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Bob Sullivan

Red Tape Chronicles is's effort to unmask government bureaucracy, corporate sneakiness and outright scam artists.

Bob Sullivan covers Internet scams and consumer fraud for He is the winner of multiple journalism awards for his coverage of online crime and is the author of the book Your Evil Twin: Behind the Identity Theft Epidemic.

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'I just bought your hard drive'

Posted: Monday, June 5 at 03:00 am CT by Bob Sullivan

Bestbuy_harddrive_1 Hank Gerbus holds his prodigal computer hard drive, which was supposed to have been destroyed by Best Buy but turned up six months later in the hands of a stranger. Photo: WLWT-TV

One year ago, Hank Gerbus had his hard drive replaced at a Best Buy store in Cincinnati. Six months ago, he received one of the most disturbing phone calls of his life.

"Mr. Gerbus," Gerbus recalls a stranger named Ed telling him. "I just bought your hard drive in Chicago."

N_cyber_security_060606300w_1's Bob Sullivan discusses the hard drive that got into the wrong hands on MSNBC.

Gerbus, a 77-year-old retiree, was alarmed. He knew the old hard drive was loaded with his personal information -- his Social Security number, account numbers and details of his retirement investments. But that's not all. The computer also included data on his wife, Roma, and their children and grandchildren, including some of their Social Security numbers.

In June 2005, when Gerbus took his computer to Best Buy for repairs after a hard drive crash, he knew the drive was a potential hot potato. So when a clerk there told him it had to be replaced, he asked for the damaged hardware back.

No dice. The replacement was done for free, under warranty, and Gerbus was told the old drive had to be sent to a repair center in Chicago to fulfill warranty terms.

"I asked in the store on two or three occasions. ... I was very concerned," he said. "But they said 'we can't give you the old one because it's under warranty.'"

Gerbus said he was assured that, after verifying the warranty, workers in Chicago would drill holes through the drive and make it unusable.


Hank Gerbus, 77, says he has no idea who might have had access to the drive containing a trove of his family’s personal information. Photo: WLWT-TV

Tracked down in Florida

Gerbus' hard drive did make it to Chicago. But instead of being destroyed, it landed in Ed’s hands. In January, Ed tracked down the Gerbus family at the couple's winter home in Florida, and placed that disturbing call.

"The only way he would have had my Florida number was if he had my hard drive," Henry Gerbus said.

Ed told Mr. Gerbus he'd purchased the drive at a flea market for $25, Hank Gerbus recalls. The two made arrangements to return the hardware to its rightful owner. But Gerbus has no idea who else might have seen the personal information in the interim.

"From June (2005) to January, I don't know where it was," he said. "That's why I am so concerned."

A Best Buy spokeswoman didn't dispute the details of Gerbus' story, but wouldn't answer questions about the incident.

"The allegations are very disturbing, as they are inconsistent with our standard procedures for disposing used hard drives," the company said in a statement said. "The allegations, if true, would be intolerable. ... We are vigorously investigating."

That vigorous investigation, however, apparently didn't begin in February when Gerbus said he called Best Buy to complain. It seems to have begun just last week, when Gerbus' story was first told by reporter Tom Sussi of WLWT-TV, a Cincinnati-based NBC affiliate.

Gerbus has asked Best Buy to pay for identity theft insurance for him and his family. He says the firm so far has offered him only a $250 Best Buy gift card as compensation.

Hard drives not properly trashed

It's not clear why the drive wasn't destroyed, and how it apparently ended up on the resale market. But Gerbus' tale of the nemesis of old hard drives is no isolated incident. There have been several celebrated cases of researchers buying hard drives at used equipment stores and discovering critical data on them.

In the most dramatic example, in 2002-2003 MIT researcher Simson Garfinkel examined 129 used hard drives purchased from a variety of outlets. Only 12 had been completely cleared of data. The other drives contained thousands of documents with critical information -- one had 3,722 credit card numbers on it. Another had been used to power an ATM machine and contained sensitive bank data.

To retrieve some of that data, Garfinkel and colleague Abhi Shelat had to use advanced techniques -- but their demonstration showed old hard drives are often disposed of improperly. Simple deletion of data is not enough, as there are a variety of techniques that can be used to recover it. And data can be retrieved even from drives that have crashed, like Gerbus', using similar techniques.

On the other hand, drilling holes through a hard drive -- and specifically the platter inside -- is quite effective.

Too bad in Gerbus' case that wasn't done.

What's the lesson here? Perhaps when you bring in a computer for service, it wouldn't be a bad idea to bring your own drill. Just in case.

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This is the type of situation where the FTC should step in as the consumer rarely learns that this type of breach of their personal information has taken place.

The same thing happened to me a few years ago. Best Buy saying that this was "inconsistent with their standard procedures of disposing hard drives" is a load of crap. My computer broke, I had the warranty, and then a few mos later a kid messaged me saying he had my old computer - even mentioned the sticker I had on the side of the machine that was still attached. He then sent me my old pictures, essays, etc. that was on it. Fortunate enough for me, he burned everything onto a disc and then wiped it out himself, but had my hard drive fallen into the wrong hands...

As with the auto industry, the consumer should be allowed to have the parts that are replaced. If the hard drive was inoperable and needed to be replaced (as Best Buy alleges it was), then there should not have been a problem with returning it to Mr. Gerbus.

Why doesn't it surprise me. After all you are dealing with the jerk squad at Best Buy. Best is a great entertainment center. But don't waste your money on repairs and warranties. They'll only upset you and tell you what you don't want to hear.

Same thing happened to my sister's laptop. It may have wound up in Lebanon.

My workplace has all drives either wiped or degaussed before they are sent for warranty or decommisioning. At least corporations know better!

Some companies (like Dell) now offer the opportunity to buy the right to keep your hard drive if it fails under warranty. It does raise the price a little bit, but considering the alternative it's probably worth it.

Possibly the most criminal thing happening is that the hard drive was replaced when it obviously still works. A "hard drive crash" can be either hardware or software in nature. If his data were severely corrupted, the correct procedure is not to remove and replace the hard drive. There is an incompetent Geek Squad member at the very bottom of this-at least it was under warrantee and nobody charged Mr. Gerbus for the serviceman's ineptitude (although it happens frequently).

What a frightening story. I think it's important to pass this along to our friends and family.

This is what happens when you shop at Best Buy! I have heard so many terrible stories about them and their service from friends, co-workers, and family. This story, however, goes above and beyond anything I have ever heard before. If consumers respond with their wallets and/or pocketbooks, these companies will eventually learn!

or a very powerful industrial magnet - that'll wipe it!

I always wipe any drive I send in for warranty work. If it's broke, the warranty dept. won't care what it had on it or if it is securely wiped. Secure wiping utilities are cheap insurance.

How hard could it be for Best Buy to 'verify the warrenty'? Couldn't that be done in the store? And then, if so, immediate hardware destruction could take place. It would be faster and cheaper for everyone.

No more Best Buy for me, or my company.

Dell Computer has the same policy. They refused to replace my fully warrantied hard drive when I refused to let them leave with the old one. When I complained that the hard drive had personal information on it, the Dell repair technician said it was company policy to take your old hard drive and left without replacing the crashed hard drive. I had to do it myself and have never purchased and extended service warrany since then. When I had a friend examine my 'crashed' hard drive later on, he determined that the Dell technician diagnosed 'crash' was actually a Windows problem and fully recovered the data on my old hard drive. As anyone else could have done if I had let Dell leave with it.

Does anyone know the standard procedures at Fry's Electronic? I bought a hard drive from them along with warranty. The hard drive broke down and I got exchanged. I am wondering the whereabout of the broken hard drive.

I bought a "refurbished" computer at Best Buy. I asked repeatedly if it was restored to original and they assured me that they went through a several step process of cleaning and reformatting the hard drive. Whe I turned it on, it was registered to the old owner with his personal info still on it ... I clean it myself.

Frankly, drilling a hole into a drive is not sufficient if it contained sensitive data. Someone determined could still get the rest of the information off of the drive. Would you like that to be yours?

I have heard that some agencies in DC are using a new technique to sandblast the magnetic coating off of the drive platter, then shredding the platter; that would make the data irrecoverable.

In any case, until secure data policies are widely adopted, we are all at great risk. The parties responsible for this are woefully absconding from their duties.

I take a hammer to my old hard disks before they go to the scrap heap. I'd never trust that data to what appears to second rate repair service.

Large hard drives are cheap(under $100) these days and you can have someone replace it while you watch if you're not capable of doing it yourself. Warranty or not, take the old one home and smash it. It's much cheaper than if someone stole your personal data...

Yeah, just bought a Gateway laptop a few months ago and I've got to call MS this week and tell them that when I updated my OS on Friday (security patch) it wouldn't update because, according to the error screen, the version of Windows XP Media Center on my computer is not authentic.

Now, I'm sure there is a reasonable explanation (ie stupidity), but it's annoying, nonetheless. Darn Best Buy! ;)

This is not atypical behavior for Best Buy. My wife and I stopped trading with them years ago. Their people are "slick" and customer service is non-existent.

Best Buy(er)Beware!

there should be a law suite agains best buy

Perhaps the tech at Best Buy knew the drive was good, and chose to replace it under warranty in order to give himself a used one to sell. In any event, one should either wipe the drive before going to Best Buy, or bring a cordless drill.

BS. Any moron who does not erase his harddrive before installing a new one deserves that he or she gets.

I thought congress passed a law last year that businesses could no longer throw away paper or digital items that contained data otherwise it was a felony. I remember getting word here that we had to shred all documents containing customer info and to use a hammer on the disposed of drives to be in compliance?

I would be careful about assuming hyou have successfully removed data by using even a power industrial-strength magnet. while this technique, known as degausing, is used used by professionals -- it can be difficult for the average user to determine succesfull or not. More effective is the use of programs iike autoclav, which are designed to overwrite the data with random bits over several passes of writing.-


This is just another downside to an industry that has completely gone awry. If the public asks for more protections, it will just lead to more spying, more loss of privacy, and possibly we are told a firewall between levels of data accessible and governed probably by illiterate spys. The Computer Industry and its accompanying problems were not thoroughly thought out before foisting this many faceted monster upon the world.

Nobody has mentioned Circuit City in this article. Their performance is about the same. Especially the store in Dothan, AL. Totally inept store management and installation dept!

I completely agree. The consumer is trusting the retailer that the hard drive will be disposed of and none of the consumer's personal information is being compromised. If this continues, hackers or other computer-savvy con-artists could catch wind of this phenomenon and use it to their advantage. The consumer should have some guarantee that what they're being told is being carried out.

The average computer user doesn't have any idea to even think about this issue. My family may be relatively computer saavy, but we know many who are not and would just trade in their old for a new drive or systerm and think nothing of it.

The reason the warranty can't be verified in the store is that the manufacturers already know what you're saying here -- that Best Buy can't be trusted!

Best Buy is about to lose some serious business. I certainly hope that they offer Mr. Gerbus more than a $250 gift certificate in the end.

It seems to me that Mr. Gerbus realized the extent of his vulnerablity. Best Buy never really satisfied his concern. In that position, others might have acted more assertively in their own behalf. At the very least, he should have insured that the disk was cleared of data before turning it over to Best Buy. It is always a mistake to trust when you suffer the potential of a serious exposure, and know it in advance.

GreenDisk has been protecting businesses and individuals from this kind of problem for nearly 14 years. The company started as a service to the software industry that markets all of this information technology. Recently it has expanded its service to include the people who use that technology. This never needs to happen.

Wow, same thing happened to me with Best Buy. It was eerie to have someone call me and tell me they had all my personal info. But I thought Best Buy handled the situation extremely well, doing whatever was possible to fix the situation. The reality, there were no real damages. There could have been, but there weren't. It is in Best Buy's best interest to improve it's procedures before something goes wrong and liability issues arise that cause real problems. In the meantime, whenever I walk into the store, they roll out the red carpet. I love Best Buy.

This is typical for best buy...
so called "open box" which are 2 year old tv's that
were considered unrepairable at some point, Then repaired? and resold as New? If best buy is following what other large big box stores are doing the drive replaced was under best buy warranty and after replacement was shipped to a BB wharehouse and sold for salvage. look on ebay and you will see page after page of "used and refurbished electronics" they have to come from somewhere.. with margins on electronics so slim these days you have to find ways to make a buck on the backend of sale everday.
maybe MSNBC should follow this drive back to where it came to get the compleate story

Pardon me for waxing philosophical, but this kind of incident and all the problems with controlling illegal actions on websites and identity theft, etc., all suggest that every single person who ever had anything to do with a computer was so excited about the power it gave them, that we all forgot how much power it gave other (and less friendly) people.

My company would NEVER do that! Dell and Best Buy are incompetent at best. If you want safe, secure and honest service, go to

Anyone check w/ Maxtor? If it was sent back to the manufacturer, Maxtor would be the one at fault, but they're not mentioned in the article.

This is mearly a case of an unreliable employee. I work for Best Buy, and have watched computers be trashed into the compacter, when told to. If a customer wants a new one and their old information transfered onto the new one. Then they ask for the old one to be destroyed. I've had to watch computers with 2GB of ram,300GB hard drives, just be trashed when I could use the parts. Depressing but it's for insurance reasons.

It isn't just Best Buy that does this. Companies in general are not concerned with the protection or the rights of the consumer. I recently had a similar situation, but before sending the "dead" drive in for replacement, I used an industrial magnet to wipe the drive. Sophisticated methods of data retrieval would still find the data, but not an average Joe who buys it at a flea market or such.

I have also heard that you can use a good sized hammer and beat on it until it is bent and smashed. Not only does this destory the hard drive, but it's great therapy to unload your frustrations on your computer for crashing.:-)

I find that a hammer to the plates works nicely - especially if disposed in numerous locations. ;-)

Yet another reason NEVER to shop at Best Buy - or to user their repair service.

Best buy also has problems with telephone numbers being used to identify customers. If you use your own telephone number and it belonged to someone else prior, you will have a mess as I did. I was told I could not get information on my own account because the telephone number they were using belonged to me but belonged to someone else prior and that is whose name they had on the account. They sent all of my gift certificates to the wrong individual.

better yet - DO NOT STORE PERSONAL INFORMATION ON YOUR HDD; why would Mr. Gerbus even have SSN's from his children and grandchildren on his PC - did he do their taxes???
In today's unpredictable Internet climate we all need to be much more vigorous in protecting our personal info - we can't rely on anyone else to do it for us, like the FTC; they are all drowning in red tape. Mr. Gerber should have copied sensitive info onto a thumbdrive and then fdisk the hdd before going to the repair center. Even then the true "professionals" are able to reconstruct some data. Of course hindsight is 20/20.

This reminds me of cell phone issues I have had. When you return an old phone for equipment replacement, make sure you erase, if you can, any and all information on it. I got a call from a guy who'd gotten my old phone after it had been refurbished, he had all my info, phone numbers, email addys and passwords. It is scary to know that companies don't see this as an issue and erase your info off of returned phones and hard drives.

I think that each company that doesn't follow procedures for protecting your information, should be held liable for all damages and for cleaning up your credit if you are a victum of identify theft because of their negligence. Also the company should be forced to pay for ID Theft Insurance.

Best Buy really means "Bad Buy" I wouldn't trust these people to take out my garbage!

Call me old-fashioned or paranoid, but I save all important/sensitive data to floppy or cd-rw, instead of my hard drive. You just never know what's going to happen.

To Mr. Garbus-
Don't settle for the $250 gift card! Best Buy has a lot of products to offer; however they lack in the arena of customer service. I have had several issues with Best Buy- none of which I feel were resolved properly. I do sympathize with you for I have never had a "scare" such as you have. Best Buy and other companies that has implemented such lack procedures needs to be "taught" to be more respectiful of people...and, not the people just on money!

I never let a HD with my info out of my reach unless I have wiped it or physically destroyed it.

I've purchased PC's and drives that have plenty of info I wouldn't want out of my reach if it were mine. I always wipe them before use, but I'm always amazed at what's on them: SSN's, Tax returns, Account #'s, CC#'s. Everything necessary for an ID thief to ruin someone.

If more states were to enact strict Security Breach/Credit Freeze legislation, consumers would have far more options in scenarios like these. I think as citizens 's crucial that we possess effective tools to prevent these types of scenarios from happening BEFORE they occur. However, currently, the biggest problem is the Federal government. They are looking at revising the Fair Credit Reporting Act to the extent that it will preempt states from enacting legislation of this type. It will also forbid state attorneys general from protecting citizens of their own states!

I work in a computer repair store. We always give the parts back to the customer and if they don't want them we format the drive and then run a degauze over the drive. As for the "warranty" you do need the physical drive to send to the manufac. but it should be cleaned before it goes.

Just wonderful how Best Buy allows someones information to be possibly stolen, and only offers $250 Best Buy gift card. Best Buy usually offers thousand of dollars to the employees to rat on each other for stealing. I guess it is just completely wrong to steal from Best Buy, and it is ok that Best Buy allows the possibilty of persons information to be stolen. The store is cheap, and Best Buy shouild offer more money for the stores "mistake."

Easily, the best advice here is: 'bring your own drill'.

you probably work there

Great heads up. I'm a Purchasing Manager at this company and will stop all transactions with Best Buy.

Companies should be held liable for these stupid mistakes such as these. If not, they would just continue with making the same mistake, then simply saying "sorry" and try to compensate you with a gift card. That DOES NOT in any way, compensate for the worry and trouble they may cause.

Would one of those high powered 110V magnets that were used to wipe floppies work to wipe the hard drive as well?

I had a Dell technician come out to replace a hard drive under warranty when I asked to keep the old hard drive he gave me the same story, so I politely asked to see it for a moment, I then took it out to the garage and beat the heck out of it with a sledge hammer

Isn't it really more interesting that they replaced a drive that was still working? That's how they make extra warrenty repair money. Who can today imagine that someone else is going to worry about anybody elses security - you have to do it yourself.

Laughable: as poor as my spelling so too it seems is your attention span. do you all live in the sand under your feet. in my world you cant swing a "pollitically correctly killed cat for the purpose of this analogy" dead cat without hitting someone who has in one way or another been touched by some type of crime or another. and yet if thats not enough you can just catch the news bites inbetween your shows on tv to see the local drama jocks boasting their exclusive coverage of the days greatest stories happening in the town you live in...which happen to be acts of violence and top it off in my opinion you take your 30 years of experience to the local electronics outlet to shop for something you have no idea how to use or repair, then you hand a 17-20 year old all of the hard earned plastic youre so concerened about and as they overcharge the hell out of it for you you justify believing everything they say to satisfy yourself thats they have taken the liberty to educate themselves to prepare for the unlikely event that god forbid someone may come to their store and buy something they do not know how to use...Laughable, and in my opinion you should have taken the drive out of the case and shot it with a gun drove over it with the home SUV flushed it in the toilet for a few hours then shorted it out in the tub with a hairdryer.... carry the smoking hunk of metal to the counter and ask them what the hell they sold you this obviously malfunctioning piece of imported crap. while they are trying to think of the reason they wont have been trained to answer you with you get on the phone and call yer wife and ask her in front of the person if the Dr thinks youll be able to use your arm again since the electrical burns on her hand are so bad from holding the mouse that was connected to the computer that had that drive in it when it obviously malfunctioned. be sure to look the 19 year old clerk in the eye when you say "oh yeah and keep the drive just give me the new one ill put it in myself..."
can i get a witness.

I think the Federal Government needs to step in and regulate this issue. There should be steep fines and penalties for corporations that do computer repair and do not properly destroy or clean equipment that could contain sensitive information that could be used by someone who is out to steal the identity of people.

I've had my own issues with Best Buy in the past; this just confirms the rightness of my choice not to deal with them. Another loser is Micro Center. A few years ago I took my computer in because it was crashing a lot. I told them that the guy who built the computer told me it needed another fan. They scoffed. I didn't hear from them for a couple of days, and when I called they said they had played the games that caused the crashs for hours without crashing. So I picked up my computer, paying $75, and brought it home, still crashing constantly. I finally took it to a small, well-respected computer store in Denver, and they said, "Yeah! It needs a new fan!" I will NEVER deal with the incompetents and crooks at Micro Center again. I've absolutely had my fill of big box stores that hire kids off the streets.

I bought refurbished lapto fporm sony direct.
If had the orginal user info in place.

To save save the few dollars it would take to reinstall the OS they would just as soon give your ino to someone no skinn off their backs.

This is very disturbing to me. My wife and I have been victims of identity theft and I think these major companies should be held liable for mistakes like this. We are just a number to companies like this.

A frien of mine took his computer in to be worked on at a local computer store and not only did they lie to him and tell him it was completely fried, they swapped his orginal hard drive with an older bad one when they gave it back to him. I repaired it for him and informed of the swap and the loss of his personal information.

Best Buy was caught red handed and should be held accountable for possibly ruining this man and his family's life. Identity theft is a serios matter and it is time the courts start levying liabilities.

Several years ago, I bought a box of about eight hard drives at a Goodwill store in Olympia, WA. Just for kicks, I unformatted a few to see what sort of things were on them. According the personal accounting software, two of them belonged to average Joe (and Josephine), the remainder were from Boeing (yeah, the aerospace and defense contractor!). Afterwards, I wiped all the disks myself.

There is a simple solution to this. DO NOT PUT PERSONAL INFORMATION ON YOUR COMPUTER!

These stories pop up all the time on news sites, and people just dont get it. Never ever put your SSAN, credit cards number, anything that has anything to do with your personal life on your computer. Write it down and put somewhere readily accessible.

When I exchanged the hard drive on my Dell laptop (under warranty), I deleted everything, then deleted the partitions, then formatted the drive. I don't absolutely know if that was enough, now that I'm reading this. :-(

I have been on the opposite end of this. I took my laptop to Best Buy to be repaired last year, and it was returned to me with a “Refurbished hard drive”. This drive still contained all of the previous owner’s data and even her copy of windows. I called the store, and was told that it was normal for drives to be recertified at the shop and returned to service if they passed certification. They did apologize for not reinstalling the OS though.

Why is it that whenever, buy unbelievable coincidence, the corrupt action is discovered, it is "inconsistent with our standard procedure"? Fess up, Best Buy! This IS your standard procedure! And if it is not, YOU bear the burden of proof!

Laughable: as poor as my spelling so too it seems is your attention span. do you all live in the sand under your feet. in my world you cant swing a "pollitically correctly killed cat for the purpose of this analogy" dead cat without hitting someone who has in one way or another been touched by some type of crime or another. and yet if thats not enough you can just catch the news bites inbetween your shows on tv to see the local drama jocks boasting their exclusive coverage of the days greatest stories happening in the town you live in...which happen to be acts of violence and top it off in my opinion you take your 30 years of experience to the local electronics outlet to shop for something you have no idea how to use or repair, then you hand a 17-20 year old all of the hard earned plastic youre so concerened about and as they overcharge the hell out of it for you you justify believing everything they say to satisfy yourself thats they have taken the liberty to educate themselves to prepare for the unlikely event that god forbid someone may come to their store and buy something they do not know how to use...Laughable, and in my opinion you should have taken the drive out of the case and shot it with a gun drove over it with the home SUV flushed it in the toilet for a few hours then shorted it out in the tub with a hairdryer.... carry the smoking hunk of metal to the counter and ask them what the hell they sold you this obviously malfunctioning piece of imported crap. while they are trying to think of the reason they wont have been trained to answer you with you get on the phone and call yer wife and ask her in front of the person if the Dr thinks youll be able to use your arm again since the electrical burns on her hand are so bad from holding the mouse that was connected to the computer that had that drive in it when it obviously malfunctioned. be sure to look the 19 year old clerk in the eye when you say "oh yeah and keep the drive just give me the new one ill put it in myself..."
can i get a witness.

I work in the financial sector, and there are strict regulations for us on Customer information security (GLBA & SOX acts to be specific). Perhaps it is time to bring the retail industry under the acts as well.

Its Simple. Take your geeky friend to the store and buy parts to make a computer. Don't get one already made from someone. The only computers I own that are manufactured are Laptops. I build all of my PC's from scratch. That way I know whats going in them, what breaks in them and how to replace it properly. Course besides the fact of drilling holes through platters dropping it off of my third floor balconey taking of the backplate and physically ripping the read/write head off

Just to add one point of insight(?). For those of you bashing Mr. Gerbus for not clearing his drive before turning it over, remember his machine had crashed. I assume he could not boot his computer to run the software to wipe the drive, even if he had the software. Had he taken the "hardware" approach (drill), then there would have been no way to troubleshoot the problem at the store. An alternate approach would have been to take his hard drive home after the diagnosis and destroy it himself while paying for the purchase.
Like other techincal advances, cheap computers have given rise to unintended consequences: this is not as bad as disposal of nuclear waste but worse than alcaline batterys. What's the half life of your hard drive?

Most of the drives I have had fail over the years failed catastrophically, giving no opportunity to wipe the data before RMA. I do keep sensitive stuff encrypted, so while I strongly suspect NSA could get the data, I doubt anyone at a flea market could. If you keep stuff on a laptop, or portable drives encryption is even more important.

I'm gonna put the conspirecy spin on this. BB corporate policy has nothing to do with warranties or proper disposal of used equipement and everything to do with checking information sources (hard drive in this case) on citizens for the government. Those hard drives are being checked, every one of them that any store replaces or services under the 'warranty'. BB nor the goverment care if your data is released to whomever, thats not what they're looking for. If they don't find it goes to where ever--most likely somewhere where it can make someone a buck. All under the guise of SECURITY. I guaruntee you that had Hank's hard drive been loaded with child porn or bomb making infomation, you'd be hearing an entirely different story with a different spin. How do you think the ones that are caught get caught? Do you honestly think that hard drives loaded with child porn are just stumbled upon during a warranty or service check? They check them ALL...every file in every directory...ALL of them! Whoa!! What was I thinking...that's not possible...forget everything I just wrote.

That Best Buy story is a bad thing obviously and the fact that the user knew his HD data was vulnerable and they overided his concerns is troubling. As far as computer data you can't blame anyone but yourself. It is like throwing out personal papers in the trash. The smart people don't. People ust need to think just a little bit. Common Sense and pay attention.

Best buy is evil, once we all accept this, we can destroy them.

This is a big deal. There are a couple of other areas of potential danger that everyone missed here.

First, there are more devices in a home these days that have harddrives, like print and file servers. Most people don't even realize what is on these as they don't think they're PCs so they don't have harddrives.

Then what about all the USB drives and SD cards and so on.

Finally, if someone gets ahold of a person's computer and disposes of it improperly, the original owner could be liable for huge fines depending on the state.

What happens to computers, devices, and their components has become far more complicated than the average person can anticipate. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Best Buy in Rockville MD refused to return my laptop hard drive, couldn't wipe it because the computer wouldn't boot, couldn't buy the old drive back because it was under 'warranty'. They promised a hole would be drilled after I complained 3 times, even to a manager, that there was data on the drive. This article makes me sick. If someone calls me with my drive I'll be suing Best Buy the next day. Jerks.

No Best Buy - EVER - They are the worse

This isn't surprising concerning Best Buy. The corporation needs an overhaul from the top down. Their service lacks customer care and suffer from an inability to stand behind and follow through with their warranty policy. We bought a $500 worth of camera equipment and purchased their 'all inclusive damage replacement' policy. The camera suffered an accident and the store refused to honor the policy. Needless to say, we share the story and refuse to shop there.

For more information on the topic, read Garfinkle's paper (linked to in the article), as well as his excellent book "Database Nation". A great tool for erasing hard drives is Eraser. Supports DoD specs as well as the more advanced patterns. At my last job I rebooted my PC on my next to last day and let Eraser clean it to DoD specs. Not "all" companies properly erase their PCs, better to do it yourself (but check the IT policy you signed when you started so you don't get in trouble!).

That's amusing and chilling at the same time!

Given what Best Buy or even the manufacturer can do with hard drives with data on them (format), I can't believe that such businesses did nothing to destroy the data on the drive.

Best Buy would want the Hard Drive back to return it to Maxtor for warranty credit.

Maxtor wants the drive back to determine why it failed, user abuse or defect. They don’t warranty user abuse. If the drive works then Maxtor is probably not going to accept warranty responsibility. Best Buy knows this and to keep Mr. Gerbus happy may find it cheaper to just give him a new HD. They now have a usable piece of equipment damaged by the operator and to cut their costs send it to the computer equivalent of an auto junk yard.

I’m not sure but I’d estimate that 90% of returned drives are still operational but something like the boot sector has been scrambled that makes the drive unusable by the average consumer.

Who’s responsible here? I don’t know. You’d need to know how the drive got into circulation. There is no question as to who let the data out of a controlled environment.

