wipe that wipes out the hard drive and I can’t help but notice that there is no way to put in a drive. So my first question is I was told that they wipe after the battery dies, is this true? I have one that I have had unplugged for about 2 weeks and I can’t get the battery to run down, mainly because I don’t have the time at work to sit and play with it. My next question is if it happens to not wipe the information how could I wipe the hard drive? Before they are sold I have to make sure that there is no State information on it and I am not sure how to go about this. Okay so now that I have asked a lot of questions and confused you (I’m sure) please let me know how to go about this. If I am going into about a computer that you know nothing about I would please like any information you can give me about who to get in touch with that might know. I have checked on Sharp’s website and they don’t have any info.

First, let me say the following weasel words :-) My response does not constitute advice and does definitely not ensure compliance with any DoD recommended procedures. The main problem is the confounding of assumptions made. So, let’s look at these issues…

  • The Sharp PV-6000 is not a Pocket PC. It is a Handheld PC and a rather large one at that weighing in at several pounds and about the size of a small notebook computer.
  • The DoD approved wiping procedures mentioned applies to hard drives. The Handheld PC does not have an internal hard drive. It might have a removable PC Card or CF form factor hard drive that was modestly popular before flash drive sizes increased dramatically. But, these removable storage cards can be dealt with separately. If one needs to follow DoD policy for this particular device, you need to look at their procedure for ensuring data deletion from volatile memory (if such a procedure exists). Volatile memory, btw, loses all its data when power is removed from it.
  • There shouldn’t be a need to let the PV-6000′s batteries run down. The Handheld PCs I used (including the Vadem Clio that is very similar to the PV-6000) all had removable batteries. Removing the battery should return all settings to factory defaults. An alternative is to check if the PV-6000 had a specific hard reset procedure.