Here’s an interesting story for you. One of my lesser computers, a Windows 10 “convertible,” just stopped working. I mean, in the middle of a Powerpoint, just shut down and gave up. It’s getting power and something must still be alive in it at a very low level because there’s a light indicating it’s charging (as opposed to fully charged.) Something is awake inside it.
I can tell it’s not just a broken screen, because luckily it has an HDMI out and it doesn’t work that way either. I don’t know what’s going on in there, but it seems to just be dead.
After going through the four stages of grief I’ve just come to accept that this particular PC is just irredeemable, I’m never going to be able to use it again. I’m not worried about data loss; everything’s backed up. In fact I’m worried about just the opposite. There’s a lot of personal data on the thing and I don’t know how to get it. I imagine this is the same problem that a lot of people face when their phones or tablets break unexpectedly.
When a normal computer breaks, my answer is usually to take the hard drive out and beat on it with a sledgehammer. That should make it pretty hard for anyone to get at my personal information. But this computer is completely sealed and I have every reason to think the solid state drive is just another chip on the mainboard.
So…. I guess I could go at it with hot towels to melt the glue and guitar picks to open it (a la iFixit.com) and then sit there all day trying to identify the solid state drive chips before I slice them off the board or torture them with a Dremel. Or I could just keep the darn thing for the rest of my life so no one ever gets at my stuff. or I could just be optimistic that no one will look at the thing if I turn it in for recycling. None of those are really good ideas.
And it’s funny, I couldn’t be the only person who ever thought about this stuff. After all millions of phones and tablets break every year and all of them have personal information stored on them. In a lot of cases, it’s not even encrypted.
The more I think about it, the more this really begins to seem like a growing problem. If I wanted to get credit cards and other personal information, I’d go work for an electronic recycler and then steal all the broken tablets, especially the cheap android ones which didn’t have the same strong encryption of more expensive tablets.
I’ll ask you folks… what have you done in a situation like this? What do you think I should do? Right now the thing’s just sitting on a workbench doing nothing. At some point I’ll have to do something, I just don’t know what.