If the drive still works then Mr. Gerbus managed to make the drive so it wouldn’t work under his operation. This is unlikely the drive’s fault and is more likely either operator error or software controlling the drive.

When Maxtor overhauls and recertifies the drive they wipe all data. That’s not a guess I have Maxtor recertified drives. When a drive truly mechanically fails there is still recoverable data on it, but it is very expensive and difficult to recover.

How often does this happen? Well I’d ask Maxtor how many drives get returned for warranty? How many are Maxtor’s fault and how many are operator error? I’d guess 99% are not Maxtor fault. All of these drives have data.

I have bought a refurbished Laptop from a Name manufacturers that had user data on the HD. No I’m not in the business and have only bought 7 laptops total in my life.

What you are dealing with here is a responsibility issue. It’s user data, they but it on the drive. The odds are that they also made the drive unusable. They then took it to someone else and invoked a warranty claim that is basically invalid.

If a drive has an accident, wrecks a car and it ends up in the junk yard with personal info in the glove box who is at fault?

Sure it is easy to see Mr. Gerbus as a victim, it makes for a good column.

My hard drive was replaced under warranty with Gateway. I had both personnel and business info for a volunteer organization, as well as my own. They called me no less than 4 times in a 2-week period to return the broken drive. I stalled as long as I could to make sure I didn't have to retrieve anything off it, then I was going to hammer it. By the 4th phone call I asked how much to keep it, they said $60 for the new drive. It was a bargain as I've had to retrieve data several times since.

I think Best Buy sucks!

I had a similar experience with Best Buy. I'll never buy so much as a DVD from them again!!!

Best Buy... Worst buy if you ask me. I would encourage everyone out there to take a computer tech class at one point or another. The fact about computer repair is that it quite possibly is the biggest scam of all time. If you can plug a VCR into your television chances are you can unplug an old hard drive and plug a new one in. Its that easy. Next time you have a hard drive crash and if you have all of your backup disks, do it yourself. Knowlege is empowerment- and also dis-empowers jerks like Best buy.

Let me enlighten most of you poor un-informed consumers with some "defective" computer facts. The name shouldn't only be Best Buy; its Circuit City, Sears, Walmart, CompUSA, etc, etc. They are anxious to sell you a warranty when they sell anything which has 'computer' associated with it. That's where the profit is. When you bring back your item, (computer, hard drive, PDA, camera, anything, even boxes of partly used discs), it ends up being written off as "salvage" and sold to a "reclamation" center for pennies on the dollar. Rarely does it go back to the manufacturer. They assemble mixed pallets of open, box, closeouts, "warranty repairs and returns" shelf damaged clearances, etc and then quickly dump onto suckers like ourselves. We in turn re-sell to Flea-Marketeers, or much of the thousands of items you see on eBay as 'open-box' or AS-IS. Added to this mix of independant little guys trying to earn a livable income is the very same major National chains mentioned above. The only care taken by the seller is to be aware of the condition; - is it working, is it damaged, or is it saleable, rarely is any other effort performed to erase or 'clean-up' the device being offered. PROOF? Case in point! At this moment, twice a month our load comes in from the reclamation center. At present we have at least 10 desktops and notebooks all returned under warranty. Most very new. ALL with personal and confidential information on every single one. The difference with us, we wipe the hard drives clean, re-install fresh operating systems, clean-up and refurbish the units - then sell them nicely discounted "LIKE-NEW." Unfortunately, most do not. And certainly not when it is sold to the Flea-Market. Anything goes. MORAL: -yes, when returning your warranty item; bring your own drill!

I used a hammer and pliers to destroy my old hard drive, and my stress was relieved also. Certainly happy that I made a decision quite a while ago not to do business with Beast Buy!

Why is no one complaining to Maxtor the maker of the hard drive that would have demanded the hard drive back to verify failure for the warrenty replacement? At least this needed to be done with Western Digital and I am assuming that Maxtor has a similar policy.

I can only add to the many stories about Best Buy's computer repair department. I took my pc in for an installation of a network card and it never worked after that. they guaranteed that they would have it working in a few hours, and the next day when i went to get it back, nobody had even looked at it. I insisted on taking it back so i could take it to a reputable computer store, and they wanted to charge me for the work they had not done. stay far far away from Best Buy if you have computer problems. i ended up having to buy a new computer since my hard drive did not work after that (it worked fine when I took the pc in to Best Buy). Yes I do have the hard drive - the computer store gave it to me.

Apple replaced my hard drive last year, not a warranty repair but one I paid for in full. When I picked up my computer they refused to return my hard drive -- they told me it was "theirs" even though I paid for the repair and new hard drive. They told me for $450 they would return it. I refused since I paid for the original computer and the new hard drive. I tried to file a complaint with the Attorney General in NYS, but they told me I had to sue Apple to get it back. This story confirms my worst fears. I will never have Apple Service repair equipment for me again but rather go to an independent service provider I found who will actually GIVE ME BACK any parts removed from my computer.

Great Hornytoads! The masses want more laws - as if laws prevent things from happening. Show me a law that ever stopped anything! Let's use our heads instead. Never - let me repeat - NEVER store critical infomation on a replaceable drive! Always store it on media you can ALWAYS keep in your possession! BACK up - BACK UP - then BACK UP! Burn it to a DVD TWICE or three times! Hide them all! Then get it off your harddrive with something like BCWipe. The only other choice is to dip the harddrive in acid or burn it up!

I am a computer professional. I had a hard drive that completely failed, and which I could not access; it was definitely a hardware failure, so the use of any software tools was impossible.

I disassembled the drive, removed the disk platters, sanded them down, then cut them into pieces, and put each piece in a separate garbage bag (over the course of several weeks).

There was nothing particularly sensitive on the drive, but I would like to see someone try and reconstruct the data on that drive! I recommend that anyone with a hard drive that needs to be physically destroyed follow this procedure, rather than drilling or beating the drive with a sledge hammer. I have heard too many stories of government forensics experts reconstructing data by minute magnetic fluctuations from disk platters (even when thoroughly and securely erased, or heavily damaged) to dismiss these accounts. Hopefully, if some or most of the platters are missing, that will slow them down!

Dan in Virginia says its just an irresponsible employee - that he has watched when old computers were compacted. That itself is in violation of laws concerning the disposal of hazardous waste - of which many components in a computer are. So either way, it seems that BB needs to review its policies.

This is on called for Best Buy should have to pay restatution to this gentilman for allowing his personal data to be used illigly.

What should take place when a dirve is replaced is that the owner should be given the old drive back minus the cover plate on the drive. For warrenty issues all that is needed is the cover plate not the platters in the hard dirve. Seems some one had a plan for this drive to start with. BEST Buy needs to change it's policies.

Couple of things, the reponsibility of clearing out data from a used hard drive falls completely on the customer. To depend on BestBuy (which actually equates to depending on some schmo making 18 dollars an hour) to do what is best for the customer is simply asking for trouble.

I have read a couple of comments basically blaming the "computer industry" for these problems. How irresponsible is that statement? It amazes me how the public can be so naive to our current technology, and then when things go awry the are ever so quick to blame the industry.

People, it is your responsibility to protect your digital assets and information. Educate yourselves on how to safely navigate the internet and remove personal information from devices that you use from day to day. You dont have to be a Computer Scientist to protect yourselves...

When I need a new wallet, guess what I do. I go to the local Wallet Supermarket and buy a wallet. I then make sure that all my credit cards, bussiness cards, personal photos, and other 'personal information' is out of the old one before I throw the old one away. Anything less than that and I might as well get a tatoo on my forehead that says "VICTIM".

Oh my wallet is the one that says BAMF on it..


How do you clean, what you assume, is a crashed HD? Is there anything the average Joe can do to get data off the HD after it crashes and then have it destroyed?

Regarding the gentleman's suggestion the FTC step in, the FED govt is the WORST violator of personal data loss. The VA just lost every living veteran's personal information on computer media. Do you really trust them? As for Best Buy, dont EVER buy the extended warranty. When I worked at BEST BUY we were told the warranty is 100% profit because of all the hoops you must jump through to get service, most people either dont use it, or never use it again. Why do you think they push so hard to sell them?

Thank you so much for posting this story. A few weeks ago my husband and I had a hard drive crash in a brand new dell computer that we had just purchased. Dell customer service was amazing in that they sent out replacement to my husband in a day or two, but when they insisted (as best buy did) that my husband had to return it, he refused. They contacted and urged him more than once that he had to return and he argued back that the above scenerio could happen and he was not going to take that risk with all of our personal information. Dell backed down and we kept the old drive. Thanks again, this confirms that we did the right thing in not sending back and "trusting" that it would not be reused somehow.

This is very unfortunate, because as a data recovery company we also offer data distruction services that do not require the drilling of holes in drives. There are simple steps and proceedures that can be taken to avoid this. We use a degaussing method which has proven to be 100% effective at distroying all data, to the point where even we aren't able to recover anything.

I worked for Best Buy for three years. There repairs are hit and miss with your hard drive going through a lot of hands, some honest some not. I had techs that would routinely scan drives for software they wanted. I stopped the practice where I could, but who knows how much was taken off. Best Buy is a corporation with a friendly face and a bottom line heart. IF they thought they could save a buck but expose customers to problems they would do it in a heartbeat, as long as they didn't think they would get caught. I tis a shame, a lot of nice people work there, their corporation is not what it should be. The warranties they sell are nothing but profit centers, my whole career was built on selling nea worthless warranties. If you want a CD, Best Buy isn't bad, if you want a computer, buy a Dell, be happy.

A consequence of corporate seeking after huge profits and global competition is that corporations scrape up the pennies at the bottom of the barrel. If that means no customer service, or a little fudging on doing what is right for the customer, or telling stockholders little white lies, it is the price we pay for "competitiveness."

And the lesson is:
Don't store anything on your computer that is precious to you. Primitive technology often times fulfills the role of a computer. I'm talking about pens, paper and pencils.

Well this what happens when you relie on your computer, if you dont know whats, it capable of you should not have one in the first place, you dont place a sharp object in the hand of a moron and not expect him to hurt someone or itself. Come on people get with it. computers been around for age, this is nothing new, you can recover almost any infomation from any hard drive no matter how badly damage it seems its wont be consistance but the data will be retrievable, not all complete data, but retrievable, so when it all comes down to, is, if you dont want your information stolen or on the internet then stay off the computers, data can be comprimise at anytime. So good luck. Remember dont relie on computers we never had this problem when we were doing stuff on paper only!


Best Buy should receive a stiff fine for this mess. Companies time and time again only enforce their policies when they are hit where it hurts--in their pockets!!

I have always had great service at Best Buy but I also know what to do with all of the components of a computer system. The hard drive could have crashed (I have had a lot of problems with Maxtor drives). I have recovered a few of them for my friends and family by swapping out the IO controller on the hard drive. This was probably the case. Maxtor repaired the drive by replacing the circuit board on the bottom of the hard drive and then sent it out for sale. Very likely, Maxtor outsources this labor fro refurbishing the hard drives. It should have been standard procedure to erase the drive by demagnitizing it so that there would be no partition information on it. Best Buy should invest in the 'inexpensive' equipment necessary to wipe the drive.

This is totally inexcusable. There are tons of free programs out there to overwrite drives several times to Department of Defense specs (DoD 5220.22-M). Do this yourself before you hand anyone a drive if at all possible. Don't kid yourself and believe drilling holes is good enough because you can still get the data around the holes. Here are free erasing utilities

I'm not surprised with Best Buy's behavior. I complained to them about a little cashier scam that was going on in their San Diego Mission Valley store. The manager I complained to basically blamed it on me for falling for it. I will never ever waste my money at a "worst buy" store again! They are a bunch of crooks!

I had a very similar situation arise at a Best Buy in Troy, MI. I went there to have the OS re-installed on my laptop. They had to back up the hard drive before doing so and instead of restoring my data, they gave me another person's hard drive contents on my computer. I finally got my information back on my computer, but it contained tax return information, etc. I don't know who had access to that in the meantime.

Hank should sue Best Buy.

This is exactly why I use a Mac and deal with Apple Computer. My Mac is reliable and the service top notch.

I quit doing business with Best Buy and Dell yrs ago. Together they have the worst customer service ever! I agree, however, that this is a case of Buyer Beware...for those of us who are not computer whiz kids, we have to rely on the businesses that supposedly handle these issues. Thanks for some good suggestions for future problems like this.

I’ve been in the high-tech computer business for more than 30 years now, and I see many well meaning suggestions here that should be approached very cautiously. First of all, reformatting, writing random bit patterns or degaussing your drive before you let it leave your sight is no guarantee that someone will not be able to get at your data. Be aware that there is technology available (has been for quite some time now,) that enables anyone to read overwritten or degaussed data. Each bit written onto magnetic media leaves an impression that is not fully removed by overwriting or degaussing the device. Each bit subsists at lower levels of magnitude: only masked by fresher data written over the older data, which the typical hardware/software combination in your off-the-shelf PC is not designed to detect. Nevertheless, that old data is still there and can be read with the proper technology, layer-by-layer, just as you would peal an onion: with older data simply being buried at dimmer levels of magnitude at each layer as you drill down. If someone wants to read old residual data on your drive, you won’t prevent them from doing so by degaussing, reformatting or writing random binary patterns to it. Your data will still be there for all to see; only “masked” by newer magnetic flux patterns. Our Federal Government knows this. That is why, when they dispose of drives with sensitive data on them, they literally "machine" the oxide off the surface of the disk platter before sending it on its way. This is the only way in which you can guarantee 100% that your data is destroyed and can no longer be accessed by anyone. Drilling holes through the platters is the next best thing you can do for the average consumer, which is relatively inexpensive and easy to do; and forget about throwing the thing in the fire, because as long as the oxide is on the platters and the residual magnetic impressions are not completely removed, the data is still there!

I took a loptop back to Best Buy for warranty repair of the display. They replaced the hard drive! No explanation. They just replaced it. The did repair the display but it only lasted 2 weeks.

Yet another reason why I've stopped being a Best Buy patron. I always feel like I'm dealing with the Idiots of the Universe when dealing with Best Buy staff, so I'm not surprised this has happened.

As usual, businesses do not care about their customers when it comes to service. Once they have your money, they no longer care about you. The government is suppose to protect us (the taxpayer), but instead only care about big business and their money. This is a small example of a very large problem.

I am pretty surprised that there was not a law suit. When you have something in your possesion of that high of importance....that has your private information oozing out the could you trust to just hand it over to a Best Buy employee? Everyone I know that works there is in high school or is just trying to make a buck to support their addiction. Get everything in writing...I think he deserved it for not having someone sign a paper saying that his hard drive would indeed be destroyed.

this isn't the only fraud Best Buy is up to...I bought a photo printer and added the "extra warranty" for cleanings and what not. when i brought it to the store, they said I had cancelled my warranty. Only after I verified with my bank that I had not, they did the maintenance, 3 weeks later!!

I can believe Best Buy would do that. They refused to stand behind me when I puchased a computer last Christmas and didn't get a penny of the $150 refunds back. They said, "Best Buy just sells the units, rebates are the other companies." Yeah well you jerks sell it in your stores. I will never buy anything from Best Buy ever again.

When they replaced my hard drive at work abot three years ago, I asked the guy to leave the old one and said I'd give it to the manager for him. Instead, I took it to the parking lot and ran over it with my truck. Destroyed it pretty well. Then I took the hard drive back inside and put it in my desk. No one has asked me about it.

I can believe Best Buy would do that. They refused to stand behind me when I puchased a computer last Christmas and didn't get a penny of the $150 refunds back. They said, "Best Buy just sells the units, rebates are the other companies." Yeah well you jerks sell it in your stores. I will never buy anything from Best Buy ever again.

This is not as unbelievable as some make it sound. I bought a computer from Best Buy, knowing I should have built my own, and not only did they convince me I needed them to do some kind of junk to it (I said no but the look on their faces made me rethink because I had too much money to spend that day) but 2 hard drives failed. Even though I paid for the extended warranty I will never use it because I refuse to take something with all of my information on it to a pimply faced "Geek" and have it repaired by them.

I dealt directly with the the manufacturer and got a program recommended to me that took 3 days to wipe the drive each time it failed (I believe mine were actual hardware failure due to over heating because it is a poorly designed case and not enough airflow can be maintained) and then replaced it myself.

I cant blame Mr. Gerbus because he didnt realize ahead of time that they wouldnt return the drive and if it had "crashed" he may have not had the ability to retrieve the data even though it was probably just a standard Windows crash.

Even though I doubt it will ever happen I hope that laws are enacted and enforced to prevent this type of thing from happening but with the government wanting all data in tact so they can spy on us I dont think we'll ever be safe from potential identity theft.

Somebody asked about Fry's Electronics. True story: My friend and I purchased a great deal of computer equipment there for the company we were working for. He charged it to his CC knowing the company would reimburse. He also bought a candy bar which he put on a different reciept so he wouldn't be charging the company for his candy bar. As we walked out he whispered to me "watch this" and handed the candy bar receipt to the guy at the door who checks to see that nothing is in the cart that isn't on the reciept. He looked at the receipt, checked it, and out we went with $1000's in computer equip. on a candy bar receipt. Trust them to wipe your hard drive for you? I DON'T THINK SO!

This is why I only do buisness with a local PC store in the town I live in. I have come to have a repore with the store owner and his workers. I feel very safe and am always offered my old parts back.

I'm one of those people who builds and repairs computers as a hobby and would never think of letting my hard drives get into the hands of others without making sure that they are scrubbed using DOD level cleaning.

I have found that 'failed drives' that are used as boot drives often have 'failed' because the operating system crashes. If these drives are installed as secondary drives, you can usually pull data off them. That may be what happened in this particular case.

Thats why I build my computer.If they need a physical hard drive back for warranty they should drill holes thru it, while you watch.There are no usable parts in a crashed hard drive so that shoulkdn't be an issue.I also back up my files, that way if the hard drive crashes,I wouldn,t lose the data. Or for what's worth spend the money for a new hard drive and destroy the old one, less trouble in the long run.

They should have offered you a lot more than a stinkin $250 dollar gift card, get yourself a lawyer and take it to court

HA! Don't call a Geek. Call a professional!

I work for a system builder. Under the circumstances I think $250 is generous since Best Buy probably didn't do anything wrong and this guy shouldn't have his private info on the hard drive when he gets the system repaired.

Returning broken parts to the customer is typically not an option for the system builder performing a repair under the warranty, because the hard drive mfg. usually requires that such items be returned in order for the system builder to be reimbursed for the replacement. If the system builder could not return such products, then the warranty would cost much more, perhaps prohibitively so.

This also means that Best Buy is probably not the party that released the hard drive (although I have had numerous issues w/ them over the years and agree that their customer service is lacking). It is probably the manufacturer.

The posts on here from computer repair people that say they always give the drives back are probably not the ones who manufactured the system in the first place or otherwise are not in a position to receive an offset for returning the drive and passing on the reduced cost to the customer.

Finally, smashing the drive with a hammer will probably make the memory unreturnable since such damage is not covered by the mfg. warranty. Thus, it is not a viable option.

As costly as computers may be, these are items typically sold in volume with low margins. Measures contemplated by some of these posts would make computers much more expensive.

I am a little disappointed that this column was not better researched.

I'm not ususally one to "boycott" a store, but I've promised myself never to have any more dealings with Best Buy ever since I bought from them my last TV. The sales guy flat lied to me about a few things. I emailed them several times and never received any response.

This on happened to me and I was shocked - Dell replaced my hard drive once and sent me a "refurbished" hard drive that ended up being from the FBI. I couldn't login, however the initial login banner said something to the effect of this computer belongs to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Any unauthorized use...blah blah blah. It didn't appear that the drive had been cleaned by Dell at all.

Only thing I could still not understand is why consumers are so attached to this store though circuit city is a better alternative in terms of service, products, prices etc.. When will the mindset of consumers change that some companies are living in their old fame and has nothing worthwile these days

They should have offered you a lot more than a stinkin $250 dollar gift card, get yourself a lawyer and take it to court

This behavior doesn't surprise me one bit. I filled out a credit application for a new TV at Best Buy with zero interest for a year. My credit was spotless, yet I was declined and the Best Buy employee refused to give me the application back even after he had entered everything into their computer system. I bought the TV at a local retailer for a better price for zero interest no problems. Then I check my credit report about 90 days later to find out someone has stolen by identity, purchased something from Best Buy on the other side of the country for the exact same amount as the TV I was going to buy. Coincidence? I think not. I couldn’t prove anything, but I always had a feeling some counter jockey was making a few extra bucks without thinking of the consequences or just not caring what impact it would have on my family. I consider myself fortunate because I was able to catch it after only about $5,000 had been spent in my name to Best Buy and several cell phone and utility providers in Florida. It took about 4 months to get my credit cleaned up, which required filing police reports in cities I’d never been and mailing certified letters to every party involved. Best Buy and other companies need to do a better job of policing themselves, the government shouldn’t have to step in all the time.

This article is very disturbing to read. I worked for BestBuy part time for 5.5 years, as I'm a Network Engineer in the daytime. For a while when we used to swap out hard drives in customers machines, & it was standard practice to throw their old drives into a bin. The bin was then shipped once a week to a warranty service center where they supposedly disposed of the drives. I believe sometime in 2003-2004 we changed that policy and would give customers their old "failed" drives back, which makes me wonder why the technicians told the customer they had to send the drive back to a warranty center. I've got a $100 that the technician / technicians were selling the used drives to flee markets.

Best Buy follows the old sales scenario of "Beef
up your results by taking advantage of those who
don't know any better."


Why not just buy a cheaper computer and forget the extended warranty. When the computer goes bad just replace it with a new one. You can buy a good computer for under $500.00 dollars. The cost of giving out your information to others will cost you more than $500.00 dollars trying to clear your name and may take years to recover. If you need a bigger computer than what you can get for under $500.00 dollars than you have a greater working knowledge about computers and should be able to replace the hard drive yourself.

This is an eye opening story. Best Buy should be held accountable for its actions. To the least, they should provide the customer with ID theft insurance.

Since Best Buy has 110% price match policy, I tried to price match a few times. Every time, they will deny it saying the model number is not a match. What they do is to create a unique model number for their PCs and other big (size) items from the same manufacturer. The model number might be just an extra character to the end.
Also, their price is not the best. You can shop at or (Fry's Electronics). The customer service from Fry's is as bad as any other electronic retailer. At least, the price and options are better.

Under the circumstances the best thing to do is to back up your data and use a restore program to put it back after drive service or replacement. There are many free programs that will clean your hard drive. Other options are: encrypting your personal data and placing all personal data on an external USB drive that you keep at home when bringing the computer for service.

Don't worry so much about that info on your hard drive. Wells Fargo, The VA or some other entity with lax security procedures will lose your data for you - then send you a letter telling you they're sorry and steps YOU can take to prevent identify theft!

Hats off to Hank for realizing the potential danger this hard drive presented in the open. Many people would not have even realized this danger. Best Buy should be thrown under the bus on this one - risking someone's identity to make an extra few bucks? Unacceptable.

I work for CompUSA and this sort of thing happens everyday. We tell customers that their old hard drive must be shipped back to the warrenty center and that they cannot have it back. We also tell people that we cannot delete their data because it is not covered under the warrenty. Also, CompUSA gets all of its parts from a company called Nune of the warrenty replacment parts CompUSA puts in your computer are new, They are all used.

There are a lot of confused folks here, due in part to the tone of the article. This is not a "Best Buy Issue" folks! The point is, your hard drive and the precious info in it are vulnerable when you turn it over to someone. do you really believe all the other major and minor electronics outlets are looking out for your best interests? Get real. And take responsibililty for your actions. Maybe you didn't realize the danger prior to this article. But consider yourself warned. Don't be so feeble-minded as to think that switching from Best Buy is going to make you safer.

It is just so easy to say "you need a new hard drive", rather then hunting for the problem in the orginial drive. See it's like this, If your car is having problems starting, why not put a new engine in it, than you know for sure you fixed the problem and made an additionl sale. This is what the world is coming to.

As a former store manager for Best Buy, I can tell you that their strategy and focal point is essentially to exploit their customers for as much money as humanly possible by any means available. Products that are “lemoned out” are refurbished in several service sites throughout the U.S. and sent back to stores to sell to customers in some cases. Going back several years ago, it was virtually the same situation when we had to push 3 year commitments to the MSN internet service. Any and all means to get customers to commit to this product was used. I left the company because of their shady and unethical business practices that I was personally asked to do. I highly suggest that any person that feels uncomfortable with a sale or interaction with this company use as much caution as possible.

There are many opinions in here saying he should have used a utility to erase the drive before returning it. If the drive was not functioning at the time due to any reason, hardware or software, I don't think any wipe or format utility would work either. And hitting it with a hammer would obviously invalidate the warranty. So it is up to Best Buy to come up with a degausser at the counter where the drive was replaced.

Along the same lines as the BestBuy incident, I once bought an answering machine from OfficeMax in Mayfield Heights, OH. This machine was packaged new. When I brought it home, it had personal messages on it, apparently to a physician in Cleveland. I returned the machine to OfficeMax and explained that it had sold me a "used machine" packaged as new. To this day I don't know if OfficeMax repackaged the machine and sold it to me after a customer had returned it or if the supplier for OfficeMax sold it a "used machine" as opposed to a new machine from the factory. Sorry, but I can't remember the brand name of the machine.

I work for CompUSA and this sort of thing happens everyday. We tell customers that their old hard drive must be shipped back to the warrenty center and that they cannot have it back. We also tell people that we cannot delete their data because it is not covered under the warrenty. Also, CompUSA gets all of its parts from a company called Nune of the warrenty replacment parts CompUSA puts in your computer are new, They are all used.

The average Joe having problems with his home computer does not back up the data on the hard drive regularly enough, so if he had computer problems he is going to take it into the store and ask them to fix it without wiping the hard drive. This average Joe thinks they are going to fix his computer for him and give it back to him data in tact. It is after the fact that he gets to learn the lesson that he may loose all of his data and then something like this occurs. Best Buy should be sued!

As a computer professional, I would like to address a couple of items:
1. Hard drives often become unusable as a primary drive due to a bad "spot" on the platter's surface, but still can be installed as a second drive in another computer to enable the data to be read.
2. I work in the IT department of a government office and when a hard drive under warranty dies, we simply remove the top cover of the drive and ship that back to Gateway as per their and our policy. We then remove the platter(s) from the defective drive and scratch the surface with a sharp instrument and then cut the platter into small pieces before discarding.
3. I'm not sure of Best Buy's educational requirements for their computer "Technicians", but some big box store's only requrement is a COMPTIA A+ certification which can be obtained by anyone by memorizing a few concepts that they may or may not understand and then paying to take a test.

A free utility called DBAN will also overwrite a HD with all zeros. Unless the NSA wants data from it, you should be ok. Also, for those of you unwise enough to be running ex pee, turning on encryption will give you a little more security.
Best Buy sucks. I won't deal with them because of they way they do business. This is just one more reason. I hope someone from BB is reading all this, and I hope this guy sues their corporate pants off.

Many of the comments posted admonish Mr. Gerbus for not erasing his hard disk before turning it over to Best Buy. The whole lot of you that state this are so ignorant. There is absolutely NO WAY for any non-tech to do that if the pc has stopped working! If he did take a drill to it then Best Buy would have though the holes were the cause of his problem. I'm sure he didn't have an industrial strenth degausser at hand, either! Oh yeah, for "nv" - you are the "moron"!

I see a lot of comments about whacking the HDD to make it useless.. the problem is that the platters which contain the data still can be used - transplanted into another assembly. The best bet for any home user or corporate is to use encryption.

I've workd tech for years and never have I heard of drilling holes in the drive and honestly I don't think it would be that effective. Yes it would make it impossible for the average joe, and most average geeks to get any information from it, but with the right level of knowledge and determination data could still be recovered from the hard drive platters.

Best bet, get a program that writes 0's to the drive and use that on any drive you are getting rid of. If the drive is not operational enough for that program to write zeros to it and your really paranoid about these things, take the thing apart and sand the platters.

I recently had a hard drive failure on my new HP laptop.HP insisted that I return the drive in order to get warranty coverage and told me they would charge my credit card $600 if it wasn't returned intact within 30 days. The drive was not functional so I had no way to remove the data without destroying it and thereby voiding the warranty. Their warranty policy fails to adequately protect the consumer from the possibility of data theft.

Most PC users don't know how to save their datas or wipe out a PC. So, how could Mr. Gerbus first try to do it, when his hard drive CRASHED !!! That's one of the reasons "why" it is brought to Best Buy, otherwise, a simple "crash" might be repairable by software techniques, not hardware! Mr. Gerbus or any PC users couldn't know what to do then! Hello?

I've found that removing the drive disc, drilling it, and then dropping it in a lake is a effective way of disposal. I haven't let a hard drive out of my sight since the DOS days, and don't plan on it EVER!!!! Best Buy should be made to explain how this could have happend, and then institute a policy with oversight to make sure it don't happen again........

Do we know the "terms" in which Ed sold the drive back to Mr. Gerber? This could be a great blcak mail sting? (Buy all hard drives you can at low prices (ie. flea markets, etc.) and search them for "peronal" information. Then contact the effected person for the buy-back offer of a life time?

Is there no end to greed in this country? Is it really necessary for companies to resell old hard drives? Do we have to squeeze the last bit of profit out of everything? I am totally into recycling but not a hard drive containing my personal information. Warranty or no warranty, my hard drive should stay my property forever!

There are free programs that will wipe the data from the drive just do a Google search for "free DOD drive wipe programs". You want to do at least 7 wipes of the drive to ensure that all data is gone! Degaussing may not remove all of the data on its own. Taking a hammer may make some data irretrievable but not all Wipe and then physically destroy!!! So always wipe a drive before letting ANYONE(yes family members too)having your old drive or computer. Once you do not have it you no longer have control of who may get it later!

Wondering if Mr. Gerbus can sue Best Buy for some sort of breech of must have been outlined in the service agreement that the hard drive would be rendered useless. Awful of BB to offer $ compter will never see the inside of one of these yellow-tagged stores!!

I will never shop at Best Buy again, I'm not kidding.

Do we know the "terms" in which Ed sold the drive back to Mr. Gerber? This could be a great blcak mail sting? Buy all hard drives you can at low prices (ie. flea markets, etc.) and search them for "personal" information. Then contact the effected person for the buy-back offer of a life time?

'nuf said.

Do we know the "terms" in which Ed sold the drive back to Mr. Gerber? This could be a great black mail sting? Buy all hard drives you can at low prices (ie. flea markets, etc.) and search them for "personal" information. Then contact the effected person for the buy-back offer of a life time?

I brought my Palm to CompUSA a few years ago and exchanged it under warranty for a new one. It was cleaned of data before I brought it in. They gave me a "new" one, which contained all the data left there by the original owner.

They sold me an emachines (laptop model M5309) lemon, and after it had to be taken back three times just swapped the entire laptop for a new one. I wonder where my old hard drive is. Bt the way after they sold it to me the customer service dept acknowledged that this model was known to have ALOT of problems. Can you imagine spendig $1400 and then being told by the same company that sold it to you, that you bought a model known to have alot of problems!? I hate Best Buy now and will buy my next computer elsewhere.



Best Buy has even tried to sell a friend expensive security programs for over $300 stating the less expensive software was not worth. I do not use Best Buy anymore.

From an IT professional. Find yourself a good local independent Computer store and use them, even if it costs a little more. I will never use or deal with a major chain store when it comes to computer work. Not that I need to I do all my own work. Also, as a suggestion, buy yourself a nice strong magnet or a degauser and when they tell you that your HD is toast, tell them you would like to degaus it before they return it for warranty. They should have no problem with letting you do that.

I knew a kid who worked at the mall for Cingular and whenever someone would buy a new phone, he would ask them to "donate" their old one, and he would turn around and sell it on eBay. I guarantee that's exactly what the service tech did in this case, he saw a working hard drive that he could replace under warranty and he took it and sold it himself. Best Buy just might be the worst store on earth.

The one thing I haven't seen mentioned here is that there probably never was a problem with the hard drive in the first place and that Best Buy techs knew it all along. They replaced the hard drive because the manufacturer pays them to do their warranty service. The margins they have on many PC's are so low that they need to make the huge majority of their profit on service contracts and "break-fix" in-warranty service.

Frys Electronics did the same thing to me AFTER I had to wait 7 weeks to get my laptop "repaired" and it wasn't repaired, they traded it out for a new computer and kept my old harddrive. I changed all my bank accounts, closing the old ones on my computer and opening new account numbers at a different bank just to be sure

Best Buy=Worst Buy. After a round of telephone calls regarding my repeatedly broken refrigerator, full of contradicting information (one day they would honor the warranty, the next they wouldn't) my husband and I finally we to the store to park ourselves there in person. In spite of the fact that we had plenty of paperwork to prove we were in the right and that they were simply refusing to honor their written agreements, we spent hours waiting for a manager to hear our case. Finally, my husband overheard the manager, who had been obviously available, simply unwilling to speak with us directly, ask the salesman who had approached him many times in the course of our wait, “Are they being assholes about it?” The salesman said no, and our money was refunded. Clearly, Worst Buy relies on the ‘assholery meter’ to determine who they prefer to serve.

I won’t even darken their door. I once announced this in a fit of anger over the cashier allowing employees to break the very long line to check out ahead of their customers. His response was “We don’t need you.”

Maybe if enough of us consumers let the good people at Best Buy know that we don't approve, by no longer frequenting their stores, they'll get the idea. A company that cannot keep the public trust, by policing their own employees, needs to seriously re-tool.

This scares me - I'm thinking at the low cost of a new computer these days I'll skip repairs. And my hard drive first gets a good drilling, a good hammering, and then gets set in a bucket of wet concrete with a final destimation being the local river! Paranoid? You bet!

Let's start at the root of the problem: His Maxtor hard drive crashed. My Maxtor HD at home crashed in addition to several at my work. I brought our work HD's into a HD data recovery shop and nearly 75% of the HD's being worked on were Maxtor.

Best Buy has always been less than competent in doing anything from sales to service. They are overpriced and not knowledgable about product. Strong recommendation, your best buy is other than Best Buy.

If Best Buy sent back the drive to the people who manufactured it, and the people who manufactured it gave it away, sold it, whatever, isn't it their fault? I'm probably missing something...

Owning a computer is the same as owning a car. You have to be accountable for some things that can go wrong. If you get a flat tire, do you call for assistance? Well, some people probably do, but I bet for the most part, we all know how to change a flat. The same goes for a computer. If a problem arises, then we should know how to diagnose the problem. Here are a few things I have found out with problems I have actually encountered.
1. If Windows XP starts, but doesn't completely load, where it looks like the start bar hasn't finished drawing, you probaby have a corrupted user file. You need to learn how to enter Windows using the back-door administrator account so that you can delete the old user and add a new user. This is probably something your kids already know how to do, and is how they get around what you thought was a password secured loggon.
2. If the computer seems like it is reading from the hard drive, but it keeps rebooting before Windows ever starts, try going into the BIOS setup. See if the date is correct. If it is not, then the internal battery has probably gone dead, and your BOIS hard drive settings are no longer correct. You will need to purchase a new internal battery and then reset the BIOS settings.
3. If you can't boot up the computer from the hard drive, can you boot it up from the Windows Installation CD? If so, you should be able to get to the DOS prompt and do an FDisk on the hard drive to erase it before taking it in for repairs. This at least keeps the average Joe from getting your information. And who knows, maybe after you do an FDisk, you can re-install Windows yourself and everything will be corrected.
But, probably most important, if you are going to keep important information on your computer, be aware that hard drive failures do happen, and you should aways keep a backup.

Nothing but bad news from Best Buy...once again. Hey, criminal in the market for some good "Hard Drive" info, see a Best Buy Service Tech.

We have delt with them in the past, and we really hate when they advertize something, and you get to their store and the item advertised is NOT in stock. They love to try to work you into the Upgrades! Pay a lot more for what you did not go there for; of which we never did by the way, we simnply shopped elsewhere. We went for an advertised hard drive once, they told us they did not have it in stock even though it was first thing in the morning and the mornings ad said they had them in stock...then telling us to bring the old one in and they would see what they could do to repair it, or send it back to manufacturer. One must be pretty pc savvy to deal with them, as well as Fry's or any other technical type of outfit. Buyer beware. Do research and read customer reviews before dealing with stores and KNOW your products.

What about "INCRIPTION"?, Has anyone never heard of this? It may be a bit tricky to learn how, but very worthwhile if you really need to store your own personal info let alone the rest of your families info on a hard drive especially Social Security and the like.

Unfornately those of you that want more government involvement, I have some bad news for you. You are more technologically educated than the majority of the government. Most government employees don't know what programs they have on their computers, they're not trained in the use of applications, and there's no money available to train them.

The IT departments are all contracted out so there really isn't a reason to educate "the government" on computer technology. If you want more oversight, you're going to have to do it yourselves.

Let's start at the root of the problem: His Maxtor hard drive crashed. My Maxtor HD at home crashed in addition to several at my work. I brought our work HD's into a HD data recovery shop and nearly 75% of the HD's being worked on were Maxtor.

Hehe ohh I have some stories on Best Buy, one of which was sending my laptop in to have the mother board replaced. They decided the ahrd drive had a bad sector on it (though it worked PERFECTLY FINE) and replaced it. Of course they didn't tell me they replaced it (and they replaced it before they even had the motherboard replaced). So glad there really wasn't anything on the ahrd drive except my school notes after reading this article.

I have had 2 very bad exepreinces with their Chicago repair center and their customer service team outright lying to me. I will never buy an extended warrenty from them again as they feel it gives them the right to do whatever they want with the product regardless of what the consumer asks for!

I'm not surpised by this story at all. If consumers are foolish enough to trust anyone (esp. a large corporation like Best Buy, OfficeMAX, Office Depot, etc...) with their hard drives they should expect this sort of thing to happen. I advise everyone to never use a service like the "Geek Squad." Several of my friends have dealt with them and it's always a horrible experience. You can never believe what you are told.

There are two issues here: (1) the technology of data recorded on computer memories, and (2) ensuring your data is protected. Simply put, the company that has the technology to repair hard drives also knows all about how data gets written to drives and that it can be personal. The technology that gives the companies the ability to repair or replace drives also holds them to be knowledgeable about the possibility that personal data exists and that is the very point that makes them responsible for protecting their customers. Go after these clowns. Don't take no for an answer. They are responsible. Get an attorney and pursue!!

This is just another example of big corporations not fulfilling their most basic responsibilities to their customers. Our data is both sacred and dangerous, and must ALWAYS be handled with the utmost care. And Best Buy completely failed in this obligation. As one in the industry, I'm disgusted by the carelessness exhibited in this case, and I'm glad I work for a company where data is treated confidentially and with respect.

Everyone knocks lawyers, Hank needs one now! Especially since Best Buy offered a $250 gifr card after sitting on the information... The lawyer needs to get more zeroes added to the back of that number. That's how this sort of negligence stops. Make them pay!

Don't get just one hard drive, get several and set-up a raid 5. Newer systems support this. Then even if a drive fails to the point that you can't wipe it, only a portion of item of informaiton will be stored on that one drive. It's more expensive but it's safer for your data both before and after.

Drilling holes destroys the drive because most modern platters are glass. Data can only remain on a drive if no other data has been written over it. A complete wipe followed by zeroing the drive will allow it to be reused without any security risks.

Best Buy is nothing more than thieves, liars,they are a nightmare.
I had a computer sent from Best Buy in Grand Island to be shipped to Bismarck store, guess what the gal there decided to sell it and she switched the ticket and took my name off and sold it.Then they had the nerve to show me one that was totally damaged and said that's what sent to them in Bismarck, they're liars, then told me oh it probably got sent to another store...."""" BEWARE AND STAY AWAY FROM THEM ""


The Bismarck store owes a young man in the repair shop over $2000.00 ( 2 months pay ) said they were short and would pay him later.. Best Buy is BAD NEWS period ,, I finally got the computer I wanted, however my xm radio antena went out, that was another nightmare ,, I finally told that young girl to SHUT UP AND GET OUT OF MY FACE,,, they tested the radio and finally agreed it was bad, after testing 4 new ones in the store found they were all defective.
I finally got my money back... I have saved every reciept to back up my story,, so folks WHAT EVER YOU DO STAY AWAY FROM BEST BUY.. I really hope these stories to enough people, even mentioning this stores you hear people say" yes we had trouble with them also.

Best buy tried to screw me on a refrigerator repair warranty. I had to take them to court to collect (which I did). They didn't count on me having all my documentation, letters requesting assistance and last, but not least, the warranty itself.

I'll never shop there again. They are jerks.

Ok. I see it tracking back to Best Buy, but come on there two sides to every story... Maybe it was stolen by an employee... maybe Western Digital messed up... some of you people light the torches for the mob act too soon!!!!!

I purchased some software from Best Buy a few years ago only to drive home and find that the CD's in the box were not there. I returned the following day, to the customer service / information counter and explained the issue with the kid behind the counter. Suffice it say that I wasn't too happy at having had to make another 60 mile round trip in the 1st place(I live in a small no traffic light town) and then the clerk told me that I had taken the CD's out of the box and was attempting to scam the store. With my blood pressure rising, I demanded to speak to the manager and was made to wait for.... you may have guessed it correctly.... another kid who told me that I needed to contact the OEM (Microsoft) and take it up with them. Now furious, I requested to speak to the store manager and after another wait got to speak to someone who appeared to be an adult and again explained the issue I was having. This store manager decided to back his employee's instead of the customer (Whatever happened to "the customer is always right."?) I threatened to return to the store with a sandwich board with my 'story' on my back and pace back and forth in front of the store for the newspaper and TV reporters that I was going to call if they didn't give me the software that I paid for. In the end, seeing my resolve, they relented and gave me a new 'box' which I immediately opened to verifiy the contents. Now, anytime I purchase software (and I have since done so twice from Best Buy) after my receipt is in my hand, I open the package and verify the contents before I walk away.

Yea... I would have returned with the sandwich board. Finally, as a result of the experience I had with this particular store (in the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers Massachusetts) I only ever shop Best Buy as a store of last resort.

Thanks for reading my rant, I hope that Best Corporate is listening.

Before taking your PC in for repair, I would suggest backing up all things confidential and stuff you want to keep then either
remove it or if possible, password protect or encrypt the data

When I took my crashed computer into Best Buy for a diagnostic, they told me it would be uneconomical to repair it, as it would cost $1000+. They wanted me to buy a new computer from their store. I refused. My computer ended up needing a new power supply, and that was it. I will never go to Best Buy again for computer help.

I should be truly shocked but i have heard so many stories regarding Best Buy and their inadequacies. And to offer Mr. Gerbus a gift card is just a slap in the face. A lawsuit should be brought against Best Buy. Big companies such as these will never learn until they realize the severity of their incompetence.

Ditto. Almost the same thing. I bought a "refurbished" computer at BestBuy. It had belonged to a family and two young girls had photo's, intimate details, their MySpave acdount and particulars, their AOL account and passwords, the works! If there's a pedophile or some other crook out there and you want to just burrow into someones life, about the cheapest way I can think doing it would be to buy a refurbished computer from BestBuy.

Another classic case of corporate power: the hell with people just get the money out of their pocket and into the corporations pocket. All else that befalls is dribble.

Stores are selling techonology to folks who can't or won't educate themselves on proper use. It's marketed as totally "friendly" and easy to use. Folks, it's a computer, a sophisticated machine. If you pay bottom dollar after not shopping around, not educating yourself on its use or, at the least, spent some time finding a reliable tech, then expect the worst. Rarely is the cheapest thing in a selection your best bet. PCs are a commodity item now, a vehicle to sell software which has much better margins. Corn's a commodity, too, and the government allows a certain percentage of dead bug parts and rat crap in it -- expect some garbage to go out with any commodity. As long as folks keep buying at BestBuy, Wal-Mart, etc., and expecting the vendors and manufacturers -- who want to sell the most for the least -- to really care, this sort of thing will keep happening. Now as always, in the end, you get what you pay for IF you know what you're paying for. Make friends with a trustworthy geek, pay them for their time and advice and your odds of success go up a lot. As they say, "Pay me now or pay me later."

There are a lot of comments here about how he should have "wiped the drive before turning it in for service" but we forget that the drive wasn't mounting, that is why it needed service. There was no way to erase the data via software at that point, without resolving the mounting problem. The geek couldn't figure the problem out and to get the guy out of the store, went for the easy choice, replacement. Its likely that Mr. Gedus was not expecting them to replace his hard drive on this vist. Even if he did, there was no way to back up his data beforehand. Use a magnet on the drive before you send it in, and they'll likely say that violated warranty. Also, if it was simply a boot sector corruption (which happens all the time to windows machines) then "wiping" the drive would forever wipe the evidence of the problem, making it even harder to diagnose. Either way, this was not Mr. Gedus' fault. It seems there was nothing else he could have done, save useing a different shop altogether.

I purchased some software from Best Buy a few years ago only to drive home and find that the CD's in the box were not there. I returned the following day, to the customer service / information counter and explained the issue with the kid behind the counter. Suffice it say that I wasn't too happy at having had to make another 60 mile round trip in the 1st place (I live in a small no traffic light town) and then the clerk told me that I had taken the CD's out of the box and was attempting to scam the store! With my blood pressure rising, I demanded to speak to the manager and was made to wait for.... you may have guessed it correctly.... another kid who told me that I needed to contact the OEM (Microsoft) and take it up with them. Now furious, I requested to speak to the store manager and after another wait got to speak to someone who appeared to be an adult and again explained the issue I was having. This store manager decided to back his employee's instead of the customer (Whatever happened to "the customer is always right."?) I threatened to return to the store with a sandwich board with my 'story' on my back and pace back and forth in front of the store for the newspaper and TV reporters that I was going to call if they didn't give me the software that I paid for. In the end, seeing my resolve, they relented and gave me a new 'box' which I immediately opened to verifiy the contents. Now, anytime I purchase software (and I have since done so twice from Best Buy) after my receipt is in my hand, I open the package and verify the contents before I walk away from the cashier.

Yea... I would have returned with the sandwich board.

Finally, as a result of the experience I had with this particular Best Buy store (in the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers Massachusetts) I only ever shop Best Buy as a store of last resort.

Thanks for reading my rant, I hope that Best Corporate is listening.

You know, I'm not THAT old but i remember the good ole' days of key-punch, shorthand, and carbon paper....and believe me, computers are wonderful!
Naturally, in a fairly young industry there will be problems that were never anticipated at the onset. But you need to take responsibility for your own actions. If someone tells you to do something that "doesn't seem right" don't do it! If it costs a few extra bucks for your piece of mind, pay it!
Realize that the pimply faced kid across the counter is not a professional!
Don't be screaming for the government to fix it, evidently they're not professionals either!
Computers are finally at a reasonable price...screaming for government regulations will only drive the costs back up for these companies to hire people to keep up with all the bureaucratic garbage that will be handed down, and that pimply faced kid will still be kept out of the loop.

Last year when my laptop wLast year when my laptop was serviced by Best buy, it went bad within 6 months and I was out of warranty by then, I resorted to opening it up myself, I was surprised to see it having been Dry Soldered, (Very poor workmanship), I took it back to Best Buy and their claim was since I opened it so they do not me. Well how would I have even identified the cause of failure if I had not opened it.

That's nothing compared to what Fry's electronics did to one customer. Not only did they not destroy the hard drive but they simply put it back on the shelf as a repackaged item. The data was not erased AND the drive was defective (intermitant read errors).


#1: Make sure you buy your software so you can restore it in case of failure

#2: Learn how to buy and add your own disk drives. These days it is so easy a child could do it.

#3: Always back up your sensitive data and encrypt it

#4: Never have this problem again

I purchased some software from Best Buy a few years ago only to drive home and find that the CD's in the box were not there. I returned the following day, to the customer service / information counter and explained the issue with the kid behind the counter. Suffice it say that I wasn't too happy at having had to make another 60 mile round trip in the 1st place (I live in a small no traffic light town) and then the clerk told me that I had taken the CD's out of the box and was attempting to scam the store! With my blood pressure rising, I demanded to speak to the manager and was made to wait for.... you may have guessed it correctly.... another kid who told me that I needed to contact the OEM (Microsoft) and take it up with them. Now furious, I requested to speak to the store manager and after another wait got to speak to someone who appeared to be an adult and again explained the issue I was having. This store manager decided to back his employee's instead of the customer (Whatever happened to "the customer is always right."?) I threatened to return to the store with a sandwich board with my 'story' on my back and pace back and forth in front of the store for the newspaper and TV reporters that I was going to call if they didn't give me the software that I paid for. In the end, seeing my resolve, they relented and gave me a new 'box' which I immediately opened to verifiy the contents. Now, anytime I purchase software (and I have since done so twice from Best Buy) after my receipt is in my hand, I open the package and verify the contents before I walk away from the cashier.

Yea... I would have returned with the sandwich board.

Finally, as a result of the experience I had with this particular Best Buy store (in the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers Massachusetts) I only ever shop Best Buy as a store of last resort.

Thanks for reading my rant, I hope that Best Corporate is listening.

I teach this lesson to my Intro to Computer Sci every semester. This is yet another story with the same sad ending. I think that my students actually pay attention because they know they must go beyond deleting and reformatting the drive. I tell them that when they buy a new computer, just pull the drive out and install it with your new computer. If you don't care, dissasemble the drive and destroy the disks with the use of a blunt've heard of a hammer haven't you? I saw this same story on a local ABC affiliate awhile back but it dealt with computers given to a local charity so it's not like Best Buy is/are the only culprits here. It unfortunately happens everywhere.

I refuse to pass through Best Buys' doors for many reasons as do most of the people I know. This occurance simply adds to the long list of reasons to avoid Best Buy stores. Never buy retail. Period.
It is evident that Best Buy's days are limited.

I think a hammer to the head might just be as effective as one to a hard drive

I hate to say this but even if you drill holes or run a magnet/degauser on your HD, data still can be recovered. I used to work for a lab that restored data from media damaged by fire, magnets, crashes etc, and we were still able to get %90 of the data off of it. There is only one program that can do this job otherwise, rip the platters out and melt them down or shredd it tiny slivers, then melt them down.

Bottom line for me... NEVER set foot in a "Best Buy" store again.

Actually, I've found that "Best Buy" is almost NEVER the Best Buy... they are always overpriced, they have that miserable re-stocking fee, and they keep trying to push expensive extended warranties onto you. Basically, they're a bunch of crooks. If you can't find what you want at another store, DON'T BUY IT. You don't need the trouble of dealing with "Best Buy."

My advice is to hire yourself a competent IT tech that you can use as needed for any computer issues that arise. Quit trying to save money by using these "discount" computer stores. You will thank yourself many times over.

Its standard pc harddrive troubleshooting to "when in doubt, swap it out" For those of us who have had a hard drive swapped and then found the problem to still persist you know what I am talking about.

I think a hammer to the head might just be as effective as one to a hard drive

Trust NO ONE. It's so easy for us today. We don't change our own oil anymore, sometimes we can't even figure out how to check it. Patch a bicycle tire? Hogwash. We just buy a new one. If you're going to drive, learn how to change your oil, so it can be done right. If you're going to use a computer, damn it, learn how to use it. Learn how to swap out your OWN drive. Learn how to wipe the drive. (BCWIPE comes to mind) Learn how to completell smash the hell out of something. Go out and watch 'Soylent Green' and then come back and tell me how you just want to be lead around by your freaking nose. Take some responsibility for your own crap. 'waaa, Best Buy sold my junk because I was too stupid.' If you're old enough, or young enough to learn how to pay your bills online, play solitaire or surf for your porn, you have no excuse. If you can turn it on, you can learn to fix it yourself. If you can't put it back in the freaking box and go to H&R Block to get your taxes done and order a subscription to Penthouse.

This is quite a story. Seems as though there is some sort of 'used hard drive underground' out there.

make best buy accountable,sue em.

I work as a computer tech for an insurance company. When there's a defective part in the computer that needs replaced, we have to return the old part in exchange for the replacement part. It is not the fault of Best Buy that his hard drive wound up in a flea market. It is the fault of the hard drive manufacturer or the PC maker, wherever they sent the defective part to.

It is always safe and smart not to shop at Best Buy. The company is one of the worst in America.

I purchased some software from Best Buy a few years ago only to drive home and find that the CD's in the box were not there. I returned the following day, to the customer service / information counter and explained the issue with the kid behind the counter. Suffice it say that I wasn't too happy at having had to make another 60 mile round trip in the 1st place (I live in a small no traffic light town) and then the clerk told me that I had taken the CD's out of the box and was attempting to scam the store! With my blood pressure rising, I demanded to speak to the manager and was made to wait for.... you may have guessed it correctly.... another kid who told me that I needed to contact the OEM (Microsoft) and take it up with them. Now furious, I requested to speak to the store manager and after another wait got to speak to someone who appeared to be an adult and again explained the issue I was having. This store manager decided to back his employee's instead of the customer (Whatever happened to "the customer is always right."?) I threatened to return to the store with a sandwich board with my 'story' on my back and pace back and forth in front of the store for the newspaper and TV reporters that I was going to call if they didn't give me the software that I paid for. In the end, seeing my resolve, they relented and gave me a new 'box' which I immediately opened to verifiy the contents. Now, anytime I purchase software (and I have since done so twice from Best Buy) after my receipt is in my hand, I open the package and verify the contents before I walk away from the cashier.

Yea... I would have returned with the sandwich board.

Finally, as a result of the experience I had with this particular Best Buy store (in the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers Massachusetts) I only ever shop Best Buy as a store of last resort.

Thanks for reading my rant, I hope that Best Corporate is listening.

Best Buy is a company that clearly needs the experience of a good, well prepared class-action law suit. The stories told on this blog indicate that these events are not isolated incedents. They clearly have an corporate directed policy of failing to effectively honor their warranty obligations. I would suggest a suit for actual damages, credit insurance, and $5 billion punitive damage. A suit like this would get their attention

Very, very scary.....shame on Best Buy for not handling appropriately. The very least they should do is pay for fraud insurance for this customer. They have just lost my computer business forever!!

I think the problem isn't so much with the information, everybody should have a backup of it anyway. The problem is why Best Buy and other retailers do not wipe it clean. Do it in the store if the consumer doesn't have the right equipment, whether it be hardware/software, or the education.

This is very scary. I am only a college student, so I don't have a bunch of personal stuff on my machine. But what little I have is on a USB Key. A little knowledge can go a long way, and this is a very informative article.

Sue the hell out of Best Buy and the rest of the liars, then they may do what is right.

After reading all this,I will NEVER shop with "Best Buy" again!!!

Best Buy is a company that clearly needs the experience of a good, well prepared class-action law suit. The stories told on this blog indicate that these events are not isolated incedents. They clearly have an corporate directed policy of failing to effectively honor their warranty obligations. I would suggest a suit for actual damages, credit insurance, and $5 billion punitive damage. A suit like this would get their attention

Wow. This is a good warning to be careful what you keep in your computer. There are erasing processes approved by the DOD, but so few locations have access to this technology. I think that physical destruction is the best method available.

Is it not safe to store all sensitive data on an outboard hard drive?
Does that still leave a record on the computer "indoor" hard drive?

I was on the opposite end of one of these disasters - my hard drive, which was under warranty, was replaced by an allegedly "new" one, which contained graphic and disturbing images. I called to complain (this was CompUSA, not Best Buy) and was told that they couldn't explain why the images would be there, it must be some sort of mistake.

I have and older computer after this article I going to take the hard drive out myself and smash it prior to selling the remainder of the machine in my next garage sale.

My sister bought a laptop at the Best Buy in Fresno, when she got it back from being serviced, she found that ITunes had been installed and there were quite a few new cookies and new documents in her folder. Someone had been using it as their own for weeks while she waited for it's return. When she confronted the store manager, she was totally blown off, he was not interested in the least.

Short story wipe and break the thing your self, companies that find the drive useable are prolby gona resale it, or some one in the factory might snage it to sell.

This bites alot, im a energy managment tec for a major university. If they are going to take you HD for the warenty its fine. First you can demand that they do it or you can do. You need to format the drive delete the partition, and if your in the destructive mood rip the thing to shreds.

Also to point a funny story i will on ocation dumpster dive from computer parts to use or sell ect. Well i have picked up computers with intact hds that have personal info on them.

I feel for people who do not know enough about computer technology and fall into this kind of trap. Here is what I do anytime I sell a PC or dispose of a hard drive.

If you're going to dispose of a drive. Simply do what was suggested but go a little further. I always remove the disk and drill it out. Then I take a small store bought tourch and burn the disk. Then I scratch the hell out of it. I then saw it in half with a grinder. I then leave it lay outside in the weather for about a week. Then I bury it for 3 days. Then I dip it in toilet bowl cleaner. Then I run over it with my car. I then take it to a machine shop where I have it sand blasted.

Truth is I do none of this. This is what they expect us to do in order to keep our data from falling into the wrong hands. The facts are that data security is very important these days. We rely on companies like Microsoft, HP and Dell to do it for us. Many don't consider the potential problems they may face by placing personal information on their home PC. Since companies like Microsoft, HP and Dell are not in the business of protecting us from our own ignorants. We should gather the knowledge ourselves to be sure this doesn't happen.

So what can you do about it? Simple! If your hard drive is under warranty and you take it to a repair shop to be fixed. DO NOT LEAVE WITHOUT THE DRIVE. Even if you have to buy the bad drive back from them.

Or simply buy a new drive and use the warranty for them to do the labor to install the drive. I am sure if you bring up security concerns with the manager they will accomodate you in the best way the can. If they refuse to allow you to do what I suggested above. Simply install your own drive and forget the replacement warranty on the drive. You can buy a new drive these days from $50 - $249 depending in the size.

The best method is to buy a new drive and totally destroy the old drive by any means. Remember you can use several tools from sledge hammers to high heat. DO NOT PUT IN MICROWAVE!!!!!

Mr. Gates, How about some help on this matter??

Maybe Microsoft will get the problem solved before Sun or Apple does?????


I am an engineer with 38 years in the computer industry. There is only one way to clean a disk and that is with a very strong magnetic field. When you "clean" a disk all you are doing is removing the links to the areas where the data is stored. The data remains there until the area is reclaimed by the OS for storing new data.

I have a program from McAfee that scrubs the files I want to remove. Scrub is another word for writing jibberish over the old file. Even scrubed data can be reclaimed but it takes the knowledge and equipment that NSA has to do it. When we would recieve returned disk from NSA back in the 70s they would take a pumis stone used to clean grills and scratch every surface so the disk heads could not fly over them. I suspect that drilling holes in the disk will do much the same.

every encounter ive ever had with best buy was some kind of shell game.its just plain a gimmick biz model run by mousetrap investors, as long as we allow it / more of the same........boycott and be free.

Blaming Best Buy is not a good excuse. We dont know want exactly happened in this situation. Perhaps Best Buy returned the unit and the manufacture resold it as junk. There is more to this than we see. Remember folks, if you know you have critical information on your hard drive, you need to be prepared to clear the info before you turn the system over. If you cant yourself, stand by and watch them do it. While it is sad this had to happen, it should be a valuable lesson to all to take responsibility for your OWN information.

I had a hard drive crash with my gateway and they wanted me to send it back them wheni received my new hard drive in the mail, i told them that i was going to drill holes through it and then send it back. They said I couldn't, so I went into my basement and proceded to drill five holes through the drive, all while on the phone with gateway rep. They didnt' like that but guess what? TOO BAD!!! Destroy those hard drives, do not let anyone tell you that you can't.

This is continually what I am seeing for Best Buy "quality."

Two weeks ago, I had my motherboard replaced after sending it in for repair five times, to find it had been chop-shopped before being sent back to me (the old motherboard had firewire, the new one did not). On top of this, they replaced the harddrive when there was clearly nothing wrong with it. I even expressly told them, do *not* tamper with the harddrive. I have critical source code, covered on NDA, on said harddrive. I'm not certain if it'll now show up on peer-to-peer sites.

Only after threatening legal action did they say they would "try" to ammend the situation. I have yet to see such ammendments.

Buyer, beware.

Mr. Gerbus should sue Best Buy for not destroying the hard drive. Who knows who has gone through his hard drive and opened credit up in his name or even his grandchildrens' names.

I bet that now that this article has run nationwide, every flea market in the US is going to have a run on used hard drive sales by identity thieves looking for a jackpot.

Until a United States senator or congressman has their identity stolen in this manner, nothing will change

I gave up on Best Buy years ago. Customer service is terrible.

It is a wonder that scam artists are not now scourging the flea markets and such to purchase old drives in order to secure such personal data!! There should be at the very least a law saying that if your identity is compromised by someone's callous handling of your data that the handler should have to pay the costs of restoring the sanctity of your identity.

I recommend keeping all of your personal documents and information on a separate form of storage media such as a CD, USB Flash drive, or a removable hard drive. As much of a pain as this might seem, it is well worth the protection of you and your family. I think Best Buy and other organizations should make it a policy to handle these sorts of things on the premesis and offer the old hardware back to the customer even if they have to charge them to buy the part back. When an insurance company buys your wrecked car from you because it was a "total loss", they usually offer the car back to you at a cut rate price. A person's financial and physical safety is not worth a few dollars. The hard drive was damaged anyway.

Some lessons to be learned here....first, NEVER shop at a big box store for a computer. That "discount" you got will soon fade away due to frustration with incompetent customer service, idiot repairmen, and shoddy overall workmanship. ALWAYS buy your computer from a reputable local dealer. If it needs repairs, 98% of the local dealers will gladly give you back your used hardware (it saves them the costs of disposal!!). Secondly, a "crashed" hard drive does not necessarily mean the hardware is bad. A simple Windows update is all that is needed to screw your OS. A failing hard drive will almost always make strange sounds (screeching, constant ticking/clicking sounds when the hard drive LED at the front of the case is not lit, whining sounds, more than one attempt to "spin up" when the computer is starting up (sounds like a jet engine trying to start over and over...)

Just be VERY cautious and ask about damaged parts return when you buy your computer and extended warranty.

I hope the gentleman sues the crap out of Best Buy. Maybe that'll learn em!

It's a horrible thing, the way traders dealt with the old harddisk is unbearable, it's totally wrong~~~

I'm a CPA/Corporate Controller and do a few tax returns on the side. Where is my hard drive that I had to send back after intalling the replacement I was sent?

Wow. What a story but somehow not surprising. How about a big "at-a-boy" to Ed for taking the time to track down Hank and returning the drive?

You should never store important documentation on an internal hard drive, external drives are getting cheaper and cheaper, when your breaks down all it takes is a few tools and maybe a hammer and you can bang your information to non exhistence.


Keep your hard drive no matter what.

Message to you all i have owned several computers , dating back to 1979, before hard drives for consumers where avalible. I stored all my information on a casset tape, which i still have. I have every hard drive from any computer i every owned. Never give up your hard drive, it cost less money and aggravation, to buy and reload os then fighting with some componay.

When you get a new wallet did you Allow the store to keep whats in it No.

It's not good that we have to worry about theft of information by anyone. A possible solution is, do not put any critical information on your computer. You could find the information (products, etc.) you need online using your computer, then if you need to buy something, or need to transmit critical information, maybe do it by telephone or fax.

I love how the comments section here has become an open forum for people to complain about how these large companies have no concern for a user's personal data. Why should they? I think this is a good indication of the complete lack of responsibility in our society today. If Mr. Gerbus was so concerned about his data being compromised, why did he not securely erase the drive prior to bringing the machine in? Moreover, if the drive was completely nonfunctional and he didn't have that option (which was obviously not the case, as someone 6 months later had no trouble mounting the drive), he should have had it done out of warranty and destroyed the old drive however he saw fit. Personal information is exactly that: personal. No manufacturer unequivocally promises data recovery, nor does this service fall under any warranty. So why would responsibility for the the disposal of this data fall upon Best Buy and not the customer that put it there? He was in no way obligated to leave his old HD there if he felt uncomfortable doing so, yet he did anyway. Seriously, cry me a river.

No one mentioned Staples. Talk about stupid technicians. I wanted a CD burner installed on my computer so I could back up 7 years of business files. The CD burner was not compatable to the operating system I had, so without notifying me, they cleaned the entire hard drive and installed a newer operating system so they could install the CD burner. Needless to say, 7 years of files gone (Nothing to back up) How criminal what that?

This sounds like normal Best Buy Geek Squad behavior. Took my laptop in and they told me $650 to fix. Needed the hard drive replaced and the data could not be duplicated. Took it to a smaller computer store, $250, 4X's more memory, and all my data transferred to new hard drive. They even gave me the old one back....Will never walk into Best Buy again.

How about consumers taking charge and boycotting all businesses that don't let them have their old parts – parts that are supposedly defective and unusable, or consumers wouldn't be looking for repair, right?

Instead of making the company liable, how about holding the real culprit accountable for his actions. The original owner should take steps to protect his sensitive information. This is just another example of society expecting the government or business to take care of something that each of us should be watching for ourselves. Be responsible for yourself, don't look to someone else to take care of you.

Am I the only one that noticed that this persons name was written on the outside of the hard drive? For all we know the person who bought it used that info to contact the original owner. We do not know if he actually got any information from the data that was stored on the drive. As far as I'm concerned, Maxtor received the hard drive and destroyed the data that was on it and resold it. I see no harm in that.

To me it seems consumers need to take responsibility for their own actions.

If you go look at statistics we are our own worst enemy when it comes to privacy.

Would you hand over your file cabinet with all of your personal information in it? 1000's of files.

No you would empty it. Just as you should empty your hard drive. If we learn to protect ourselves then we do not need the government to inact any laws.

Why create more laws for ourselves, waste more tax dollars, and increase our spending at these stores cause now we have to pay for secure destruction of our harddrve when you can't even trust that after you will wind up paying for the service.

Get educated about protecting yourself and quit complaining when you get screwed by your own stupidity.

I have no sympathay for this guy in this article. He basically let some twit convince him to hand over a copy of his entire file cabinet. And now we have the media blowing this out of porporation blaming it on the Big Corporations when in reality he was the one at fault.



I didn't think about it either. When my motherboard went kaput I was going to let Best Buy keep my computer to throw away but they said they weren't allowed to take old computers anymore. I was going to throw it in the trash but decided to take out my memory and hard drive. I'm glad I did.

Just another example of the average citizen getting bent over. It will get worse as our disfuctional political system gives away the bank as crooked polititions let big business make laws for a fee. How about medicare part d... Geee I wonder who gets over on that one... Humm ... Maybee the large health insurance companies because I know it isn't my grandmother. Yah Think....

agree with jk - i just had someone with my phone number previously and the refuse to take that person's name off their system - I have ahd it for about 6 years now and guess what - they send ME mail at my home addressed to the other person - and I bought my home new - any thoughts on how to get this squared away?

When are we going to start holding corporations liable for this kind of thing? This is beyond unbelievable! We have the HIPPA laws; NASD, SEC laws, Sarbanes etc. that protect personal data. I would think that there ought to be something for the consumer.

agree with jk - i just had someone with my phone number previously and the refuse to take that person's name off their system - I have ahd it for about 6 years now and guess what - they send ME mail at my home addressed to the other person - and I bought my home new - any thoughts on how to get this squared away?

If Best Buy needs the drive back for warranty reimbusement purposes, they should provide consumers with FREE DATA RECOVERY SERVICE from a qualified Data Recovery company as part of the computer warranty. At the same time, Best Buy and other retailers should set up agreements with drive manufacturers to be reimbursed for data recovery services on warranty failures, including shipping expense.

Here's Maxtor's Handling and Void Warranty Criteria

Notice the statement about data recovery companies at the top right. Retailers could make this happen - they just don't have the incentive, which maybe where legislation is needed......

I worked as a Best Buy Geek Squad tech for a year recently, and our "policy", as written, was to drill holes in hard drives that were to be destroyed. If the item was under mfger's warranty, it must be sent to the Chicago repair depot. If the item is outside of that, but under Best Buy's extended warranty, it is an in-store repair. The hard drive was NOT to be sent to Chicago, but rather destroyed in-store. We NEVER destroyed one single hard drive. The store never gave us the equipment to do our job properly. I can't even tell you where hard drives went. . we never had an actual precedent for handling them.

The best thing that happened in this situation is that your story made it to the front page of and now thousands and thousands of people will read it. That will cost Best Buy much more inbas press than the $250.00 they offered you. Next they will do better. I cannot imagine anyone buying a Computer from Bestbuy after reading this article. I am so glad this got nation wide coverage and Bestbuy was not able to just "sweep it under the rug" with there normal song and dance.

I recently took my computer to Best Buy Geek Squad-(my complaint was that my child has interupted a software download, and the OS could not get beyond the start menu ...could they help me?)The squad told me the motherboar was toasted, and asked me did I wish to purchase a new computer???? I told them no. I took my computer home, tried reloading the OS, and it has been running fine since. Is the qeek squad doing the job of computer repair or scam artist? The mistake of going to Best Buy cost me 60 bucks. It kinda reminds me of the feeling that you get when you get a traffic ticket, --'boy , that was stupid , I wont do that again.!!!!'

Mr. Garbus, screw'em to the wall! $250 is pocket change to them. Your story has me so worried now. My laptop "failed" less than six months after I got it (a couple years ago). I don't think I had personal stuff on there, but some pictures and things. I took it back to Best Buy and they said the hard drive failed and they handed me a brand new laptop off the shelf. An upgrade no less. Still, I would have liked to take the louisville slugger to my hard drive myself. Now after reading your story, who knows what happened to it. Good luck.

I have to blame the consumer on this one. Sensitive information is a personal problem and ignorance is not an excuse. I wouldn’t sell my car and leave my registration, insurance and personal information in the car when I sold it. Whenever sensitive information is gone out of your sight, you have to figure it has been compromised. If you take it to a local repair shop, a big name company, or even your neighbors house, you have no clue what happens with the information. In this day and age, it’s up to the individual to take responsibility of disposing of it. Would you put personal information into trashcan and expect no one to see it?

The harddrive story makes me even more paranoid that my identity will be compromised. To make matters worse, the Federal Government wont even tell me if someone is using my SS number as the IRS enjoys the additional tax windfall...something amiss here in America!!

Another great story for! If you want to hear some great stories about the innerworkings of Best Buy, hear it straight from the employees!

This story doesn't surprise me. Best Buy is terrible! Everytime I had a problem with my computer, the tech guys would tell me that there was no way to recover my information and I would have to start from scratch. Total crap. The "help" desk never wanted to help. They just wanted the easy way out. I will never shop at Best Buy again.

Very unfair to Best Buy. Shame on MSNBC - it took about 10 times as long to read all the reader comments as it did the real story. What the heck is going on at Best Buy?

I buy at Best Buy and am now concerned. I never had a problem with the people in the store or on the phone. Now I wonder what is going on at Best Buy?

What MSNBC should do is 1. inform readers of the problems experienced by Mr. Gerbus and 2. educate readers of what to do when in this same sitaution and 3. provide Best Buy response.

This article is very disturbing to me as a Best Buy consumer. For a company that prides itself on customer service I think this guy is getting the shaft. I don't believe I will shop at their store any more unless they make this right. We need to stand up for issues like this or it will happen again. I would be horrified if this happened to me. That is one reason why I do not trust many people when it comes to fixing things.

This is but another instance of Best Buy's atrocious customer service. I bought a computer for my daughter from Best Buy which broke down 5 times under warranty. The warranty specified the computer would be replaced with a new one after so many breakdowns. Best Buy refused to replace it and just wanted to keep fixing it (which obviosly hadn't been effective in solving the problem.) This was 6 years ago. I have not purchased anything from Best Buy since and never will again. I also had customer service issues with them on other products purchased from them. I never once received adequate or good customer service from them. I have heard other horror stories from friends too. This story does not surprise me.


At this point, I use Best Buy only to purchase CDs and DVDs - they can't screw them up.

BOEING!?!?! Who cares about Best Buy when you can find Boeing hard drives? Great! Al-qaeda, if your reading this, apparently it's quite easy to get ahold of sensitive, possibly military information in the U.S.! Just go to a local goodwill or discount computer store and buy up all the used hard drives! You'll be able to finance your terror with bank account information and maybe even come up with some plans for Stealth Missile Technology! WOOHOO! But seriously folks, you, the consumer, are the ONLY one solely responsible for YOUR data. If you connect to the Internet without immense security protection and you have sensitive data on that computer, you are a fool. If you hand over ANY computer part of yours with sensitive data to ANYONE you don't know for ANY reason, you are a fool. Unfortunately our public school system doesn't emphasize the importance of protecting our own vital data, and most Americans are too lazy to care, though they are not too lazy to whine about it when it gets stolen and misused.

Lokks like I made my last trip to best Buy. Who can you trust?

I can't believe with all the attention that Best Buy is getting with Geek Squad, that this wouldn't happen more often. I personally fix computers on the side (mostly for gas money) and have always returned bad hard drives to their former owners because there is no way in Hades that I am hanging onto something that might have sensitive information on it. Best Buy / Geek Squad should be held accountable 150%.

It's just like when you take your car to get it's oil changed. I always ask for my old oil filter and air filter. And I mark them with a magic marker before taking them in. Either that -- or con my brother into doing it for me. Better and cheaper than anywhere else. Unless of course, he complains about it.

Using fdisk on a drive before turning it in is an absolutely minimal amount of protection - it leaves most of the information on the drive intact! At best this will prevent the rif raff from reading your data, but anyone who's serious and knowledgeable about it would be able to recover your data.

Best app ever is Dariks Boot and Nuke found at

This will wipe the heck out of your drive so noone can retrieve the data. Just burn it to a cd and boot to it. Follow the onscreen directions and let it run.

Everyone who is attacking the Geek Squad or Best Buy's customer service here is, to be blunt, ill-informed and seeking a scapegoat.

This article is slanted in a direction that vilifies Best Buy policy, when in fact it doesn't detail -who- was actually performing the warranty service. Best Buy, like countless other corporations, depends on third-party contractors to do much of its service work. There's a substantial chance that this fluke was due to a single incompetent technician at a service depot, who is very loosely affiliated with Best Buy at best.

Warranty service that cannot be performed in-store for whatever reason requires shipment to a service depot--the old parts must be intact to verify that they're malfunctioning. Simply company policy, and I presume the technicians in the Cincinatti Best Buy were following that. Whenever Best Buy replaces a hard drive (or any other hardware with sensitive information on it, for that matter) in store, it offers the original to the customer if there is no satisfactory method of destruction.

Stories like this sensationalize human error. Identity theft is certainly no simple or unimportant matter, but MSNBC has essentially linked "Best Buy" with "identity theft" in many people's minds. Hardly responsible journalism.

I had a run in with the Geek Squad at the Plano Texas Central Expwy store. They were just plain rude to me. I brought the PC in for assistance on a system board upgrade and immediately the clerk started asking for fees. I didn't get a chance to describe the issue about my PC. I told the guy I was a software engineer and had a good idea what was wrong with the setup but he just walked off after hearing me. When I got the machine back I had loose parts bouncing around inside the case. Apparently for my $200.00 they forgot the screws that hold the drives in place. Extremely poor performance.

I think I will tear up my Best Buy Card now...

The old geezer's first mistake - "Worst Buy". Second mistake - he KNEW the drive had sensitive information on it (as stated) and still made the poor choice of allowing his information to be compromised. Yes, I understand the little warranty thing sounds nice, but when it comes to protecting my bank accounts, securities, and financial holdings I certainly wouldn't have allowed some clerk the opportunity to access the information. Once people become more responsible for THEIR own life, other people's life's wont have to be effected.

As soon as I saw that 'Worst Buy' was involved, I fugured no surprises there. I've had my own issues with them and no longer shop there; this type of thing is typical for them (check out

MSNBC, methinks it's time for an expose/investigation of a company that has absolutely terrible business practices. Considering how big and pervasive the company is, it would be long overdue.

I always go to CompUSA. When my hard drive failed under warranty they returned my old hard drive to me. I didn't even have to ask for it.

As mentioned before, until companies learn that we hold them hostage with our wallets, they will never learn responsibility or have any ethical fiber. It will be interesting to see if there are any legal ramifications of this instance with Best Buy. I hope Mr. Gerbus will pursue every avenue. The best of luck to you sir.

I have owned a computer sales and service company for 14 years in the Houston area. When I get a crashed hard drive and it is time to throw it away for a client, I fdisk the drive, if possible, I undo the drive cover screws, peel back the case and get a pliers to bend the platters well off of flat. I also use a screwdriver to put some deep scratches on each platter face. If anyone wants to recover data from those drives, more power to them.

That is the responsible way to handle a customer - treat their equipment like it was your own. Reputable small businesses will always provide better service to the client than a box store kid that is there for a paycheck only. Ask around for referrals to my type of company and you will always get a better deal and be happier with the personal service.

A great way to find a reputable company is through Business Network International (BNI), a referral network in 28 countries with over 4000 chapters. We have over 800 BNI members in 33 chapters in the Houston area alone. Ask the fellow chapter members about the computer guy and see if they recommend that company or not. It is by far a better way to find someone good than using the Yellow Pages or going to a box store. In Houston use I am a proud member of the Memorial Chapter.

This is not a Best Buy thing! I work at Circut City and we, like Best Buy, use a third party service center and holds them responsible of making sure data is destroyed. Someone screwed up somewere. I can GUARANTEE that this has already ben addressed by the heigher up at Best Buy and while this is unfortunate for Mr. Gerbus, this is not a normalcy at all. And for the people out there that are into Best Buy or any other retail store bashing, you are the same people that do not read return policy info and want a store to break policy to help you out. When that store denies, it's "because the store doesn't take care of it's customers". Get a life and move on. I know from experience. Circut City is second to best Buy for a reason, and it's not cause they "cheat" their customers.

You can also use a wire brush or sand paper to take the coating off of the platter. It makes for a pretty shiny piece of aluminum when finished.

Best app ever is Dariks Boot and Nuke found at

This will wipe the heck out of your drive so noone can retrieve the data. Just burn it to a cd and boot to it. Follow the onscreen directions and let it run.

I would sue Best Buy and get a juice out of it since Best Buy makes so much profit.

What's to keep someone working at best buy or from some other company from making extra cash on the side. Not all employee's are honest. People have pic's, S.S.#'s, phone info. all worth something I'm sure. How scary is this?

How does one go about completely erasing data from a hard drive?

Not everyone is computer educated, you should be able to go to the company with your comptuer warranty and be able to trust the company!

Wow. I think a class-action lawsuit is warranted (pun intended)against BestBuy. I don't care what they say their disposal policy is, they should prove it in court. And I have been a good customer of BestBuy for over five years but never in the service department area. I will never turn in my hard drive to a company for repair. I'll find a technician first of which I know plenty.

My mother bought a laptop at best buy. After three years, it had been in the shop more than her desk. They continued to keep it for weeks on end "repairing" it. when it was finally returned not much had changed and then one day after three years of this they finally offered to replace the computer with a different one. I think she was so mad she took the hit and left to buy somewhere else. What a joke of a store.

I agree that the solution is to return defective parts to the consumer as does the auto industry. The only rationale these companies have for taking bakc the "bad" hard drives is to reuse them in "refurbished" PCs. Best Buy is definitely not as scrupulous as their PR person would like the public to believe. Mr. Gerbus don't be bought off with a gift certificate. The last thing I would want is to do more business with a company that has so little regard for purchasers who provide its livelihood.

3 years ago I was in bank central office that had recently closed to move to another location. There were miscellaneous boxes of junk left around for the janitor to dispose of. One of these boxes contained over 60 (yes 60) backup tapes, which I verified had financial records on 100's of thousands of bank customers that were not even erased. Fortunately I happen to be an honest person, but had I decided to go to the media, this would have been a national news story. You can't be too careful with your personal info.

Good luck with the courts! In case no one's noticed, the Bush administration has been steadily
dismantling consumer protections against corporations, limiting liability, changing the rules in general - usually via riders to unrelated bills - all pretty much 'under the radar' in terms of public awareness. Gonna be a lot of 'oh my gosh' moments I suspect, when people realize a lot of what they once had is gone, gone, gone.

The advice about smashing your old hard drives with a hammer is sound. Scuffing the surface with 120 grit sandpaper will do wonders, too (after you take the platters out and get oil and dirt all over them). These things are manufactured in a "clean room," so any dirt or dust will crash it but good.

Also, learn to build your own computer. It's not that hard anymore, and although it may cost more you won't have to worry about some pimply-faced kid trying to figure out what's wrong. And you'll have skills you can use to help your neighbors. If we don't start looking out for each other, nobody will look out for us.

And don't store personal info on your hard drive! That's like writing your passwords down on a piece of paper and keeping it in your wallet - if someone steals your wallet, they've got all your passwords! Store that kind of stuff on a CD or thumb drive, and get some kind of encryption software. It won't be federal government-strength encryption, but it'll keep the casual identity thief from getting your info in the event the device falls into the wrong hands.

A few people have stated that Mr. Gerbus should have erased his hard drive before bringing it in to Best Buy, but how often can you access your hard drive to format it if the thing has crashed? And if you decide to drill a hole in it, won't that void the warranty? Also, you are presuming that Mr. Gerbus knew what the problem would be (i.e. what the Geek Squad would "diagnose" it to be). Ultimately, he had to rely on what Best Buy told him, which is scary. Laws are desperately needed for this aspect of potential identity theft, but it's desperately needed for all forms of identity theft. People are just far too vulnerable, and congress, thanks to big lobbies like the banking industry, has done little to nothing.

It always amazes me what people will do to make a buck. The "best" way (no pun intended) to get Best to focus on this issue is for plantiff bar to start class action litigation. If they did in fact do this once, they did it many times. They shouldn't play the ignorance-of-the-drive-vendor card either. They should protect their customers!!

This is absolutely disturbing. If this doesn't send chills down your spine, I don't know what will. I hope this will come to bite a huge chunk out of Best Buy's butt. I find it hard to believe they are "vigorously investigating" this.

Joel: Defense contractors like Boeing are NEVER supposed to let obsolete or broken computer equipment (especially hard drives, but even including non-data storage elements like motherboards) off site EVER. What you've discovered is a major security breach and contractual violation.

First off, the employees of Best Buy, or whatever large chain, are generally poorly trained, and only have a meager amount of experience with computers. There great skill is probably best described as connecting a VCR and setting the time - and even that is a task for 80% of them. One of my favorite things to do is stand near the computers and listen to these employees lay the biggest line of BS and misinformation to customers - outright lying in many cases. The bigger lines are pressed to woman and older folks. They should be accountable!!! - All sales should be recorded by camera and reviewed by unbiased persons - and salespersons subjected to training as required. Repair persons are worse, no one at Best Buy or other chains can repair systems anymore. They only replace whole assemblies or copy all your data to new drives... fairly basic stuff to be paying top dollar for. They should hire the neighborhood 12-year old before going to Best Buy or other chain for repair.

Most major cities now have technology dumps where, for a small fee, your hardware is run through a hopper and is broken up in little pieces as you watch. That, or a drill and hammer works wonders....

Agreed, big corporations are all the same, just make money no matter what.
They will manufacture your drive in China with child labor and sell it to you for 120x the cost. There is no real accountability for big corporations and customer service is a joke anymore. As long as we keep buying from these clowns, it's the CEO's, VP's and CFO's who are making the big bucks. Their families, kids and they themselves have absolutely nothing to worry about except 'how much more can I make'. And how have they achieved the greed? Cut thousands of jobs, outsource, and the oldest and my personal favorite of the 'good old boy club' is to re-orgainze to profitability?? what a smoke screen joke these guys are.

At least Best Buy isn't in the pharmaceutical business!

Make it profitiable to bring the work back to the U.S. MR. PRESIDENT..

I went thru the same procedure with DELL. Obviously data security is a hit or miss prospect. So much customer "service" is farmed out these days that I believe it's impossible to be confident that our insterests and privacy are even a consideration. I believe legal recourse in a circumstance is the only thing that can help. Ya I said it - sue Best Buy (or DELL) to make it more economically feasible for them to do the right thing.

Raving about other people's ignorance of the systems we use in our very complicated lives is absurd: as absurd as blaming a victim for being a victim. No one can possibly know all there is to know about every technology in our society that can compromise our privacy. This includes the government. Looking to it for help is pointless. It cannot even protect its own data. Ask the millions of veterans who just learned the VA exposed their private information. Ask the military that finds their data-sensitive thumb drives and hard drives turning up in flea markets in Afghanistan.

Nor will more government regulation help. Do we really think that the government is going to rush to our aid when someone mishandles our privacy information? How can it help us when the government itself is a major abuser of data security practices? Do we really have the time and money to sue every “Best Buy” that makes a mistake or practices incompetence? As a data security and customer service trainer, I am grievously aware of the absence of training in these areas every time I do business with anyone.

The reality is that the moment we put our data into tangible form, it becomes vulnerable. This article is a perfect example. With no mal-intent, this man lost control of his own data. He was the first in a series of security failures. Guess how many people just like him are handling our private information every day. Only a person of perfect function and perfect morality can be trusted to never mishandle our personal information. I know only one person like that, and He is not running the world’s data systems.

Even so, if the world was filled with perfect people, there is still the problem of an imperfect system. The connected computer networks we now use worldwide have grown far beyond any individual’s, group’s or government’s total control; and attempts to get total control only expose more personal information and erode freedoms.

There are no easy answers. We can only adopt the paranoid position that due to honest mistakes, badly designed systems, greed, mal-intent, incompetence, stupidity and just plain “don’t care,” someone (or something) somewhere is going to mishandle information with which we entrust them. Our choice is to withdraw from the digital society altogether, or inform ourselves as best we can and practice loss mitigation. It is not a pretty picture, but it is only going to get worse.

Note: “fdisking” your hard drive does nothing to protect your data. Any twelve-year-old geek can recover it. If noting else is learned from these experiences, we should learn that once electronic data is created, it is nearly impossible to totally destroy it. If you do not want someone to see it, do not create it. But then, the people and organizations with whom we do our daily business are creating data about us anyway. How many of our friends have our personal information in their thumb drive, cell phone or online organizer?

Ten seconds in the 20 ton hydraulic press followed by a day at the rifle range. Good luck recovering anything from that.

Oh my! would I ever shop at a store with such shoddy ethics and disregard for customer safety? hell no!

When you buy at a reduced cost from a big box store understand that the only thing you get is the item. Service should not be a consideration. When it shoots craps take it to the burn pile and go get another one. Same goes for the extended warranty as the item was obsolete before you got it home. So when you need it repaired take it to your local repair shop if you can find one that has not been run out of business by the big box store. This is not limited to electronics try to get Sam The Small Engine Repair Guy to work on something you didn't buy from him.

i used to work for best buy & they sell there old parts to a 3rd party company who buys that stuff & would either fix it or sell the parts that were good...Either slam the harddrive down or use magnets..

I'm surprised no-one has mentioned it. There is no reason data files on a computer's hard drive can't be encrypted so only that system can read the data with a key created during the original installation of the operating system. If the user want's to share files, those files can be copied to other media or email "in the clear".

As poor as Best Buy and other organizations have performed in protecting sensitive data, the real problem lies at the feet of the programmers like me. As a community we have not utilized existing encryption algorithms to protect the user’s data but have gone the easy route of just writing the data to the hard drive without concern for where that hard drive might end up. The idea that someone who buys an old hard drive can open someone else’s tax return is appalling. That data should be encrypted out the wazoo! (Of course having a tax system where every tax payer has to create the perfect identity theft document every year is insane, but that’s another issue.) Indeed all of a user’s data should be encrypted, whether it’s photos, company documents, checkbook records, whatever. Actually this should be a function of the operating system. The strong encryption algorithms available now could easily deal with a huge portion of this problem. The programmers just need to be told to do it. We’ve created this problem, we should fix it.

I have never purchased the extended warranty on drives. With the cost being relatively low, I purchase and install them myself. I then drill through the drive, followed by smashing it with a large ball pean hammer. This is after using McAfee Shredder to rip up any residual data.

Unfortunately, buyer beware. Perhaps it is time for manufacturers to put visible warnings about this type of incident on the package the new computers come in.

What makes anybody think that Best Buy has anybody's best interest at heart? This article has already established that they don't follow their own policies about making sure that recovered hard drives and data on them are destroyed.

But, did you ever stop to think about why those "policies" are not enforced? Mr. Gerbus had a working hard drive pulled from his computer. He was told it was a "crashed" drive, but it obviously wasn't (real drive "crashes" are extremely rare and are completely destructive.) Most drive replacements are done in situations where the hardware isn't at fault, or even remotely related to the issue that brings a computer into the store for repair. THAT MAKES PULLED DRIVES A RESELLABLE COMMODOTY FOR BEST BUY AND OTHER COMPUTER "REPAIR" SHOPS.

Besides, any action short of taking the platters out of a drive and melting them down to slag. Destructive overwriting programs, formatting, deleting, magnets, degaussers, encryption, passwords, drills, hammers, etc, are merely inconveniences against someone proficient in recovering data. GIVEN ENOUGH TIME, MONEY, MOTIVATION, AND ACCESS TO HARDWARE, ALMOST ANY INFORMATION IS RECOVERABLE.

At the computer recycling company I run, we give out signed certificates of destruction for the data on hard drives. We run a disk wiping software the writes ones to the whole drive the first pass and zeros the second time. If the disk doesn't work or fails the wipe, we stamp them with a huge steel rod. It's important that people know that just re-formating the disk does not remove information.

It's pretty simple these an external hard drive & secure it like your little black book from your girlfriends.
Don't keep anything on the physical drive but, installed programs.

My wife's Gateway had a hard drive failure still within warrenty time. She called them up, they sent her a new one. We had a local tech guy change it out. Gateway sent us the return goods authorization to send back the old drive. NEVER DID.....They never contacted us either...

I purchased some software from Best Buy a few years ago only to drive home and find that the CD's in the box were not there. I returned the following day, to the customer service / information counter and explained the issue with the kid behind the counter. Suffice it say that I wasn't too happy at having had to make another 60 mile round trip in the 1st place (I live in a small no traffic light town) and then the clerk told me that I had taken the CD's out of the box and was attempting to scam the store! With my blood pressure rising, I demanded to speak to the manager and was made to wait for.... you may have guessed it correctly.... another kid who told me that I needed to contact the OEM (Microsoft) and take it up with them. Now furious, I requested to speak to the store manager and after another wait got to speak to someone who appeared to be an adult and again explained the issue I was having. This store manager decided to back his employee's instead of the customer (Whatever happened to "the customer is always right."?) I threatened to return to the store with a sandwich board with my 'story' on my back and pace back and forth in front of the store for the newspaper and TV reporters that I was going to call if they didn't give me the software that I paid for. In the end, seeing my resolve, they relented and gave me a new 'box' which I immediately opened to verifiy the contents. Now, anytime I purchase software (and I have since done so twice from Best Buy) after my receipt is in my hand, I open the package and verify the contents before I walk away from the cashier.

Yea... I would have returned with the sandwich board.

Finally, as a result of the experience I had with this particular Best Buy store (in the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers Massachusetts) I only ever shop Best Buy as a store of last resort.

Thanks for reading my rant, I hope that Best Corporate is listening.

Never store a credit card number or your SS # anywhere on any drive (hard, Floppy, Memery Key, etc..) if it can be avoided.

When discarding a "bad" or old hard drive be sure to beat the hell out of it with a hammer, or feel free to toss it off the roof a couple of times.

I shred all hard drives with 3 data passes and then throw the thing on the concrete floor serveral times just to be sure. Note hard drives are now being designed to take up to 80 Gs of force so be exessively cruel to it.

In 2003, Dell's policy was even worse. Our hard drive was working intermittently, and they said they would replace it. If they could get it working, they would then GIVE IT TO ANOTHER CUSTOMER as refurbished!

Dell also "accidentally" sent us someone else's hard drive, complete with all her personal data.

The solution is threefold: One, consumers need to be more savvy about protecting their data (e.g., don't just hand your hard drive over). Two, companies need better ways to deal with this (e.g., destroy the data in front of the customer). Three, state and federal governments need to enact legislation to protect customers. Even with one and two, there will always be people who are not technically savvy who are abused by nefarious, or just irresponsible, companies.

It makes one wonder how diligently these retail companies protect the customers' information (i.e., credit cards) used to purchase items at the stores. Another scary scenario!

I own a computer business also. I have software for wiping the old drives clean of all information. This software wipes the platters clean by multiples of 7 times, then I take them apart and retrieve the magnets. These magnets are so powerfull they can stop a pace maker. The magnets are great for hanging tools and magnetizing screwdrivers. Ialso beat them to a mass of metal with a 10lb hammer.

Gattuso Brown Computer Systems

At my days working for a Disk drive company, there was a department for testing used hard drives to see if they were still usable for the open market. If the drives past testing, they were used to replace warranty units coming in from the field. Other companies might have third party vendors power up a unit to see if the drive worked. Slap a new label on it and ship it out! Forget about what was on drive. No one destroys a used drive unless it is the government.

We do things the right way at Hi Tech Computer Systems in Elizabethtown, Ky. We have a best buy down the road, we get tons of customers from them, all complaining of something they did wrong. Thanks Best Buy

Having worked for a computer repair shop (no, not at Best Buy) that did a TON of warranty repair, the replaced parts always need to be sent to the manufacturer or the extended warranty company if you want them replaced for free. In the case of manufacturers, it is to track trends in failures, root/cause analysis etc. As for the extended warranty companies, it is to verify that the part is indeed defective, and if possible, repair the part to working condition to sell or re-use as a replacement part. In this story, there were mistakes made all over the place. Without know all the particulars regarding how the drive ended up at a flea market with the data in tact, I can't consciously place blame on who is truly at fault. The typical chain of events should have been:

*technician replaces hard drive and sends back to extended warranty company (I'm assuming this based on the age of the hard drive involved). It is not the technicians job or responsibility to remove the data from the drive prior to the drive being sent out for evaluation.
*Extended warranty company should have verified failure of drive.
*If drive failed, drive should have been destroyed or parted out.
*If drive passed, drive should have been forensically cleaned and re-used internally, not sold at a flea market.

With these steps his data would never have been out in the 'wild'. I dislike Best Buy as much as the next guy, but making accusations without all the facts is irresponsible, and blaming the tech is just wrong. I personally have replaced many drives that seemed to work fine, but caused various failures until replaced. There are numerous things he could have done differently but I don't believe that he was negligent in any way. Even if he was, there should have been other steps where the data should have been removed from the drive.

Don't give up your drive. A leading expert in Cyber Forensics told a group of us last week that significant data can be recovered even from drives that have been professionally wiped multiple times.
Soft fixes are not reliable. Physically destroy the drive.

I wrote my first line of code in 1973 and have been involved with computers since then. I have also appeared on national radio answering computer questions.

Companies like Best By, CC, Frys ETC are set up to sell inventory not see this stuff back. If you expect solid answers to your questions then look to the small computer builders that hand build your computer onsite. You might pay more but when you have a problem you will be dealing with the tech himself. Dell, Compaq, Gateway, ETC are nothing more than large assembly points. They don't make their own parts. This is all outsourced or bought from jobbers. The reason their computers are cheaper is simply buying power and nothing more.

If you are making a buying decesion based on money alone than you are just asking for it.

The person who had his hard drive sold didn't have to do anything more than open the case, determine who made the drive(read the label), go to that company's website and DL their utility that writes zeros to the drive. Only one manf that I know of doesn't have these free utilites there and the most used ones, Maxtor, WD, Seagate all do.

In closing, most hard drive manuf have a 3 year or more return policy on drives. Just because you bought this drive at whoever doesn't mean you have to deal with them. Some of the manuf websites allow you to look up the drive and see if its still in warranty.

There is no piece of software that is on the market today that will protect you from ignorance.

Hate to be the one to say this, but he should have known better. The best advice I can give is to bounce the hard drive off the pavement a couple times, and buy a new one.

Best Buy? Why does this not surprise me. I bought a camcorder from these guys that was not the type I wanted. After getting it charged up, and in the middle of reading the instructions I discovered their error. I tried to return it but they wanted a 15% restocking fee for their mistake. Never will I buy from them again. If you buy something from them make very sure that the salesman is selling you what you want.

Thanks for the article. I've saved every hard drive from every computer I have owned. Your article validated my hard drive paranoia. :-)

This will teach you to buy computers at Best Buy, purchase directly from the manufacturer and cut out the middle man is best, maybe not cheapest, but best.
Best Buy also is not the best price or service. Remember that the PC repair people that work at Best Buy are there for a reason, because they could not get a job at any place better!

This guy needs to ask himself whether it was worth pressing the warranty. In no way would I ever turn over my hard drive to anyone, warranty or not. I would rather pay the couple of hundred dollars for a new hard drive than risk ruining my entire financial life. Bottom line, he should have known better.

If the harddrive was good after diagnosed as bad it's the hardware vendor (Dell, HP...)who paid for warranty to have BestBuy pay for the harddrive as it was mis-diagnosed. Each warranty has a history of what was done, if its BestBuys pratice not to fix Windows and just reinstall on a new drive they shouldnt be able to handle warranty work as they are
ripping people off.

The comment regarding the HD crashing but maybe should not have been replaced -- that is correct. When the HD crashes, many times you can move it to a sub- or second HD position in the computer. Then access all important files and material as if it were a back filing system. I only know because I crashed my HD about 10 times, and when Microsoft and I could no longer repair the operating system, I moved it to a secondary status. While this may not always work, you'd be surprized. If they can salvage data from a HD that has gone througha fire, think about it, almost anyone could access data if they were intent on it -- as the MIT example shows.

Before ditching the old HD, just purchase a new one and see if you can either go in and repair the OS on the second HD or at least gather your important data and then reformat the disk.

Clearly, allowing personal or business information to be distributed should be treated as a criminal act.

In my opinion, computer repair and service shops do things that are almost as bad. Sometimes, when there is a computer problem their first step is to format the drive (or replace it) when some simple steps could be taken to save the important data on it for the owner of the system. I know, from having been in the business, that it's almost always possible to save the client's data with minimal effort.

How very odd...when I was on assignment up North I called Best Buy because the harddrive on my Vaio had crashed.

I explained to woman I spoke with on the phone that I work with several clients and that, because of that I would not be able to provide them my old harddrive. The lady on the phone understood completely (which made me feel a bit odd, because I could have theoretically been simply lying to get a "free harddrive", but I appreciated her understanding of the situation.

They told me to buy a new one and that they would reimburse for it and any installation price that would be incurred (which they did) and the old hard drive still sits in my desk drawer...waiting for me to drill holes/ sledge hammer /freeze / melt or whatever needs to be done to ensure that it (as well as my other two former laptop harddrives that I have there as well) are safe and sound.

This is why you need to leave computer repairs to PROFESSIONALS. A good rule of thumb when it come to computers. Never buy or have service done on a computer at a store where they sell blenders, refrigerators, and car stereos! If you ask me this guy got what he deserved, until people start to realize that chain electronic stores are a scam, this will continue to happen. If they tried that crap with me, I would have asked for my dead drive back, given them the new drive back, and replaced the drive myself. After I put 3 bullets in the old one.

This should be aired Nation wide on major networks as a reporter piece. National airing would immediatly reduce revenue to Best Buy which would make their already in place policy of doing the right thing with our Hard drives a reality.

Superstores like Best Buy clearly have limitations, one of them being that personalized post-sales services are sacrificed for discount pricing. Here's something Best Buy has done RIGHT - they no longer make you play the "rebate" game. They now offer savings UP FRONT in most cases.

CompuUSA, Office Depot, and Office Max still make you play the "rebate" game to get "savings". In some cases, you must send proofs of purchase to as many as five different locations to get the rebates.

I think that he should of tied it up to a missile and blew it up in irak somewhere instead of going to those guys{ you know who}because those guys know exactly what there doing..........

I recently had to return a dying harddrive to Dell. I'd only trashed all the files and emptied the trash. A few months later I found out someone was using my identity. I suspect the incidents might not be related, but only recently did I hear about drive wiping utilities which make the data unrecoverable. I sure hope that at least Dell has a process of wiping the drives if they're re-using them!

You people are missing the point! For 99% of the computer buying public, a computer is an appliance, just like a TV. It doesn't work, you bring it to someone to fix. Normally they say leave it and we'll call you when it's fixed. When you return they tell you what they did and if it's under warranty. Now you find out that they replaced the hard drive with all your data on it. Not only do you have to recreate the data, you only have the word of the person you are talking to that it was destroyed. The old hard drive is already gone who knows where. You don't have the option at that time to erase any data.

I like one of the previous comments about "not storing personal information on the hard-drive", but I don't think this is a pratical solution. For example, I am a use of Quicken, and it does store all my accounts, stocks, etc. This is one of the reasons why I even have a computer. I have passwords on everything, and another option (with XP), is to encrypt the file system (such as the My documents directory). It may not be full-proof but it will help. This story is too bad as I really did like Best Buy, but after reading this, I will no longer shop there. Maybe if enough people stop shopping there, they'll get the message.

Where does it end? We pay for service, yet we receive deception and my experience has been that Best Buy is one of the smoothest scam operators in the retail biz. Not everyone can be computer savvy and not everyone can be trusted. Clearly the line crossed is on the part of Best Buy and what they represent to a paying customer. Big corps will continue to earn fast profits through the many loop holes (the customers), until the economic bottom-line is affected. One would think that Homeland security would be all over Best Buy and their practices to include other businesses--oops, I forgot, they are busy pulling phone records. The mundane, saturated use of the computer has allowed all facets of users to grow, and it's hard to believe that companies would rather take the shortcut than build customer longevity and confidence. A Fairy tale? Maybe. But at the end of the day, we still will be required to trust somebody to do their job. As far as the young adults workers that are usually face-to-face with customers, well it's anybody’s' guess where they developed the talent to be a separatist in the ethics of actually performing a job. The loathing antics of Best Buy operations will die faster than this recognition began and we the people can sit back, project the blame and be immune to yet another accepted defect as the norm. Again, where does it end?

Best Buy, In my opinion, should be held liable for the misrepresentation of their employee, or management that did not see to the total distruction of the mentioned hard-drive! The data on said drive, Mr. Gerbus was assured, would be destroyed/ wiped/ or cleaned. Theft of the ID, and all non-destroyed info, Is what I would consider to be the case in this situation!

One guy mentioned the only "morons" don't do a secure wipe. When you harddrive totally dies, you can't just wipe it.
I had a Travelstar harddrive fail in an IBM laptop, and on it was all my customer info. As a computer consultant, it included enough to compromise every network totally. Well IBM wanted the drive back too, but since I could not wipe it, I just bought a used one on eBay and returned that. Later I broke it open and hammered it to death. For those who don't know, the "advanced techniques" listed in the main article could have recovered me data, even it I didn't have access to the means necessary, so beware and don't be complacent.
Sometimes you just have to eat the cost and say that the warranty is not worth the security risk.


Here's a wild-hair notion:
Backup your data consistently and always be prepared to replace the hard drive at your own expense. Drives are cheaper now than at any time in the past. Purchasing and installing a new drive is a rational alternative to turning you personal data over to a greedy company that absolutely does not have your interests in mind. Backup your important data and take responsibility for that which you hold so dear!

With all the computer junkies out there today, people should be smart to find someone they can trust to take a look at their computers instead of letting some stranger from Best Buy's Geek Squad. It's like you are handing them your wallet and telling them to hang on to it for a few hours and not take any money/personal information.. I mean come on!

Just go to
About once a month they have a refurbished HD for sale. They sell them by the thousands. So obviously their is big money involved with these drives.
These have been returned to the manufacturer- Western Digital most often, for various reasons. Most are wiped clean, but every once and a while one gets through with data on it.

What it comes down to is that use drives need to be treated like cash. You wouldnt leave $100 bill lying around and neither would Worst Buy.

There needs to be a system where one can track a drive anywhere it goes. The drive makers and everyone else who has contact witha drive should be required to enter the drive in the system so the end users can know at any give time who has said drive and if it was properly disposed of or erased.

I have NEVER used my computer as a filing cabinet for personal data such as SSN's, Credit Cards, etc. I don't use it to any of my banking or management of my retirement funds. I constantly clear all of my cache, and wipe my cookies. I reformat my hard drive every six months - Because Windows just runs a lot better after a re-install and I don't have time to constantly try and figure out what its problem is. Gotta love an integrated unattended install. :)

well, that is why all my computer repairs are done by a friend of mine that I trust with my life! I never let anyone do anything to my computer if I don't trust them. Main lesson from this DO NOT USE BEST BUY!

I think a class action lawsuit against Best Buy would get their attention and also hold them accountable. I have NEVER liked the store, myself, and this kind of disregard for their customers is only ONE REASON why. Wake up people - boycott this store.

First off for all those stating that he should have destroyed the drive before he brought it in, He brought it in because he did not know what was wrong with it and he is freakin 77 years you all think we should be PC techs? The guy was concerned and tried to take appropiate steps but the store and the chain wouldn't let him and then mislead him. The fault lies entirely with Best Buy and if it is not the first time it has happened they should be sued....because that is the only thing corporations understand.....their bottom line.......

It's fairly common knowledge within the PC industry that failed hard drives are sent back to the manufacturer to be refurbished, not destroyed. I highly doubt that Best Buy or any other mass retailer for that matter had/had any intention of destroying the drive. Unfortunately it's a situation where the customer is left to educate him/herself so as not to be victimized.

I'm wondering who did the warranty work. If it was a Best Buy warranty then they're definetly to blame. However, (don't harp on me) I used to work service in Best Buy and if its our warranty we deal with it, if it was covered under Maxtor warranty we replace it and ship the bad hard disc back to Maxtor. If its the latter I feel bad that Best Buy has to pay for a Maxtor mistake

Never trust ANYONE with your personal information who is not legally liable if it is lost or stolen. NEVER.EVER.EVER.

This is what happens with the over the counter repairs and extended warranties. Best Buy knows good and well their guys, or the stores themselves are scrapping these drives out to the grey, or secondary, market. Same with Comp USA, MicroCenter, and Circuit City. All contracts absolve them of their responsibility for your data, if you happen to read the fine print.

Keep that hard drive no matter what if you even THINK it has so much as a credit card, a password, or a Social Security number on it. Even if you have to eat the cost of the new drive. This points up the value of having your own service technician at your home unbound by the typical corporate restraints.

Jim Christian

This happened to someone I know in Topeka, KS. They sued Best Buy. Apparently, it wasn't enough to deter this type of conduct.

Two years ago, I bought a PC from Best Buy and found out that it had been set up and password protected by someone else! BB said that apparently it had been returned, supposedly "unused", but they never checked it.

When my hard drive failed I took it to Circuit City. When they replaced it they gave me custody of the old drive. Its quite distrubing to hear that such a respected and trusted electronics chain cannot be trusted to dispose of a hard drive.

You know, its a funny thing... While movie studios – and the media in general – cry foul, scream and yell (and sue) about their material being stolen, used and copied (with the always ominous FBI behind them) when it comes to the citizen, you've got nothing. nada, zilch-o rights. Its WAY past time citizens rights were treated the same. ALL material should be treated the same as the print, electronic and all others material. Its simply outragous. You sell/steal identity, you go to jail... just like selling a duplicated movie or MP3.

There is NO difference.

We need a Constitutional Amendment to prevent activist computer technicians from undermining the right of individual privacy.

I agree this is a serious problem but no one has mentioned why is it so easy to steal someone's identity? Every person should be able to place a lock on their credit information. To remove the lock, so new accounts can be opened, be required to produce themselves along with family DNA to unlock it. This should be the responsibility of the three credit card company clearing houses. Anyone should be able to lock their credit information for free, and no one but them should be able to change it. Why isn't that the default, and to open a new account be the hard thing to do? I have the one credit card I want, and no one should be able to open a new account in my name unless they can prove with DNA that they are me. Same is true for a bank loan or anything like it. Make the banks responsible for the mess, and make it a non deductable business expense for them. Require it to come right off the top of their profits.

Why should anyone be able to pretend to be you and then it becomes your problem because some credit card clearing house just let anyone with some information pose as you?

Yes we all must protect our personal information, but doesn't it sound a little odd we don't hold those who actually allow this identity theft to take place responsible for their lack of proper controls? Could it be they are just as guilty of stealing as the theif? If a bank gave someone who is not you a credit card in your name, THEY should be held entirely responsible, and required to make you the next Bill Gates in terms of wealth. Until you wipe out a few dozen banks financially, this will never go away. My credit card says "photo ID required" yet only about 1 in 10 transactions does a clerk ask to see an ID.

Place the blame where the problem starts. Easy identity theft because the banks and stores don't care. If I were ever asked to be a juror on one of these cases, I would hang the bank.

I remember the time when credit was something very hard to get.

Protecting our sensitive data and avoiding identity theft requires vigilance on several fronts. Knowledge and awareness are probably the biggest factors affecting a positive outcome.

Computer repair and warranty facilities must train their technicians about disposal and handling of hard drives that may contain sensitive data.

Computer users should consider alternate means of storing sensitive data. One idea is too keep sensitive data on external media such as a thumb drive that is connected to the computer only when the senstive data needs to be accessed. Periodically back up the thumb drive to a CD. Keep the thumb drive and CD in a protected location. This avoids the hard drive repair issue and limits access to sensitive data by hackers, especially with computers connected to an always-on internet connection.

There is only one way to true erase and destroy all information on a hard drive. There are several utilities avaible on the web. KillDsk is one, and a few unix based utilities. Run them both several times then run an electromagnet on it, drill several holes thru it, burn it, dispose the ashes in acid and then hide what remains. At least 5 yrs ago a hard drive was formatted by mistake, we contact ontrack data recovery and they could retrive data up to at least seven formats ago.

Here's a guarantee - Best Buy will come out and say "Oh this was some isolated case, we take great care in disposing of hard drives and this was a single exception, blah blah blah." This is what all companies say. The fact is is that Best Buy (along with other major chains) sell ANY AND ALL "reclaimed" hardware to secondary markets. And some of those secondary markets aren't just in the US - many are overseas. It's all about money folks...

This is typical of a Best Buy response. My experience with Best Buy is that all you get is lip service with any and all customer service problems. They believe they are too big for the rest of us. This is evidenced by the mere $250 dollar gift card response.

In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure. Drives are cheap, data is *very* expensive comparatively. Use a hammer, but wear eye protection and put it in a bag first to contain the fragments - the platters inside sometimes shatter like glass and the fragments are messy and extremely sharp!

For best practices in the future just go to a computer professional, ie a friend or coworker. Most help desks and geek squads run off of scripts have have no clue how to troubleshoot. I do all of my families and friends computers and advise them when they ask about pc problems. I have been working on PCs and Macs for years and have cerifications and tried to send an app into the Geek squad for some side money. They wouldn't even attempt to reply. They want low cost employees who can manipulate the customer not help the customer.

I had a hard drive replaced under warranty by Dell. They sent me a new one, but would charge me if I did not send back the old one. I was concerned about my personal data being recoverable.

So I trashed the hard drive by slaping it hard multiple times against a hard surface on each of its 4 side edges. I'm hoping the heads crashing damaged the platters, making data recovery more difficult. I also subtly scrathed out some of the bottom side PCB elementsto trash the circuit board.

There were no readily visible outward signs of the abuse when I mailed it back to Dell !!!

There are way too many people out there who have a computer and no idea how to properly care for and operate the thing. The people above who "wiped" their hard drive just made it harder to get to the data. Only in very rare and specific circumstances is the data "gone for good." Anyone out there...if your hard drive crashes, buy a new one. Most people have way more hard drive than they need anyway. And never buy a computer from a "big box" store. You almost always get way more than you need. Go to a small, reputable shop and have them build one just for you. Cheaper and less confusing.

My pc kept crashing & I took it to Best Buy for repair while at the service counter he plugged it in and said "your hard drive is shot" it will cost X$$ to replace it. Not wanting or beleiving him I bought a new hard drive and replaced it myself. The new drive didn't help with the computer crashing so, I removed the new drive and returned it. The hard drive was not the problem at all. I'm not pc repair savvy at all but I kept trying to fix whatever was wrong eventualy I was able to fix it all by my self without the new harddrive. I'm an average pc user. How many people do they charge for unneeded repairs?

I can see how this stuff happens. I used to work for a guy in richmond that still does warranty work for Best Buy. He would routinely take customers computers from their house against rules and regulations. He would also try to recover customers information without their knowledge before returning their machine to them or back to the warranty company. I have viewed many private things that were never meant for my eyes. This is the type of behavior that eventually led to me leaving my position within the company. To my knowledge the guy is still up to these type of unethical business practices.

Yes, this is typical of box stores. No, they don't care. It doesn't pay to care about something they may or may not happen.
Never put your personal information on a computer.
Never trust anyone else to completely fix your computer.
Never trust service departments.
Take the time to learn about the computer, build your own and be your own technition. If you can't afford the time to learn you shouldn't have a computer.
Only by totally destroying the drive yourself, is the only sure fire way to eliminate the information.
Granted, most people won't read this, but if you have to have computer get the best and keep it safe. Don't put personal information on it. You can't always be there to protect it from friends, family and people stealing it.

Unfortunately we can’t help with repair work but if you are ready to recycle old equipment we’re an electronics recycling company and we hear stories all the time where people think their data was safely destroyed but it was not. Most community recycling days and most retail stores do not offer data sanitization services.

Our company was formed to provide data security and prevent pollution for recycled electronics. We have traditionally worked with large businesses in the financial services industry but recently due to growing demand we have opened up a small business and residential section on our website to give consumer electronics users a place to go for recycling so they don’t have to worry about identity theft.

We also have an E-waste recycling guide that’s free of charge of you would like to learn more about electronics waste recycling. Email us at for a copy.

I suppose the better question that everyone is missing is WHY is Best Buy asking to replace and Obviously good Drive that they said was bad and in need of replacment? Why is no-one looking into Best Buys lacking Geek Squad Service? It is apparent this is another case where they are lacking in skill and replaced a drive that DID not need it.

Might want to forward this to a major network like MSNBC, just might get some air time out of this....something to think about.

Working in a hard drive technical support center for several years, I had many people call me with their replacement drives installed wondering whose information was on it. One or two, you think something's wrong with the user. More than that, I knew these refurbs weren't being wiped some of the time. Many people do not know that hard drive manufacturers only send out refurbished drives as replacements. Refurbishing these devices could be as simple as formatting the drive and sending it out as a replacement or changing the controller card attached to it. Relying on some person somewhere to guarantee your data will be wiped off does not inspire confidence from my point of view. Buyer beware! You can buy a lot of brand new hard drives for the cost of identity theft insurance...

I suppose the better question that everyone is missing is WHY is Best Buy asking to replace and Obviously good Drive that they said was bad and in need of replacment? Why is no-one looking into Best Buys lacking Geek Squad Service? It is apparent this is another case where they are lacking in skill and replaced a drive that DID not need it.

I've been building and servicing computers for many years and this story didn't shock me at all. I receive more calls from people who have had their computers "repaired" by Best Buy than from any other single source. In many cases I've gone back with the customer to Best Buy to assist them in trying to get reimbursed for repairs that either were not accomplished or were done incorrectly. Sometimes we're successful, but more than not they have some excuss that becomes impossible to fight. (I think they have some type of corporate handbook they refer to when confronted with the fact that they screwed up) Let Best Buy customers be warned; they pay their techs poorly and the people they get have little to no diagnostic skills nor are they provided with even the slightest bit of equipment or software to accomplish the job properly. I don't hold the techs at fault as much as I do the corporation. We hold bartenders responsible if they serve a drink to wrong person but a company that allows our personal information to fall into the hands of someone that could make your life a living hell (as any victim of identity theft knows), gets a couple of days of bad press and its back to business as usual. Lawmakers will tell you they've done their job by passing laws that protect us from this type of thing, but until lawmakers and enforcement folks have to endure the pain of identity theft themselves nothing will ever be done to enforce the laws already on the books let alone pass anything with any real penalties.

I had a somehwat related and disturbing incident. I returned my defective Sprint PCS Treo 600 (through their contracted warranty service at Lock/Line) and received a replacement in 2005. Earlier this year I started receiving calls and text messages from a man who said he bought my phone (from which he obtained my phone number) on eBay. I fear for the integrity of my other data and phone numbers despite performing a hard reset prior to sending my phone back to Lock/Line. Repeated calls to Lock/Line and Sprint have basically resulted in no action and (in Lock/Line's case) no replies. Sprint reassures me that no additional data can be accessed, but I don't trust them.

I love when stores or retailers say "the replacement is for free under warranty" -- the warranty isn't free, it never is or they'd be able to offer lifetime warranty upgrades at no cost, and they'd have no problems with grey-market vendors.

The cost of the warranty (it's never free, consumers are the ones paying for it in the price or the "extended" ones) should cover the cost of the manufacturer physically mailing back the drive with the holes drilled (not like they can re-sell it, right?).

How much can that cost if the number of failed drives is so low? If the drive is found to actually be workable, then of course it would be returned to the customer (with a new "free" warranty, starting from the date the consumer install date).

anyone who says that people who get their identity stolen deserve what they get for not cleaning their hard drives (see above) is more ignorant than the prople stealing this info. i guess people like that know all there is to know about everything and would never be ripped off via computer, mechanic, or otherwise. well, some people, ie. my parents, still enjoy using technology even though they did not major in computer science, so forgive them for not being aware of the pitfalls of technology. it is the responisbility of people who know better to protect those who don't. isn't that why you need a doctor/lawyer/mechanic/ etc. you can trust?

"better yet - DO NOT STORE PERSONAL INFORMATION ON YOUR HDD" Now there's practical advice, Mr. Know Better! :-) If you have to keep all your personal information on paper, why have a computer to begin with? Maybe you should stay in the house to avoid getting hit by a cement mixer waiting to cross the street, also. might be crushed when your house gets hit by a tornado......what a guy to do? :-)

This is another example of the cheaper, bigger stores not having any regard for customer service. Computer Services should include customer service and value. Best Buy has neither of these because of the way they do business. Mega bucks spent on advertising gets people in the door then low prices keep them there. Along the way courtesy, value, and quality customer service get lost. In Omaha, Data Doctors Computer Services is the place to take your computer for service and repair.

Best buy is a joke. I purchased memory from them for my pc a while back and when I got home I found that it was totally different from what I ordered. I went to return it and they told me they didn't even carry that memory and accused me of switching it with my own. Sounds like someone had ripped them off before and they tried to pawn it off on me. Always open whatever you're buying in front of them, especially if it looks like it has already been opened before.

One conclusion comes to the intelligent mind: Never give or sell your drive to anybody, even for warranty reasons. Drives are cheap now, and the risk is much greater than the price of a new drive, so forget about warranty. Drill your own holes, buy another drive, and never buy a drive from that manufacturer again.

Common sense would dictate that Best Buy DoD wipe (overwrite the entire drive with 1s or 0s in several passes) before sending it anywhere if it was replaced. They are 100% liable.

Try Darik's Boot and Nuke to destroy your data - With adequate resources, it may still be possible to reconstruct your data, so for highly confidential data consider drilling open your hard disk, grinding down the platters, and melting all of the parts in a furnace. In most cases, however, DBAN should be adequate.

One solution would be to put the old hard drive in a microwave for about 30 seconds. If I have CDs that need to be destroyed, I zap them for 20-30 seconds in the mircowave.

There is one thing being overlooked by everyone whose response is "wipe it first" and that is that the normal user who can't get their computer to start usually can't wipe it. Most don't have a boot disk with a wipe utility ready, so they rely on the so-called computer professional, and look what happens. Personally, I never claim the warrenty on a hard drive - I eat the cost and take a hammer to the platters...

It's ridiculous to imply that anybody buying a computer should understand the finer points of data retrieval, fdisk, degaussing, etc. And if the hard drive has actually failed, fdisk (autoclav, etc.) isn't going to do a whole lot for you, my friend.

It's easy to blame this issue on "some 17-year-old off the street," but the only place this issue can be reliably and effectively addressed is Best Buy's corporate management.

It's amazing the arrogance and lack of regard Best Buy has shown by offering $250 in compensation, and not even bothering to investigate the problem until they found out it would be running in the news.

i had the same thing happen to me with a sony receiver i never purchased. best buy had all of my info with this receiver that was brought in for warranty work because they only used telephone numbers for id.
i've stopped shopping there!!! been best buy free for 4 months now.

I think most of the "He should have..." responses miss the point. Many if not most users do not have the technical expertise to know how to 'wipe' a hard disk. Moreover if the computer has "crashed" then there is no way to erase the data. That's why they took it in for service in the first place. People are forced to depend on Best Buy or who ever else them bought from. Companies must be held accountable. Regulations, law suits, whatever it takes. It needs to be the law that no computer or HD be resold by a company without the HD being pulled and reformated. As for identity thieves using forensic methods, there are too many more productive ways to get data for this to be a real problem.

I my self work for the Geek squad and I understand the incredible security issue here at hand. At the Geek squad I work for we give back the hard drive to the customer, we don’t hang on to it or send it out. I think this really only happened at a few stores but as a Tech the geek squad agents alone should know not to send the hard drive off to a service center, unless it was sent to the manufacture. at that point it is out of the hands of Best Buy corp. Disposing of a hard drive is a critical issue and they should have gave the hard drive back and said here, drill a hole in it and throw it away.

I don't believe for a moment that someone called this man to say he had his hard drive. Why not just use the drive and write over it? I would never call anyone because there is no reason to get them involved. It sounds like a good way to extort some money out of Best Buy. I personally think Best Buy sucks, I build and maintain my own computers. For those of you who can't, be aware that there are idots who for no other reason than being idiots will buy used hard drives and try to retrieve old data off of them because they are idiots and have no life.

I recommend using GOT PC HELP’s service. they do not care about warranty on hard drives. They give you an option to keep your old drive or drill it and return it to you – free with the service they’re providing. But for a fee they can also erase the drive to government specs (multiple erases and rewrites of bland data on the drive).

The Federal Government requires a minimum of 7 complete formats of any hard drive that contained 'Top Secret' data on it. By complete formats, I mean filling up the HDD with random bits of data and then formatting it. The way HDD's work is the platters divided into sectors and clusters and when a file is placed on the drive it is split up over the sections. Deleting a file just changes the marker at the beginning of the file so Windows doesnt think it is there, it doesnt remove the file at all. Incineration is the only way to completely destroy a HDD, even the smallest piece of platter can be read. Granted it takes very very very expensive equipment to read it but drilling holes through your HDD will just ruin it for us poor people who can't afford the equipment...Hurricane Katrina proved if you got the money it can be recovered.

This is not just about Best Buy, all retailers and the service industry (laptop repair, etc) have an obligation to destroy hard drives which contain personal data. However, what happens is the warranty is established and then these drives are sold in bulk to resellers who then "refurbish" the drive check it for very loose tolerances and then sell it at flea markets or computer shows for extremely cheap prices.
Best Buy and other retailers can claim they don't know anything, because the companys who verify warranties are almost always third party companies hired for that specific function. It is these companies that should be looked into for thier practices of reselling product that should have been destroyed.

This is not just about Best Buy, all retailers and the service industry (laptop repair, etc) have an obligation to destroy hard drives which contain personal data. However, what happens is the warranty is established and then these drives are sold in bulk to resellers who then "refurbish" the drive check it for very loose tolerances and then sell it at flea markets or computer shows for extremely cheap prices.
Best Buy and other retailers can claim they don't know anything, because the companys who verify warranties are almost always third party companies hired for that specific function. It is these companies that should be looked into for thier practices of reselling product that should have been destroyed.

What an eye-opener! Having had a miserable and futile experience with getting my computer repaired through the Circuit City warranty, I now wonder how many hands my sensitive information passed through all the times that they had my non-functioning laptop at their shop. I doubt that they ever replaced my hard-drive (actually, I doubt that they every did anything at all to fix my problem), but what would have prevented them from getting my personal information?

Someone suggested wiping your data off the hard drive before taking it in for repair, but how can you do that if you can't get your computer to even turn on?

Dell has, so far, been a MUCH better company to deal with.

Bought a new computer at Circuit City, and brought my old computer in for a 'free' data transfer. No data was ever transferred but my hard drive was stolen while at Circuit City in Whitehall, PA--anyone have it? I'll pay to get my data back. It was an HP running Windows 98 and had my pro drawing and photo programs, work samples, Quicken, Symantec, etc. Priceless and irreplaceable family photos, dissertation draft and notes, etc. Still not over the shock and Circuit City, of course, denies anything and everything. Anne Mercer

This is exactly why I shudder when people come to me and say, "I took my computer to Geek Squad..." I frequenty smash hard drives with a hammer, guaranteeing data destruction. Whether it be a personal PC job or one of our corporate customers, the procedure is the same. Please, please, let this be a lesson as to why you don't take your PC to a retail outlet. Let a professional handle it - it's worth the extra money. A cheap job doesn't mean a good job!

My 3 year old Dell laptop died last week. I called the service department and went through a detailed and (for me) painful examination of the machine a the tech on the other end walked me through several tests. I was told to remove the hard drive and DVD and keep them. Dell sent a shipping container to return the rest of the laptop. It arrived back well before the promised date (Though the promised date was way too long) and after reinstalling the hard drive and DVD, it works fine. Service with Dell was a pain but it was effective.

Frys is the worst of all. I have watched a person return a hard drive, get a NEW ONE from the shelf only to get home and find out he had purchased the same one. Frys literally takes them straight back to the floor. They figure selling it 10 times even broken will still net them money in the end, especially if you but the extended warranty.

I bought a discounted computer at Circuit City that had someone else's data on it. It even had a live internet account and the passwords were still in the machine. I was able to log into their internet account with it. I of course I deleted all of their personal data from the machine.

Same thing with Dell. It's easy for techs to just say, 'oh, your hard-drive is bad' & then replace it. I even got a bigger drive, but didnt get to keep the original. Nothing was erased.
The policy these companies have for service cant possibly be regulated to provide adequate protection for the consumer.

Well thank goodness I didn't purchase the infamous Best Buy warranty on my computer. When my hard drive crashed 9 months after buying the computer, I had the geek squad at Best Buy replace the hard drive. Since it was not under warranty, they gave me back the "damaged" hard drive. Guess it pays to forego their in-store warranty sometimes.

Check it out. I promise it will work. If you have questions, email me. Instead of voiding warranty by opening or smashing your hard drive use this application.

Well dog gone.

What people are missing here is that there is more than one warranty involved here. When a new computer is built, the hard drive manufacturer (Maxtor, in this example) typically gives a manufacturer's warranty on the drive itself, to the computer builder. SO if the drive fails within that period (sometimes longer than the PC warranty), the builder can return the drive to Maxtor for credit. What happens to the drive after that is up to Maxtor, who may they try to refurb and sell drives like this. So the fault is not all on Best Buy or any other retailer. There need to privacy laws that address new high-tech issues as they arise.

This is why I still have a burn barrel. Antyhing with sensitive information, including receipts and disks get incinerated. Maybe not the best for the environment but hey it's worth it.

What really shocks me is, if the drive still worked why did best buy replace it to begin with?

Fry's sells nothing but refurbished product. I know people that work there, and that used to work there.

This isn't a best buy problem, it is a problem all over the world. Any retailer you go to will always do the same thing, the problem isn't a best buy problem, it is a manufacturer of hardrives problem, the maxtor's, seagates, western digital. Hard drives should be disposed at the first sign of foul play, and if it is broken, it should just be replaced. It costs probably about 5 dollars to make a hard drive when you order things in bulk, retailers aren't the problem here, they have to follow strict warranty laws, from the manufacturer, or they aren't allowed to carry the product.

423 blogs in less than 8 hours! That shows how concerned people are, yet not enough to take responsibility for their own actions. Best Buy is a big box store, so why would you trust their policies? Why did you put personal information on your computer to begin with?
Stop blaming others and take responsibility for your own actions.
The rest of you, if you are worried, then do something to ease your mind.
Get your own identity theft protection.


Price of Extended Warranty for most computers from Dell: $100.00

Price of new Maxtor 250GB HardDrive : $70.00

Keep your money, your data and your sense of security.

I have been told that many large computer harware companies such as Dell and HP sell damaged and warranty return computer components to electronics recyclers who agree not to resale the items to the public. However there are a few unscrupulous electronics recyclers who turn around and sell these items on E-Bay. This could be how Mr. Grubus' hard drive ended up in the hands of a stranger.

I repaired my computer in the shop. the salesman assured me I would be getting the brand new HD. As soon as I went to the net's site that sells the software, my computer let me AUTOMATICALLY sign in as some one else I did not know. My HD had the cookies on it. That was the only way it was possible to log into the web site automatically.

For those who wish to use the industrial strength magnet approach to wipe the hard drive, but don't want to buy one, go to a metal recycler and ask the operator ot the electromagnetic crane to zap it. A magnet that can lift a car should clear it up.

My hard drive crashed. Still under warranty with Dell. They sent out a rep. and I asked for the old hard drive. He said that he could not give it to me. I am very concerned about this. What can we do to stop this. It is a disaster waiting to happen.

Oops, My hard drive fell into a vat of magnets. I hope that doesn't void the warranty.

Personally I have made a decision not to buy any computer hardware from Best Buy. I was there the other day and asked some simple question about upgrading to the person who identified himself as the department head. He was clueless about whether or not they could upgrade the memory on a particular computer or how much [the answer, was yes but it took him 20 minutes to figure it out, luckily I was sucked into watching some stupid show on one of their big screen TVs or I would have left]. In addition you can usually find all the stuff you want on the internet and get it for less, or buy it direct. Regarding harddrive replacement, I would never let anyone have my old hard drive, and luckily I have a relative who knows computers and works with them for a living, so if there is something I can't figure out i can call him. I would hammer, drill and burn my hard drive and then bury it in my back yard before I would let it out of my own hands.

My hard drive crashed and I simply bought another one and took a hammer to the old one. Best theft protection in the world. Trust no one with your personal information.

Folks, you're all missing the point here.

ANY medium-sized or large company that deals in warranty repairs will recycle used hard drives to make extra money. Some wipe them first, some don't. THIS IS NORMAL AND EXPECTED BEHAVIOR. Therefore, you should NEVER allow any service person, regardless of age or experience, to keep those hard drives before you, PERSONALLY, have seen to the destruction of the data on those drives. You wouldn't, for example, send your expired credit cards back to the card issuer, would you?

External USB backup drives are *cheap* -- a couple of hundred bucks will buy plenty of space for even the larger home PC hard drives. Keep all your data in sub-folders under a single "master data folder" on your drive instead of separately for each program, and then use a program like BeyondCompare to regularly "synchronize" that folder with its corresponding folder on your backup drive (just like your iPod or PDA synchronizes with your computer). That way,
you never lose your data -- you can ALWAYS reinstall your software. You should "sync backup" EVERY TIME YOU USE THE COMPUTER, usually just before you shut down -- it only takes a few minutes and it will save your tail should you have any drive failures.

Remember that the time spent recreating your data costs you approximately 10,000 times the cost of the drive space used to store that data. That's right -- if a 200GB hard drive costs you $200, that gigabyte of data will cost you about $10,000 of your time to recreate from scratch.

Three words: BACKUP YOUR DATA.

I just built a hard drive for a computer forensic class using parts bought at an electronic salvage store. Our diagnostic program was able to pull up documents that were identified as CLASSIFIED and SECURE belonging to a local military base. The Air Force rep we talked to assured us that it was not possible and would not believe us until we turned over 215 papers we printed from the files on the drive. They run an approved NSA disk wiper program on all junked drives and supposedly trash everything. We learned that the salvage company bids on the junk and sells the scrap. So don’t trust anyone when it comes to your information. Even if you disassemble the old drive someone might be able to get some information off the platters. It all depends on how hard they want to work at it.

If you want your computer cared for properly, take it to a Microsoft Certified professional and expert. Preferably a MCSA or an MCSE. These people are not "geeks" Geeks call themselves that because they can't call themselves experts because they are not certified as such. Take it to a certified expert. Stay away from the geeks and go with people who are trained and certified in how to properly dispose of your data using techniques that meet & exceed the federal government’s standards for data destruction. A professional like this who has the skill set, knowledge and consideration for your data safety would have wiped the drive BEFORE they sent it in for warranty. Best Buy should be ashamed of themselves for not doing the same. But what can you expect from a “geek”

If you think this is bad, go to for more best buy snafu's!!

Bringing your own drill might be a good idea, but keep in mind that drilling holes in the old drive would have invalidated the warranty. In Hank's case, I would say it would have been worth the money, though.

Corporations take steps all of the time to avoid costs or get them reimbursed somehow. I have no doubt Best Buy recouped some of their costs by selling the drive through the secondary market and procedurally, some technician "forgot" to wipe the drive clean (another cost saving measure maybe???).

Best Buy is the Worst Buy for customer service. There prices are good, but I never received my rebate and by the time I remembered to call, they said the time had run out and I couldn't get it. You can find the same stuff at other stores. I will not shop at Best Buy ever again.

This doesn't surprise me, Best Buy doesn't follow any of its rules or policies and does NOT care about its customers or employees.

Former Best Buy Employee

Not a single person here heard a thing I said at the beginning of this thread & 80% of you are whining about Best Buy or the Geek Squad. How sad....

I'll give you one more chance to save yourselves...

You can get in excess of 80 gb external drives as small as a pack of smokes for less than a 100 bucks.They even come with one touch backup software.

Keep zero data on your system except for installed programs.

If you are unable to come to this conclusion good luck to ya...I will kick back & laugh free of sympathy.

I would be happy to give anyone the information and even provide Identity theft protection for those who are worried about this problem as well as any veterans who are worried about the recent theft of a certain laptop with millions of ritired servicemans names, social security numbers and such. M @ A Van Alstyne.

When my mother bought a new computer, rather than donating her old one to a charity or selling it, she gave it to my dad for target practice. My husband and my dad went outside one afternoon and put so many holes in it(and several in the hard drive) that I'd say good luck to anyone who tried to retrieve the data. Trusting anyone other than yourself to get rid of any information is crazy. Maybe some people are trustworthy, but why take the chance that your tech isn't? Find a constructive(or destructive) way to get rid of it yourself...

Another story showing not to put personal data on your computer. If I ever wanted to get rid of my hard drive I'd go overboard in making sure that data was long gone.

I saw a news report where the FBI in a child porn case had reassembled a hard drive where the drive had been cut into pieces. Don't think for a minute that data cannot be recovered by someone who truly wants the information. Simple rules, do not store personal information on your computer, do not bank or buy anything online accept with a secure credit card, the best ones are the the ones you preload to a certain amount, buy the item and then destroy that card. No matter how inconvenient to actually go to a store and buy something it is much better than to find out years later your personal information has been stolen and you are now liable for all kinds of debts in your name. Lastly, never, ever give out your Social Security Number anywhere on the internet. If a business truly has a need for it you can either go there in person or call them. Lastly it would appear only a fool would take anything to be repaired at Best Buy.

The real issue here is "Customer Service." Something Best Buy hasn't got a clue about. Nor do many other retailers per the above comments. Doesn't matter how many fools/customers they screw over today, there' ll be a new bunch at the front door when they open in the morning. For my money (and they have it), Best Buy sucks totally!!!

I build systems as a hobby and i must say that anyone in their right mind would never put sensitive data on thier computer. So hence the people that do u get no sympathy from me. You ever heard of hackers? yeah people that do nothing all day but get into systems and steal data that is useable. And if ur that dumb to put ur data on ur system then be at least mindful to investing into some encryption software that way ur info is not totally compromised. Besides why would even want to keep ss#s on ur computer anyway? Best buy is a great store to buy. Their Customer Service blows but hey u take the good with the bad. If u really want to b private keep ur data out of ur system. That is all.

The issue here is that Computer Manufacturers are not willing to provide the customer with the defective hard drive. Once personal information is stored on the hard drive it should remain the property of the individual purchasing the unit. There should have never been an additional fee schedule created, it in essence created this whole fiasco to begin with. In the age of global terrorism and rampant identity theft, this story is very disturbing. Best Buy, and the Computer Manufacturer placed this individuals identity in jeopardy, I hardly believe that $250 is going to cover this!

I hate best buy... they've never been good at anything... the losers took 8 hours to install a stereo in my car (not even speakers... we're talking pop one out and put the new one in).. and I was the only one in line! Losers. I hope they get sued.

If the terms of the warranty specified that that ENTIRE product had to be returned as one piece - it may have been to protect themselves by analyzing the contents of the HardDrive to see if installed malware was the problem. And possibly to keep a collective database of problems.

I hate to disappoint those who "demagnetize" their hard drives hoping to erase the information, but the drive platter's magnetic coating is so strong, that it's quite impossible to create magnetic field in the drive volume strong enough to erase it, unless you have a superconductive magnet! The recording head is very small, and can create the necessary magnetic field in VERY little volume.

Damn it, all this talk about throwing away, destroying and otherwise ruining perfectly good, functioning hard disks makes me SICK. Not all of us can afford brand new equipment and are delighted to find drives at thrift stores, flea markets etc. My computer is filled with old (ranging in years from 1997 to 2000) drives that have been given a second chance, only a few had some data on them (nothing interesting) but -all- work well and have not given a bit of trouble. Perhaps if more computer users would be educated and actually learn a bit about defragmenting and checking their disks on a regular basis there would be no need for Crap Buy and the Shit Squad to lose their data. Disk maintenance is the key.

Other than taking a hammer to the hard drive, the next best thing (for the average consumer)is to do a low-level format using a disk utility program from the HD manufacturer. In this case, Maxtor's MaxBlast which should be on their website for download. However, a regular full or quick format will not erase the data off the drive. I wouldn't trust the magnet method either, even if it was a powerful electromagnet.

I am glad I can just easily destroy all my HDD information with the welding torch I have in the garage. My friends come over to have me destroy their old HDDs before they dispose of them. But as a comupter savy person, it is my own responsiblity for protecting my information. As with Mr. Gerbus who demanded that the HDD be erased. He took the necessary steps in demanding that his information be protected. I believe Best Buy needs to compensate him with more than a $250 giftcard. As waiting for the goverment to step in, that process takes to long because they don't start until one of their one is affected by this situation. There are more people, those who are not in the public eye, who are affected by this. So there should be more products that we can buy at a resonable price that can totally erase a HDD. Again, SSN should never be stored on your computer. Use fake information so that if you HDD is sold to someone else without be cleaned, at least the information stored is false and will cause you now harm. The MS company only requires your information as a person to active the software. It should not be used for anything else but that.

HELLO!!!! To all those who have implied Mr. Gerbus should have made sure the data was properly erased before returning it to Best Buy, THE DRIVE WAS DEFECTIVE. if it was a mechanical failure he could not have accessed the drive to do so. If it was software then I'm sure Best Buy would have just reinstalled the operating system. In either case Best Buy is nortorius for almost fraudulent activity. This is totally there (Best Buy) fault.

i'm so greatfull to have found this article and all the comments. My husband and I literally just packed our computer(under warranty at Best Buy) to have the hard drive fixed, because it's been complete mush all of a sudden. Thank you all for the warning. I 'd rather pay once out of pocket than pay the rest of my life cleaning up my credit!!!!!

Your personal data is your own business, not Best Buy's/Circuit City's/etc. You don't want your data floating around in God knows who's hands, take care of it yourself and CLEAN YOUR OWN HARD DRIVE. It's this sort of "the government should step in and regulate private industry" thinking that leads to the loss of our freedoms and the invasions of privacy that we deal with today (domestic spying, anyone?) Caveat emptor, or in modern-speak, take care of yourself and stop whining for someone else to pick up your mess.

That's why they should only be melted down at the local scrap yard.

"Why did you put personal information on your computer to begin with?"

Why do people that preach "personal responsibility" never expect the wrongdoer, e.g. Best Buy in this case, to take responsibility? You pay a profesional for their expertise and their services. If they fail to perform above a certain standard, they are liable for the damage caused. This IS personal resonsibility. It is the responsibility of Best Buy, who has promised to wipe a drive and/or dispose of a drive, to do just that. If they do not and damage results, they are liable. It is only responsible that one pay for the damage they cause.

As a pro in the business, I always recommend Mr. Sledgehammer as a great stress reliever if anything. As far as warranty replacement, we only use Western Digital drives, and have not had any issues.

The # of stories we get from people using the big box stores are legion, which is why they usually end up at my company's door.

As for Best Buy, my wife and I were in their getting a car stereo, and I stopped to help someone in the store by answering some questions on hardware (can't help it, in my blood). One of their "Geek Squad" asked me if we had any openings at our store. I guess being part of a minimum wage geek squad was getting to him.

It's funny that so many complaints come from people who want to pay almost nothing for their computers and then get almost nothing in return in support and get so upset about it. You get what you pay for.

I would avoid Best Buy and Geek Squad at all costs. I purchased a laptop from them 2 years ago. It broke and was supposed to be fixed under warranty. Well all I have gotten is the runaround for over a year as they keep claiming to "fix" it. When the laptop continues to crash on startup they either are completely incompetent or are actively trying to screw me over. This story doesn't surprise me in the least.

I found a hard drive in the dumpster at my office. Curious, I took it in my office, plugged it in as a secondary device and checked it for viruses and problems. After doing cursory repairs, I was able to view all the data on it. It was filled mainly with porn and illegally downloaded music. I easily found the owner's name (it was a realtor who was "showing" our office building the day before). I decided just to reformat the drive and keep it for myself.

As long as the original owner of the hard drive did nothing illegal, he has nothing to worry about, right? That about sums up D.C. logic these days.

Interesting thread!

To avoid this problem:
Several years ago, I needed to blank several drives for my accountant mother before I used them to win last-second basketball games in my bedroom. They had sensitive information.

I went to the local Fry's looking for a good drive-blanking program. Most of the options were too expensive for me; however, behind other titles, I found a less expensive option called DriveWasher by Stompsoft. It was half the price and worked great. It has many blanking options, including DOD ones (Dept. of Defense). If I remember correctly, it has the option of booting from the software's CD. This helps to blank drives that aren't booting up. Check out the website to be sure.

It's YOUR responsibility to thoroughly wipe all data off your hard drive (using software that meets or exceeds government and industry security standards for data deletion), just like it's YOUR responsibility to shred bank statements and other sensitive documents before throwing them away. If someone else picks up and uses the data you carelessly sent out into the wild, they may be in the wrong, but I have no sympathy for your negligence.

My wife took her still under warranty PC to Best Buy. She had nothing but trouble with the squad. They put in the wrong parts, couldn't find her file, and left out half of her RAM, on the 4th try. We had to buy our own Ram to replace it. I wanted to write the Democrat and tell my story. I'm glad somebody did.

As a honest computer tech myself, my question is this.If this drive was really "damaged" and needed to be replaced, without a low level format, how was it able to be used anyway? Sounds like the geek squad didnt know what they were doing and just figured they could replace and reload the operating system, and stick it to the company that held the warranty.This is another example of unqualified geeks doing work that they know nothing about. All the drive needed was some innocuous spyware removed.

My Computer a Hewlett Packard was also replaced, since I could no longer access the harddrive and I couldn't wipe it and since it was under warranty I also couldn't damage the harddrive. I bought the computer and paid for the extended warranty from CompUSA. I learned many years ago NOT to put anything on the harddrive that could come back to harm you. The problem I had with CompUSA is the wanted to replace the computer with a Compac Computer. I disagreed with their choice of replacement and was told to read the warranty, they could replace it with ANY comparatable brand. I asked even a Mac and was told yes even a Mac!! It took 3 months of coorspondence with their corporate office until I figured out that the Compac they were trying to give me had only 5 USB ports and the HP had 6. I won the argument and received a new HP computer 3 days later. LESSON: READ YOUR WARRANTIES!!!!

Whoever referred to Best Buy as "slick" (in the pegorative sense) hit the nail on the head. I did business with once and never went back. I purchased a 36 inch HDTV from them at considerable expense. When I got it home I discovered it simply wasn't big enough for the room. I returned the set to Best Buy two hours later and wanted to purchase a larger, much more expensive model from them. They would not allow me to return the set I had purchased and purchase the more expensive set unless I agreed to pay a $70 "restocking" fee. Unbelievable! Had I been a dishonest person I would have just made the set inoperable and gotten my refund and gone and purchased a set from a less "slick" dealer.

I have spoken to many others that all have had similar unsatisfying experiences with Best Buy. Personally, when I used to purchase from them I always felt like I needed a shower after dealing with their managers and clerks.

Obviously I am one of many people who would not consider ever doing business with them again.

I am a Best Buy PC technician at a Service Center. This is the policy that we follw where I am employed:
* When a hard drive is replaced in a manufacture warranty repair, the hard drive is sent back to the manufacturer, not destroyed.
* In a extended warranty repair, when a hard drive is replaced, it is sent back to our parts supplier, not destroyed.
* The only time a hard drive is destroyed is in a no lemon warranty exchange.
Through our vendor, I have received numerous hard drives with personal data not removed. This happens quite frequently. It is then up to me (the tech) to remove and re-install software. So when I read this, it came as no suprise as it happens nearly on a weekly basis.

Whoever referred to Best Buy as "slick" (in the pegorative sense) hit the nail on the head. I did business with once and never went back. I purchased a 36 inch HDTV from them at considerable expense. When I got it home I discovered it simply wasn't big enough for the room. I returned the set to Best Buy two hours later and wanted to purchase a larger, much more expensive model from them. They would not allow me to return the set I had purchased and purchase the more expensive set unless I agreed to pay a $70 "restocking" fee. Unbelievable! Had I been a dishonest person I would have just made the set inoperable and gotten my refund and gone and purchased a set from a less "slick" dealer.

I have spoken to many others that all have had similar unsatisfying experiences with Best Buy. Personally, when I used to purchase from them I always felt like I needed a shower after dealing with their managers and clerks.

Obviously I am one of many people who would not consider ever doing business with them again.

I think that the store should have returned the item to him reguardless of weather it was crashed or not, its his personal data on the drive. He has a right to do with it what he pleases, if they needed numbers from it, then fine, but for god sakes let the costumers keep it, and destroy it their own way..!

Degauss the drive? Use a strong magnet on it? Are you guys CRAZY? There are EXTEMELY POWERFUL rare-earth magnets inside the case already, that move the read/write heads!

You either need to use a government approved disk wipe program, or start drilling.

Better yet, why not just not put any personal data on to your harddrive, put it on a CD or several CDS that you save, this way if you have to replace a hard drive, no sensitive information pictures,documents or otherwise is on the systems hard drive

It's not bad enough that you have to worry about some underling at the VA to release your information. You can't even trust your computer repair.

Last year I bought a 300 GB external USB drive off of EBay. When I plugged in the drive it contained 20 GB's of data from some advertising company. There was sales info, spreadsheets, and mock ups of their products.

It's not bad enough that you have to worry about some underling at the VA to release your information. You can't even trust your computer repair.

It's not at all suprising... Best Buy is a bunch of liars. They'll do anything to get your money.

If you have a brain, they don't want you to work at Best Buy. They won't pay for anyone who knows what they're doing. I hope their business is harmed enough by this kind of bad publicity to get their act together. I'd never buy a computer from them anyway.

Personally thinking about it, if the hard drive companies came up with a hard drive that would clean itself that would be great, think about it, a drive that once it was removed from a computer for a few minutes inthe air would erase all data on the drive, because most of the time, you don't take the drive out less its being replaced so they need to make a drive that when expose to air will wipe out all data on the drive after a few minutes of being in the air, like longer that 10minutes, this way if you were reinstalling it into something you wouldn't loose everything.. on it. But if it were out more than 10minutes then it would wipe clean leaving nothing on it. We have all the technology they should be able to do something like that.

I agree, Best Buy is off my list. Too bad for them, a little customer service goes along ways but bad service goes much further.

This is shameful.

First they lie-- the drive is not a problem.

Then, they lie-- they say it will be destroyed.

Then, they make a double profit-- they do nothing to wipe/"repair" the drive, and they make you buy the new one...

Shame on them!

I make my own computers, and I am VERY careful to rewrite all data on the drive before I send it back.

You know, I keep this old microwave oven around I bought in college, and I use it all of the time for CD's and DVD's, but I am certain you could use it on a hard-disk as well. Large magnets from something like a 50W speaker/sub woofer will do the trick as well if your disk does not spin at all.

Yep CB Weaver it is right it is everyone elses fault. Trust no one. Keep all your personal info on paper. I mean no one can get their hands on paper right?

The solution is if your drive fails is to completely destroy it (physically). Consider the lost warranty money as an "insurance" expense.

YOUR DATA/INFORMATION IS NOT EVER SECURE. I just thought that everyone should know that. If you plug you computer into the wall (internet/wireless) you ARE sharing your information with SOMEBODY. You clicked a box/signed a waiver/agreed to such, when you turned on your PC and loaded/started any software (yes and especially MS products), by the way your so called encryption is decodable by the government when you pass it through ANY internet/intranet connection. Lesson learned: Read the WARRANTY/DISCLAIMER! Your only option is not to purchase the product or service if you don't agree. Have Fun, Surf Safe !

The same thing happened to me with a Sony Vaio hard drive. Wound up on internet for sale. Identity theft up to $4321.68 with information obtained. Sueing Best Buy as we speak. They will even load your operating system with bootlegged copies and sell the originals from your box and claim they keep them at the store for future warranty purposes. Best Best has the best scam going on in town.

Many in their messages do not understand that when the hard drive stoped to work, it cannot be erased on its mother computer. Because it does not work! The best way to protect the personal data is always to keep the sensitive files encrypted.

Best thing to wipe info off a HD, simply take a small butane torch to it and cook it good. Then throw it away in the garbage. The cost a a new HD is reasonable and can be installed easy. No problem.

Best Buy has a bad service reputation, Consumers Reports and others rate them as the worst place to buy anything. However, this is probably a very widespread problem. And how are people supposed to wipe their drives with software, if the drive is broken? What if one of the drive manufacturers fixed it, and resold the drive?

I've tried hitting a drive with a hammer, they are surprisingly hard to bend and ruin! I used a sledge hammer and slammed one 6 times from the sledge being completely up over my head. The case popped open and was bent, but the platter looked undamaged! Highly unlikely anyone would try to read that though.

Another problem is when they fix your computers they snoop on the hard drive and see what's there. I read an article where one big store (maybe BB?) turned in someone to the cops for child porn. Yeah, the guy shouldn't have that, but the store shouldn't have been snooping on the hard drive either. Your data is not secure if you bring the hard drive in for repair, or if you even temporarily leave your computer to be repaired.

When is Microsoft going to get smart, and bundle an effective disc wiping utility with its Windows Operating System, so PC users can avoid this kind of mess?

You can drill holes in hard drives all day long yet you give your credit card to minimum wage waiter at a restaurant who then disapears for 10 minutes. The cleaning person who goes through the trash at your bank, insurance office, accountant's office, etc. will be the one who screws you by selling your info for 25$.

Please remember, some of these people who use computers have no knowlege of how to wipe their own hard drives, and are trustworthy to a's sad that some of ya'll immediate assume everyone that owns a computer is literate in the inner workings of them.

The only 100% way to securely delete data from a hard drive is to burn the platters it contains. It is the surest method.

Forget warranties and invest in a redundant backup scheme so that when your main drives die you do not hesitate to dispose of it properly. No "secure deletion program" will protect you 100%. Yes, such programs will most likely keep those such as "Stranger Ed" mentioned in the news story from viewing your personal and private data, but people such as MIT researcher Simson Garfinkel et al will with the highest probablity know how to retrieve data from a drive that has previously been wiped by a "secure deletion" program.

Burning the platters in your hard drives is the surest and most secure way to destroy your personal and private data that they contain.

wow this has been a very interesting read.everyone seems to have good points and information whether it's for hank gerbes or not.he and many others have obviously learned a lesson.either way the man was shorted and not given good one's information should ever be made available regardless how many back ups you have.the back ups you have already made don't replace mishandling of your information on the hard drive.the proper handling of the hd is anyone's responsibilty in which hands it passes regardless of what's on it.if it was truly refurbished the info should have been erased.maybe he could have done something if his pc was functional at the time,but not all of us are techys and was the reason for him to return to bb.ultimately he made the decision to trust best buy with a warranty repair instead of purchasing a hd separate and had them install here we are was obviously a bad choice and makes you wonder about them and the vendors or 3rd party they deal's sad when you go to a place for repair regardless whether it's a box place or not and get ripped off.i have seen it so many times whether with pc's or cars.i happen to work on cars and have changed jobs many times due to poor business practices of the company i worked for.just like the previous descriptions in the replies above have shown misdiagnosis of computers i have seen on's a shame that these people charge the customer's for work not needed including what actually fixed the pc or car.i don't do this and have been in many arguments with co-workers and employers resulting in me always being the black sheep or bad guy looking out for the people.all these companies care about is the money and how much more they can get.anyway the man made a mistake trusting a company to help him.all the ideas people have given are good,but not all practical.not everyone can just not have data on their pc.i love tinkering and building my own pc's and definitely need more education,but not everyone has the knack for this stuff.most people this guys age don't know about the internals of a pc muchless the programs that are on it.i agree about the critical info like ssn# not to have them on your pc andimmediately remove the info after backing up.what would he have done even if he was backing the info to whatever media format and the pc crashed in the middle?he'd be in the same scenario.i had the same thing happen to me as far as backing up info and it shut off in the middle.i never did get the info off the hd won't mount right now so not sure where to go yet.i've seen a lot of if's,shoulda coulda's and bashing,but does anyone have any real suggestions for someone like this man that can actually help him or anyone else in the future.if these companies actually cared about information protection or identity theft does anyone think they would ever offer classes to beginner users and learn about security of their pc's?i think i would have considered a factory hd repair until reading this article and everyone's comments.buying a new hd seems to be the best way to go if they won't let you keep the old one in a warranty repair.i have been lucky i guess with some best buy purchases and having the warranty honored as well as the xtended warr.i havn't made big purchases though as the kind mentioned in the comments.mine have mostly been computer parts on sale only and some other electronics like tv or keyboards.this is just one post of many in this particluar article,can you imagine nation or

The only guaranteed ways to remove all data from magnetic hard drives require special "hazmat" environments and involve harsh chemical and physical treatments such as sanding the oxide off the platters, acids, etc., then after that physically destroying the platters into very tiny pieces. Drilling holes in the drives will prevent most, but not all data recovery. Degaussing and overwriting do not guarantee 100% data removal. If you have sensitive data on your hard drive, the best policy when your hard drive goes bad is to buy a new one and forget about the warranty on the old one. Keep your old drive and use it for a doorstop or destroy it yourself.

Not everyone needs to use the most extreme measures to "clean" their hard drives. The degree of effort and technique needed for data destruction depend on the value and sensitivity of the data on the hard drive.

It would not be surprising to expect class-action lawsuits against retailers mentioned in this story.

I suggest a 2 pound sledge hammer, a powerful magnet, and maybe a tazer gun as means to destroy the hard drive. Zap and tap the thing, so no one gets hold of your data

Major companies like Best Buy should be held responsible for these kind of totally unacceptable "mishaps". Major companies like these will continue not to care about the consumer until we (the costumer's) show them that they will be held accountable for stupid mistakes that should'nt happen in the first place. That will take people starting to stand up for themselves and seeking legal action if necessary.

john q public these days dont even know what a hard drive is. but ... they probably have a friend somewhere, ... work, ... family, ... who is computer literate. if the info on the drive is very sensitive, your friend might be able to show you how to protect it without messing up the warrenty.

My personal advice is that one should should skip the computer store if you have a hard drive problem. With the number of people in the county who have the knowledge to replace a hard drive (a simple prodecure) it is easy to find someone who can do it. Ask your family or your co-workers, or the teenager down the street. Just go to the store, buy a new one, and have it installed at home. That way you know where the old one is.

My advice is to learn to install a hard drive your self, its quick and easy.

A lot of finger pointing going on here and certainly worth comment. I am a builder and refurbisher. I have purchased and/of accepted in bulk, used computers. In every case, my suppliers sent along an itemized list of computers with serial numbers (often mis-matched) and a request that I return a guarantee that the hard drive was stripped of data. I do not deal with wholesale brokers of parts. The Department of Defense has cleaning software that really digs deep and removes data on hard drives. It is the best I have found and is infrequently advertised on the internet. Fdisking is good but not good enough. Formatting does little. Undelete programs work "layer by layer". The demand that a hard drive be returned is for proof that the hard drive is faulty and to sort out customers who try to get something for nothing.Unless you have "license" for the software you install, that may be another reason the industry makes life uncomfortable. Know that. In most cases a faulty hard drive if a software problem caused by an unskilled user. Old and worn drives certainly fail after time. Drilling holes doesn't always destroy that part of the disk(s) that contain data. To make a long story short, have a cook out where it is safe to have a fire. Remove the circuit board anyway you can from the hard drive and then drop that drive over the flames and cherry that baby. This will destroy anything on those disks and that is where the data is. Hoping that you can retain your hard drive to do this. Never let it out of your hands if you know there is personal data that can be damaging.

Also consider: There is no guarantee for security. If you chose to enter the wonderful world of the mystic, expect problems somewhere, somehow and some way. Saving everything to a media (floppy, cd or alternate drive) remember, the actual computer and OS is looking at it too. Test this out. Read your bytes available on the hard drive then install a small game or program. Then remove that program and go back to your hard drive bytes available. Compare the numbers. Surprise ????

i doubt if this will be read by anyone, but its bears saying..

for starters, yes, best buy and all its analogs hire inexperienced people and yes, they all work off scripts. these are not planned scripts, but learned scripts. the employee goal is to either get rid of the customer who is upset, or pass them off to someone else. new employees watch the old ones do it and see that it works. this is a fault in training and hiring practices, not some corporate "big brother" program designed to con you out of anything.

white box builders as well as big box pushers both get the same deal. we make about $6 to $20 off a straight hard drive sale. we make between $40 to $100 off a full system build. with razor thin margins that barely cover sales staff costs, most service centers do practice abhorent repair policies, and no, 99% do not do anything to remove personal data from any media. bottom line, it costs too much in employee time, and we are consumers for the disposal industry. our contracts state that the drives are being shredded, magnetically seperated, and melted down for the recovery of the heavy metals and high grade metals present. (but god only knows how many minimum wage personel are handling this stuff en route)

top this off with (at least in tampa) a plauge of computer repair shops operate like shoddy auto repair garages, and there is a plethora of expenses incurred by the general public, unnecessarily. (read hard drive replacements for partition corruption, motherboard replacement for o/s failure, ram replacement for heat issues.. i could go on and on...)

in this case specifically, a) there was no way he could have known that his hard drive was to be replaced, needed or not. b) i doubt he had the technical knowledge or forsight to wipe his data c) if he had physically damaged his drive, it would not be under warranty. (and to several of the previous postings, shock in excess of 350g's means a fall from more than 8 inches on any side. they can tell if its been impacted) d) there were at least 2 companies, if not 3 involved in the handling and disposal of this peice of hardware. (so, anywhere between 2 and 16 people handled it directly, excluding shipping personel)

as someone who personally repairs 10 - 15 computers a day, a tech worth their paycheck can id a hardware failure within 5 minutes, they are obvious to the point of hilarity. and no, if it is under warranty, they can not give you back the old part. unless they are the original manufacturer, they have overhead they have to deal with. you as the consumer are passing off the responsibility and the COST to your supplier for the replacement. (the lack of a service charge should tell you that your data is not only forfeit, but up for grabs.)

if you were to come to me and want your defective warranty part back, i would give you the phone number and website of the manufacturer and tell you to do the warranty replacement yourself. (otherwise i lose 100% of my cost, and the system sale margin was nowhere near enough to cover that)

if you are looking for advice from this, learn to use the thing you own. if you can put together a 50 peice jigsaw puzzle, you can build your own computer. so far, my record (as a tech with 10+ years experience) for assembling a computer is 00:06:37. it was more difficult for me to assemble a bookshelf than my computer. everything only fits one way. the few things that can be connected backwards are CLEARLY marked, and the only part that requires any clarification is the button/led/usb hookup (since there really is no industry standard for labeling)

getting back to the point,
1) build your own computer, or have someone you trust do it.
2) know that anything you put on your hard drive can and will be seen by others.
3) back up all your data on removable media you have under lock and key.
4) see above, its not IF your hard drive fails, its WHEN your hard drive fails. most operate at a 25,000 hour lifespan. you do the math.

i've stated previously that most shops do not destroy hard drives. mine does. (and this is not a company policy, but one of those learned behaviors i spoke of earlier) we offer all customers all parts replaced that aren't warranty. most refuse. hard drives are my favorite, as i instituted this stress relief program. you see, we have many people who think that a 24 hour turnaround isn't good enough, and we have people that call us every 2 hours. (when we told them we would call them as soon as we knew anything) when we get a dead hard drive, whomever has had the worst day has the pleasure of taking it out back, smashing it against the concrete wall behind our shop till it shatters, and then burning it with a can of "dust off" till it is unrecognizable. there is nothing more satisfying than destroying something that we usually find so precious that we will work for hours trying to preserve.

next point, most techs in todays industry have been fed media crap about 115,000 new jobs in the tech industry. then they find themselves 15,000 - 30,000 in debt for their training and certs, only to find a supersaturated environment. making 28,000 a year is tough enough in any situation, let alone one where you are automatically compared to used car salesmen and credit card companies. (in terms of trying to take advantage of people)

as long as most companies hire underqualified personel and the industry as a whole underpays its staff, people will be looking for a way to make a buck on the side. that is where the problem lies. trace this situation to its root, and that is where it will be solved. untill then, keep your personal data on a USB drive. if it fails, smash it with a hammer and buy a new one.

If you're worried about your hard drive, just let it sit in some water for about 24 hours and then drill a few holes in it. Or take is apart and scrape the crap out of it, on both sides. A theif isn't going to waste time on your hard drive if it has holes in it. He is going to move on to the next one. Also, you show NEVER purchase computers from retail stores such as Best Buy. Buy your computer direct. You will get a better deal and the computer isn't as likely to break. On top of that, to complete destroy your hard drive, worry-free, burn the thing to a nice puddle-o-metal OR just don't give it away and keep the small box in your house. K?

First, as a reseller sales rep for both large and small companies over a period of twenty plus years, I can state with authority (as having worked in many of these companies over the years) that virtually ALL OF THE MAJOR COMPANIES mentioned above (BestBuy, CompUSA, Fry's Electronics, Insight, OfficeMax, Staples, and many more) routinely take "broken" items returned by customers and simply reshrink wrap the items being returned and place it back onto the shelf for resale.
I saw it happen in front of me just last week at a local OfficeMax in Mesa, AZ in the front of the store at the customer service department, but it's a common practice throughout the state of Arizona.

Second, many of the larger manufacturers do exactly the same thing, including Dell and Gateway. If you don't believe me, simply read the fine print in their warranties which state that your brand new product purchased may include used or refurbished parts brought back to factory new specs. In most cases, that means (at most) a re-format of your hard drive and reboxed for shipment.

Third, it's not uncommon at all for some customers to purchase a PC, use it for a few weeks for a particular project, and then return it asking for a full refund.

Of course by then your copy of Windows XP has already been registered under somebody else's name once you re-purchase the "new" PC and you get to fight Microsoft over whether or not your "new" PC is actually running a legit copy of Windows.

Everybody always wants to think that they got a really great deal at Walmart, Fry's, BestBuy, OfficeMax, Staples, etc. that nobody else can touch, but ask yourself a simple question.

Since most of these outfits run huge storefronts 7 days a week (adding cost) plus run 2 separate sales staffs (to man the stores from 8AM to 9PM most days, again adding costs) how in the world do you really expect them to make a profit if they don't cut corners somewhere and still offer the lowest pricing available anywhere on the planet?

Most of these huge corporations don't buy direct from the manufacturers (regardless of what their $8.00 an hour sales clerks tell you), they buy from the same multi-billion dollar PC distributors that your local little PC dealer down the street does (distributors that you probably never heard of because they don't sell to end-users, only dealers).

You probably already know a small PC reseller outfit near you already, it's usually who you call to pick their brains about what to buy in the first place before ordering it from the national chain selling used parts as new for a few dollars less.

As your mother told you years ago, if the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Sadly for millions of consumers, many national chains count on stupidity and greed in their customer base, counting on another age old truth, you know the old about one born every minute...

fUcK Best Buy

I e-mailed this to Bob earlier tonight: I am glad he found the time to continue posting our concerns (he needs to add spell check to these blogs)

This is my e-mail to Bob:

You stopped posting comments on this Red Tape at 4:39 June 5th. This is a very important Red Tape article. If you cut off all of the concerns and comments, you are doing your Red Tape Chronicles an injustice. I, and I hope I can speak for others that have been burned by these stores and companies, need to express to the American public that we are aware of the cheating and are put into PRIVACY DANGER by the malpractices of the businesses we trusted. I feel that we need to go to the private sector (mom and pop) dealers that understand privacy and respect, consumers without being cheated by the larger dealers that only care about their commissions and profits.

Charles D. Brown
Gattuso Brown Computer Systems

After this e-mail I have seen more replies to this blog, and I hope this is continued for however long it takes to get our government to pass a law to insure that old HDD's are wiped and/or destroyed. HDD's are and can be reusableif they are properly secured!!!! Also, you people that have issues with warranty issues dealers need to make sure that you have the proof that you have had your information wiped/destroyed before leaving your HDD with that dealer. E-mail me and I will advise you on how to protect your by that company, or do it yourself

Charles D. Brown
Gattuso Brown Computer Systems

As a public service, I'd advise everyone to use Darik's Boot and Nuke free bootable cd that will wipe your hard disk securely. Use the seven pass wipe (which is a Department of Defense standard) before donating/recycling your hard disk or computer.

As a POOR IT guru, I have seen hundereds of "dead" hard drives come in the door, most are not dead and most have personal data on them. I quit trying to return data to people after being stalked by "little old lady" after offering to burn and send all of her stuff back to her from a hard drive that her "tech" told her was dead. Remember that many people do not have the money to have computers at all. To those of us who horde parts and build machines for the less fortunate, the destruction of harddrive or RAM means that someone will NOT be bettering themselves with a PC. EDUCATE YOURSELVES and learn to deal with the basics of computing, you did with the car you drive, why not the puter you drive? Wipe that drive yourself and offer it to someone that will make it a valued tool for a poor neighbor.

Is everybody here braindead? You cannot wipe a hard drive if it is physically broken. And if it isn't physically broken, then it wouldn't be replaceable under warranty in the first place.

Consequently, the problem at hand -- a physically broken drive that cannot be accessed without mechanical repair -- cannot be solved by using any kind of utilities to wipe your data.

Furthermore, if you suspect that the drive is physically broken and then drill holes in it or smash the platters with a hammer in anticipation that it will get replaced under warranty, then you have just voided your warranty. Way to go.

Thus, what it comes down to is knowing whether or not a hard drive is only logically damaged (repairable by reformatting and reinstalling your OS) or indeed physically damaged (repairable only by replacement of components if repairable at all).

Yet, most people would not be able to tell the difference, they will need to trust whatever their retailer tells them. This is the crux of the problem.

The only way to solve this 100% is to have a process by which the faulty hard drive is returned to the customer. If the policies do not allow this, then there will always be the risk that the store is lying to customers about what's really broken and hard drives that are salvageable are being replaced, which then bears the risk that the data on it falls into the wrong hands.

Consequently, if you don't think you can trust the shop and its staff 100%, then you may want to either forfeit the warranty and pay for the replacement drive, or make sure you have no sensitive data on any drive replaced under warranty, either by not storing such date on the drive in the first place, or by encrypting all your sensitive data for storage which at least makes it very difficult for anybody else to get to it.

As a computer repair technician for my own small home based company I will sometimes be asked to do warranty work for some of the bigger companies if they cannot send a technician out. When handling a drive that is clearly defective the drive is completely purged of data before I send it to the host company. Personally this does not surprise me after dealing with American tourists with laptops from Bestbuy. Just because you think the hard disk may be gone doesn’t mean it is, and a lot of those companies are too quick to install a new drive. Personally, your best defense is a pen and a piece of paper. I tell all my customers to keep as little of that information on their computer as possible. I know in some cases you can’t, but in most instances it does not belong there.

As for hard disks I fix that are not under warranty? I personally remove the plates and burn them. They cannot get the data when it is ashes in the bottom of my wood stove.

Look, its a Maxtor! ...I hate Maxtor's.

God, It just gets scarier and scarier...I have never trusted Best Buy anyway and refuse to shop there. What I do know, is one sure fire way to destroy the hard drive is....put it in the microwave for 30 seconds, that'll do it.

Well you can either burn the darn things. Or like i have done before for my personal one take it apart and shred the disks.

If the idiot had SUCH important info and he owned two homes one being in Florida which is a very expensive place to live why didn't he just buy a new harddrive at Wal-Mart for $50 and keep the 'crashed' one???????????

Even if warranty is free why take a chance over such little cash in his case?

This is another story of the comsumer being an idiot and not protecting himself. It is not the worlds job to baby everyone.

I do all my computer work myself. Being an avid computer programmer/repairman i can tell you that any place other than a person whom you know personally will 99% of the time rip you off. Most stores with the acceptiom of a few, have incopotent people working there simply because they have the paperwork to back that person up. In the computer world most of the truly "good" guys have no paperwork behind then yet will give you a true awnser to the problem, and could normally when set next to a man with papers run circles around him.

In response to the harddrive files, reformatting and overwriting several times but even then there are tools to get the data back tools the average joe dosent have but none the less are ou there. As for hitting it with a hammer, the tech department of the us govt and probably a few computer gurus can still reassemblr the shattered disks and retrieve the information. Bottom line with the right tools, informstion put on a computer will ALWAYS be there you just have to know how or where to look for it.

The Geek Squad is a joke. Don't waste your time with them. Don't take a chance with them. If you are going to spend $120 per hour hire a professional with years of experience. Don't throw your money away on a high-schooler getting paid one-tenth of that fee...

Well well well, this is an interesting thread.

The best thing to do with a failed harddrive is as follows:

1. Dismantle hard drive.
2. Remove platters.
3. Melt platters down.

This is what I do for a failed drive, or a drive that contains data that I don't what ANYONE getting ahold of. Plus, this is the only real secure way of doing it.

For a drive that still functions, use a HD wiping utility on it. Something like a 50x overwrite with random data and then zero it out works pretty good. Unless somone want's to spend some big money on data recovery, they are not going to get that data back.

Degaussing a drive will render the drive unusable, so that would go back to the 3 step destruction method listed above.

If your hard disk does "crash", a disk wiping program won't work on it. A drive that is not working cannot be wiped. If you think you are going into any store with a battery powered drill and drill holes in a hard drive they replace under warranty you are sadly mistken. I'd have you arrested if you tried this in my store. Want your old drive (and its contents) back? Purchase a new drive and have an independent technician install it and hand you the old drive back. Then take the old drive home and take a hammer or a drill or sand blast it or whatever. All this should cost you much more than what you paid for the computer to begin with. (cost of hard drive + Labor to remove and reinstall at $60/hour + reinstalling operating system and programs at $60/hour) If you shop around, you can find a hard drive for about 50 cents per gigabyte on average. replacing a hard drive is a matter of taking the side panel of the computer, removing 4 screws and unplugging 2 plugs (data and power). then reverse the procedure. It's not rocket science. Then you have to reinstall the operating system and programs. Everyone should learn to do this. If you use the internet, windows needs to be reinstalled fresh about every 6 months. Thats the easiest way to get rid of the garbage (cookies, temp files, porn photos, ad ware, spy ware, etc) that collects on everyones hard drive. A computer, just like a car needs periodic maintenance for safety and performance.

I will never send a HDD back even if under warrantee.

the best way to protect your data is to melt the drive.

never save crucial info on your HDD, you are meant to save that on your flash disk, "it's easier to loose it and for other people to use your info against you..."

This is a very frightening story.
A friend of mine ended up putting his old drive in his "charcoal chimeney" (its used for starting a pile of charcoal ablaze for your grill).
He "fired up" his old hard drive.
Bet that made the info totally unusable. He said he doesn't even trust the "drill holes in it" routine.
He said if they want the info bad enough they can still get it.
After reading this article I guess its barbeque time for my used hard drives from now on.

Thanfully this person thought it to be important enough to contat Mr.Gerbus about what he found. Thankful we all should be to of even have the opportunity to read this story and know that when our under warranty computers crash and harddrives get replaced that these kind of things happen to honest people everyday. If companies know these things are going to happen, like holes get drilled through them then the company should have policies in place to protect the consumer after all if it wasn't for consumers places like best buy wouldn't exsist. Maybe we need legislation past on computer repairs, or computer warranty fixes that assure the consumer on harddrive failures that there information which they can't retrieve or destroy on there be insured by the retailer at the retailers expense. Maybe this will discourage false statements like we destroy them. Someone needs to pay for this be it the retailer or the ones handing down the orders on how situations like this are handled cause until someone pays the price this will keep happening again and again an someone is going to get there identity stolen. People don't realize, but once the damage is done it takes forever to clear it up and lots of legal expenses at the consumers expense for corporate americas wrong doings. Whistle blowing isn't doing something wrong when companies steal,cheat and abuse consumer trust to obtain a bigger profit.


I suggest we all get on a letter writing, emailing or phone calling campaign to Best Buy. A $250 gift card for Mr. Gerbus does not an ethical business make. Best Buy needs to step up and do the RIGHT THING. Is this so hard, Best Buy?

Best Buy has several routes for customers who have privacy concerns according to their website:
1-888-BestBuy, email, or write:
Best Buy
ATTN: Privacy Manager
PO Box 9421
Minneapolis, MN 55440

Their Chairman/Founder is Richard M. Schulze. I'm sure if you were to look him up on say,, in MN where Best Buy is based, you'd find him and a way to tell him of your outrage at such violation of privacy matters.

Shame on you Best Buy, and your insensitive way of handling a such a violation of privacy and trust.

I suggest we all get on a letter writing, emailing or phone calling campaign to Best Buy. A $250 gift card for Mr. Gerbus does not an ethical business make. Best Buy needs to step up and do the RIGHT THING. Is this so hard, Best Buy?

Best Buy has several routes for customers who have privacy concerns according to their website:
1-888-BestBuy, email, or write:
Best Buy
ATTN: Privacy Manager
PO Box 9421
Minneapolis, MN 55440

Their Chairman/Founder is Richard M. Schulze. I'm sure if you were to look him up on say,, in MN where Best Buy is based, you'd find him and a way to tell him of your outrage at such violation of privacy matters.

Shame on you Best Buy, and your insensitive way of handling a such a violation of privacy and trust.

F--- Best Buy!!! I won't go there for repairs ever, not after this, but I admit they do have some deals, sometimes, like on used tvs and multi pack cds hahahahahahah!!!lol there are better places out there for hard drives , just plug it in your self its not that hard , all that energy this man spent on getting his story heard could have been spent on learning how to re-intall windows on a blank hard drive to his system, you know how these guys are don't trust anybody with any sensitive info. its common sense!!

The Best Buy guys are probably kicking themselves right now for not hooking the man up with some more free stuff , now deal with the backlash and negative publicity!!! Of which could possibly cost Best Buy Millions and Millions HAHAHAHAAHAAH I love it when big corporations have to pay big bucks!!!!

Even "wiping" a drive can be useless. Quick formats, unconditional low level formats only destroy partition information. Use those if you plan on using the drive again. There are many programs available that are used for data recovery. (most are free downloads). There is one I have that is on a bootable floppy. As a test, I used a small drive, loaded a file, formated it several times. (yes even low level) I was successfully able to restructure the partition information and recover the file. I used to work for CompUSA. I can agree with the person that spoke of If you absolutley have to keep the drive intact for warranty reasons, USE A KILL DISK. you can find them anywhere. Kill disks write all ones, or zeros, to the entire drive thus overwriting any information on it. Should a data recovery program be used, all that will be visible will be ones or zeros. Otherwise, keep the drive or destroy it yourself. Its the best way to keep your personal stuff from ending up somewhere else. CHEERS!

As much as this incident bothers me, it does make me happy that 'Ed' did the right thing and contacted the former owner instead of exploiting the data. Congrats to Ed for knowing and choosing the right thing to do, something that has become rare in our society.

Its that most of you buy a redundant warranty when you purchase your machines. The best bet you have is to find an inexpensive local cumputer tech or store and have them basically provide safety solutions for you.

Your getting India or who knows where for phone support with most major brands. Don't buy into the corporate BS your presented and go with a local boy or girl and when you actually need them, they will be there and have you fixed quickly.

They wouldn't refuse to let you keep your own hard drive either, because after all they actually want your business.

I think I liked it better when pen and paper was the preferred method of storing information. If the pen broke, you got a new one. If you ran out of paper, you bought more. If you wanted to destroy the info, you shredded it or tore it up and soaked it in water, or whatever.... Best Buy, and all the other companies that expect us to believe them as we hand over our computers for repairs, should wonder what happens to their store hard drives when their systems are updated. I bet they'd be yelling louder then anyone else if they thought their information was resold. I'm not fond of lawyers, but in a case like this, maybe a lawsuit is what is needed to grab their attention and make them do the right thing.

A few years ago my husband bought a ‘NEW’ scanner at Best Buy. When I opened it, it still had a picture of a child in it. Someone had ‘returned’ it to Best Buy. The instruction booklet was missing so I took it back. When I asked them about the ‘USED’ scanner being sold as ‘NEW’ they told me everything they sell ‘USED’ is clearly marked, this “one” just must have been accidentally missed. I just wonder how many other items they sell as NEW, are ‘accidentally

Best Buy scammed me just two days ago. I purchased a Vonage Service from them, seemingly brand new and unopened product. Purchased it for my restaurant/bar. Tried and tried to get it to work, but with no avail. I have Vonage at home and had it operating within minutes, but couldn't get this one to work. After spending 45 minutes with Vonage tech support on my cell phone, they told me that the serial number had already been registered and the adapter was useless to me. When I tried to return it to Best Buy, they said that I could not exchange or even get a refund. I argued with the clerk for 5 minutes and finally got a manager involved but he told me the same thing. After I threatened to get authorities involved for fraud, they finally refunded a portion of the price and it was on a Best Buy gift card, only redeemable for product, not cash. After I spend the measly gift card amount in Best Buy, I think Circuit City will be getting my business from now on. They price match anything and I get great products and service there.

First let me start by saying that ALL customers sign a paper that states on rule #10 or 11, depending on what month this all happened, that Best Buy is NOT responsible for data, media, etc... You may find a couple of employees that will hold hands and walk you through each rule, but in the end it was signed.

Anyway, from what I’ve read the employee was right to say that you can not get the HD back and that the HD will be destroyed by having holes drilled in it. It seems the store did everything correctly but somewhere down the road someone stole the item and sold it at a flee market. One way to make sure the employee at the store was correct is to bring the HD back in and have them run a test on it to make sure it's bad. That would eliminate one factor. This was a result of employee theft which happens at every company/business out there. Instead of blaming the company we should be asking for the person that stole the HD to begin with.

Here’s a tip regarding data on HD’s. Keep in mind that when you delete something it is still sitting there, but it’s marked as open space on your HD. Eventually, after you have installed or added enough data you will overwrite that open space. It is at this point that you can NOT get your data back. There is software that will do this all for you. Also drilling holes in the plates makes the plates and the drive unusable unless you’re a NASA engineer with the capability of reconstructing the plate with no seams.

There is no need to burn, crush, drill holes, or anything of the sort. Getting a program that formats (erases all data) then rewrites data then repeats over and over again will DELETE all data off the drive the onlything to even TRY to get it back would be dusting the disk which would cost so much money that your identity would be erelevent.There is no need to burn, crush, drill holes, or anything of the sort. Getting a program that formats (erases all data) then rewrites data then repeats over and over again will DELETE all data off the drive the only thing to even TRY to get it back would be dusting the disk which would cost so much money that your identity would be way to much work then its worth. Don’t be scared be Smart!
Drilling holes in a hard disk……Stupid doesn’t even sound right, You could still get data off.
Sending disk through data stripping program, then sending disks to an electronic boosted magnet. Smart

Try This get a CD-R Fill the disk with data. Drill a couple of holes in it clean off shavings put in drive you will still some small amount of data off it.

Get another disk and do the same thing, but instead of drilling holes in it put it in the microwave for a sec or two. (not recommended as it might bake your microwave) This will be equal to a Electronic boosted magnet. Ha, Now! Find out how much data you can get off that disk.

Myself I open the hard drive case apart unbolt the disk from the spindle and using a bench grinder I grind the disk to dust.No reconstruction here.I had a network server crash for the company and I did this to all ten drives.Of course I had my backups.

Minimum wage waiters are sometimes gone for ten minutes because they're busy and maybe don't want you to feel rushed, want you to enjoy your dessert, drinks, etc. Yes, they could have stolen your information. Just as much as anybody could. i get your point. You've kept track of all of your purchases, right? AND will contact your bank when suspicious activity presents itself, right? There is a HUGE difference between the info that you choose to collect on your hard drive and the info that you charge in THE INDUSTRY...Okay, Paris? Love, SERVER.

i too have been boycotting best buy because when i brought my cd changer, that i had purchased there,to be serviced under the warranty. the cds were getting jammed inside. when i got it back they had not fixed the problem. two more times this happened before i asked for my money back. all they offered was store credit. total incompetence.

I don't mind seeing the bashing of retailers with service problems, but when you stack the deck, Best Buy is better than CC, Sears, HH, Fry's, the whole lot. I have had times when the service has not been exceptional, but when 75% of my visits are better than any other retailer can offer, I will take the chance with BBY any day. Non-commission, their employees do try their best, and I find their Geek Squad to be very knowledgable. I guess this whole Blog speaks to the fact that there are over 1000 BBY stores out there, and the leadership in some of them stinks. I will trust my local team here anyday with my products and services. Mistakes happen all the time, let BBY and other retailers learn from this and improve their business.

Stories like this is why I build my own systems. Granted it might be a bit more expensive buying the individual parts rather than having it built for me, but in case of any problems i.e. a hard drive crash - I deal with the manufacturer of the hard drive themself instead of going through a third party (Best Buy)... if the drive really is crashed and it's within warranty (most brand new drives come with either a 3 or 5 year warranty - I prefer Maxtor), I know for a fact that the manufacturer will be properly destroying the drive - data or not on it.

I work in law enforcement as a network tech, when we need to get rid of harddrives we have two methods, the first is a magnet that we use to erase floppy's, voice or video tapes then 'ole betsy" a 22 lb sledge. Just as good as a drill but also a great stress reliever.

Best Buy has been BUSTED several times stealing computer parts from systems in for service.

(example) You bring in a computer for a new Hard drive....and you expensive video card was replaced with a cheaper one.

Or some RAM is missing, sound card downgraded, etc.

Makes me wonder how many used parts they use in repaired systems.

I had a somewhat similiar experience purchasing a display model G3 iMac at a Best Buy. The salesperson insisted that display models were new apart from moderate use of customers in the store (which accounted for its discount price). But after the purchase I was alarmed to discover that the iMac had already been registered in someone else's name. When I told this to a store clerk she insited that this was impossible because what I was describing was illegal.

While there is some disagreement on Mr Gerbus' responsibility for his drive, there is no disagreement on how pathetic Best Buy is. And it started long before this article!

It's the reason I don't buy Dell, Compaq or any name brand PC's anymore. If my hard drives go out I change it - Not rocket science to swap out a hard drive in a off brand PC. Toss it in the garabage or drill it full of holes or do it in the mircowave for a minute and put in a new one- like changing a flat.. Don't be sucked in to Best Buy or Dell or any of the name brand PC bullshit on warrenty - It is all about making them money.

Best Buy has repeatedly ignored or care about Consumer's protection. They just care about making money and it shows from the type of customer service they offer. They hire inadequate support and the company culture is like a bunch of ravenous salesman who want nothing but have you spend thousands. $250 in gift certificates for a huge mistake like that? It isn't acceptable and we need to demand better service as Consumer.

From a UK resident.
1/. Never ever pass your hard drive to someone else.
2/. Never store credit card etc info on a hard drive.
What is the price of a big HD? $125? So simply buy yourself a new one and destroy the old one. (Take it into the back yard and put into the incinerator/shoot it/crush/hammer it.) If you don't have a yard go to your local garage and stand and watch while the mechanic takes an acetylene welding torch to it and cuts it in half. Cost say £5 or $7.50?

Note the term: "Advanced Tecqniques." Use all of the destrctive software you want, but degaussing, with a ten pound fishing magnet, could have avoided a slew of problems.

Note the term: "Advanced Tecqniques." Use all of the destrctive software you want, but degaussing, with a ten pound fishing magnet, could have avoided a slew of problems.

I think one solution to the problem is for people to learn how to replace computer parts. After all each computer comes with an instruction manual. Even on how to replace the simplest to what we would consider the hardest computer parts. And some are just pull this out and put this one in. Too there are many tutorials online that will help you in doctoring on your own computer and replacing software for different type computers. Which makes you responsible for the disposable of the failed part. And those of you who don't have warranties should think about this as well before you take your computers to repair shops and what have you. Because you shouldn't trust repair shops with personal information that may still be on the failed hard drive even if they may return it to you. Many repairmen know how to access this data after all they are working on your computer and are the experts right?

Understand data is a terrible thing left on these drives. Someone said microsoft should bundle disk wiping utilities with windows, but our government would not like that because then forensic analysis of computers would be nearly impossible.

I was reading quite a few of these articles and now its shocking that this sordof thing takes place.. Like one person said until it happends too someone in Congress proably nothing will be done about this.. Even though its a sad thing!! Our government should be in more tuned with these things... Its bad enough that the illegal immigrants are now using peoples social security numbers.. When will the government wake up!!! I hope the best for the man whos hard drive was taken and that he is able too do somthing about this.. What will be next??? Identity theft is a federal offense and action should be taken too such people who do them.. Its just another thing that our government doesnt seem too care about.. Its crazy now reading that when you buy a computer or electronics you are not safe.

The importance of physically destroying your obsolete and non working hard drives led me to start my company (info video on web site). Our product, the HDC physically destroys a hard drive in 10 seconds. If you do not have access to the HDC, use a sledgehammer!

Folks, it's not just Best Buy. I purchased a PC (one of the few that I didn't build my self) from a local shop/builder.

I took the PC home and it would not turn on. Service techs at the store said it worked fine. I had to fiddle with it to get it to work at home, but overall it seemed OK. Then the HD died. It was replaced under warranty and when I picked it up a loose screw was heard bouncing around the case before I left the shop, they lost my driver CD (they claimed I had not brought it in after they said it was needed for the OS re-install).

I have worked in the automotive and marine repair industry for around 20 years and in the computer industry for close to a decade.

Bottom line: It is easy for folks with less than stellar skills to become employed or self employed. Some of these folks are able get it right enough often enough to stay employed for their whole career.

I have two crased hard drives which I have kept for so long because I am hoping to find a technology with which to retrieve the highly valuable infos in them.I wasn't keeping them because I feared it might get into someone else's hands.However this news helped me in several ways:I'm glad I kept them;now I know how to destroy them if I chose to; moreover, discovering there are technologies that can retrieve infos from crashed hard drives is good news.

I think Best Buy should be violated in the same manner. Let them get a taste of this sweet apple!

I will now be shopping at Frys or circuit city!

Best Buy won't even give mr. gerbus identity theft insurance! Best Buy makes enough money to pay for it!

A $250.00 gift card is a slap in the face, to any one reading the article who may have shopped at Best Buy before or in the future.

And I'm sure he would have to wait 8 weeks to get a gift card from them. As I have in in the past.

Asking the government to help is like giving your hard drive to a felon convicted of idenity theft. I suggest you try a class action law suit.
At least then you stand a chance and it would be a lot quicker.

Someone struck a nerve here! BEST BUY just bought itself a billion dollars of bad publicity and earned itself the BONEHEAD AWARD of the year. Its CEO should be blowing his stack over this one.

As to the hard drive problem, I understand that most pc users cannot deal with such a problem themselves, but all of the non-techies should consider backing up their drives on DVD, and NEVER accepting a warranty repair if it means replacement of their hard drive. They should BUY a new drive in every case, and RETAIN the original drive just like they would paper records. Most drives a non-techie might use can be purchased for $ 50 or less today. Do the math for your situation.

Might I suggest the "best (place to) buy" a hard drive is TIGER DIRECT.

For the record, I have no affiliation with either Best Buy or with Tiger Direct, but venture to suggest all shoppers of BEST BUY will be happier buying their computer related items from the TIGER.


I use to work for a technical center, and they don't destroy the hard-drives, they refurbish them. Its a disgrace to the industry that these people don't demagnetize or just format the harddrive to destroy data. This is good for the consumers, which has disposes their cheap practices and greed. If the drive was under warranty, just why didn't they send it back to the manufacture?

Worst buy--They push the warranty scam on us:
I also had my computer fixed and someone was using
my email address for several months in another part of the country:
They are almost as bad as walmart:
boycott Best Buy and go to Sears an American Store

Worst buy--They push the warranty scam on us:
I also had my computer fixed and someone was using
my email address for several months in another part of the country:
They are almost as bad as walmart:
boycott Best Buy and go to Sears an American Store

Had this same problem (used drive with other person's infor on it) when I purchased a supposedly NEW computer in 1999 directly from Gateway! When it crashed and I saw the other person's info, I immediately called Gateway and they replaced it with another USED hard drive!! My husband surprised me with another supposed new Gateway in 2005 from CompUSA, and it also has a used hard drive! Called Gateway and they would not even speak to me since the computer also has a version of Windows XP that cannot be confirmed as valid! Can't someone do something about these problems? When I buy something new, I expect it to be NEW .. not used. I think something should be done to protect the consumer. Where is the Consumer Fraud Unit of the Attorney General Office .. guess they are sleeping.

While at authorised compaq service center, I used to inform our clients about the spare parts and the faulty-one being sent to QC. For a few smile , I used to intentionally drop the HDD on the floor and then kick it, so that the customer is pleased about the life line of the faulty hard drive.

GOODNESS sake,,this was in 1996...I pity Mr.Hanks Gergus

It seems if one wishes to keep data secure he or she should also worry about hackers and theives. Perhaps a better approach is to install a decent encryption program and encrypt all personal data. If the PC or drive fall into the wrong hands, have fun trying to read the data!

Computer systems of the present day are still not secure enough and no number of passwords or encryption will ensure that your data does not fall into the wrong hands. If your system contains any sensitive data and your hard disk requires replacement, it is best if you forego your warranty and purchase a new drive. The old drive should be properly disposed of using an angle grinder combined with an industrial strength magnet. This is exactly what the Tax Department does - drives are fully obliterated to ensure that nothing short of a devine intervention will allow data recovery. BE WARNED!

there is a new program called PORN-GUARD 4.2 while it doesn't protect other sensitive information from being compromised it does add a extra layer of protection for your valuable porn.

Just sue the bastards! They should know better!

There needs to be severe penalties for companies who treat security this lightly. Maybe a large class action lawsuit would set the stage forcing many companies to protect you data.

-- I am sure that their internal policy for disposing of their own corporate data and hard drives protects their data. The fact is that they dont care! And no one will care about your data more than you. It is not worth the measly cost of a hard drive to put your data at risk!! I wouldnt even let a store troubleshoot my PC. These people are computer geeks and love getting at data!

Smash the disk drive into pieces and deposit the peices in many different locations so that no one can pull data off of it!

I find it scary that there are so many dumbass people. Use Norton Wipedisk and while your at it learn how to spell


What some are forgetting to realize is that some people only know how to turn on their pc's and nothing else. My parents depend on me to do the upgrades and everything. My mom don't know what's what and somedays its just as easy to do it myself then explain it. Not all of "us" that own computers know what even defragment means or my mom didn't even know to update Windows. Doesn't mean they are stupid or otherwize, just means sometimes it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

As far as the harddrive thing, let Bill Gates get wind of this and by winter he will come up with something by bootable cd or floppy to do what most don't have the knowledge for. "GO BILL" lol.

Best Buy and other business' for that matter are not doing anything that they havn't already been doing for years. Unfortunatly, its free enterprize after it hits ebay or wherever. Food for thought ever here of employee theft, it happens everyday. How in the hell are you to stop an employee from taking a used hard drive out of a store, ex: no security sticker. They take the info the need and then sell it. It seems to be the american thing now a days.

That is so scary with the harddrives from best buy..i know years ago Future shop was charged with selling refurbished parts in their supposely brand new systems...take out new..put in old....but then buy and future shop are 1 company...different names....

Did the majority of you fail English Writing in school!?!?! WOW!! I can't believe the quality of the writing I've just read in these posts. Makes me wonder about the ability of people to be educated in America. It fits right in with buying tech products from an under-educated salesperson at Best Buy. I hear stories now-and-then about how Best Buy uses un-ethical business practices, especially towards women. You should remember - Expecting quality tech knowledge from Best Buy is not much different than going to Wal-Mart for expert home remodeling advice. Don't let some 17 to 19 year kid (adult) push you around the next time you go to Best Buy.

It is a very easy process to remove the hard drive cover, bend the crap out of the platters, and break the read arm. Ain't nobody reading that drive when I am done with it. Been doing this for 20 years. I have always been paranoid about any of my HD's falling into anyone else's hands.....and I have done this for many others as well....can't be to careful.

This is absolutely frightening stuff. Not only are my own personal info there and that of my family but I use a Palm Treo 650 and all my friends and colleagues (My Contacts) are listed there. Why did Best Buy need to keep a hard drive which had crashed? If my computer crashes, I will take the hard drive onto my driveway, and smash it. I don't need it repaired. It is less frightening to simply buy another computer than to be sitting and wondering if someone is accessing your savings or retirement accounts or spamming your Contact list.

I've heard of many instances like that at Best Buy too, yet they get so much business there. My dad had a computer which he bought there, and after 6 or 7 times the computer fried up in a year, and being under warrenty (with a "no lemon" clause), they did finally replace the computer for free. The only catch with it too though is that the "no lemon" clause is that it gets replaced for free on the 3rd time it's having to be worked on for a warrenty issue.

I have spot read several comments and have to agree with most there is no customer service at Best Buy and many discrepencies or outright lies.

I'll never buy from Best Buy again!

I had a similar experience with geek squad last week... I took my computer in because it wouldn't boot, and I figured since I had purchased their extended warranty I might as well bring it in. They wanted to replace the hard drive and charge me $220 to reload the original software and "optimize" it. I was shocked! I took it home to fix it myself (thank god... who knows where my hd would have end up). It took me 25 minutes to recover the damaged registry file and I was up and running.

Thanks for the info. Am about ready to get rid of a computer. Now I know what to do. Take the hard drive out and keep it.

My unsuspecting wife, who should never buy electronics, surprised me a couple of years ago with a laptop we could take to Europe the night before we left. She purchased it at Best Buy (Clearwater, FL). After trying to use it, we found it to be already registered to someone else and loaded with viruses. Those nice people at Best Buy really saw her coming.

Guys, Best Buy is a large company that has been widely praised by consumer agencies and the investment community. While they strive for 100% quality every time, there is a human factor here. Any company that size is going to have some complaints - the integrity of the company is shown in how they respond to those complaints. Can we blame an entire corporation or assume this is happening company-wide when it is much more likely that one, single person working for the company went outside proper procedure or another dishonest person intercepted the shipment? I have no sympathy for someone who has a complaint & never lets the right people in the corporate office know about it. I'm certain they will respond fairly to Mr. Gerbus.


All this Boo Hooing over something as simple as someone failing to protect themselves is ridiculous. This, unfortunately, is a testament to the culture shift that has taken place in this country over the past 50 years transplanting individual responsibility onto the backs of government or businesses. Individuals have a responsibility to protect themselves by doing whatever it takes, (i.e.: hammers, drills, magnets, specialty software, guns, knives, a note from your mother). Nobody else is responsible for you or what belongs to you except for you so do not depend on anyone or anything else to handle that chore. If you do, then you deserve what you get.

Lesson: DON'T go to Best Buy.

Any questions?

I am surprised that if this hardrive was defective it was sold to anyone. Seems Best Buy performed possible a uneeded repair. Replacing a hardrive should be a last resort kinda thing. Not only does it cause people to lose their data but may also cause other more severe problems such as identity theft.


Worst buy, that's the place you never want to go, I boycotted them about a year ago for being stupid one too many times, I have 6 old hardrive from old computers that I have, I guess it's time I destroy them after this story.

I was told a story of a local family purchasing a "new" computer from Best Buy and when they got it home and turned it on it had alraedy been register to someone and was full of porn. Best Buy said they had no idea how this happened of course.

If you typed it on your keyboard, surfed it or opened it, it is on your hard drive. No amount of wiping, magnet passing, hammering, drilling, submerging, reformatting or other processing completely removes the data. Your data can be gotten from the ashes of your hard drive. Only professional shredding (documented and controlled delivery with certification) under secure control (DOD standards) sends your data to demise compliant with pollution laws. There are very few of us doing that service. My company doesn't advertise and doesn't even have a listed phone number for security reasons. You can dream all you want with your frustation solutions, but computers are a huge security problem. The fix lies in getting OS that records nothing to the HD, which your government (and MS) would oppose in a heartbeat. So, while you were reading the above entires, your computer was attacked at least three times (statistically) by malware! Welcome to the world wide web!!

It's not just hard drives they give information out on. My company purchased 113 of their store return computers, and while they removed the hard drives, they left on origional invoices, customer names, phone numbers, method of payment etc. When trying to contact Best Buy, there was absolutely no concern on their part.

With the price of hard drives falling below $100 it doesn't make sense to exchange one that fails under warranty. Unfortunatly, to comply with most warranties the companies require you to return the old drive and some companies, such as HP and Compaq, encrypt the boot sector so an aftermarket drive won't function correctly in their machines. The best way I've found to destroy a failed hard drive is to open it up, remove the platters and beat them with a five pound maul.

I purchased a Maxtor external hard drive just to store pictures and music on from Best Buy. I transferred all my data the day I bought it, then the next day the hard drive quit working. Now I wonder who is looking at all my pictures.

For this very reason, two years ago when I had a drive fail on a Best Buy computer, I refused to allow them to dispose of the drive. Since we were at an impasse, they finally conceded to sell me a new drive at cost (which they then installed), and gave me my old drive back. True, it was poor that I had to pay for the drive, but after reading all of this, $125 was a small price to pay for piece of mind.

Comp USA does the same thing, Except they send your computer out of state to get it repaired, they do not even fix them in house any more.

Had similar problem with Best Buy. Thought I was buying new laptop, paid full price, got it home and it was used. Best Buys response, well things happen. How many others have not found these problems. I think this company needs to be investigated. How many of the returns do the restock to save money.

Neodymium at any craft store, will completely spazz the magnetic coating and has hundreds of other useful if not tacky applications around the house.

Microsoft, doesn't make hardware......also MS does provide a FREE tool called wipe! Its up to you to protect yourself at all cost! I think this guy tried, but there are two problems here, one is the data and then the other is Best Buy/Maxtor. Someone should show up to protect this family! HDD's are very cheap compared to your ID!!!!

RE the comment by NV on 5 June. Rather than dismiss a customer as a moron for not erasing their personal data from the hard drive before returning it for warranty work, NV needs to consider what can a customer do if Windows gets all screwed up, or the root files of the disk, making it inaccessible to the average user. In this case, NV is the moron for not thinking it out...

I've taken my old drives to the skeet range. It's amazing what a 12ga shotgun with a full choke can do! PULL!

I work for circuit city and i know that before any work is done on a computer that the harddrive is reformated just to be safe

My main question would be why are "bad hard drives" falling back into someone else's hands. If they are bad no one should be using them unless they are refurbished by the manufacturer. In this case then all data should be wiped. I hate to say is Best Buy scamming more than the consumer on this deal??


i took my computer in for service that was under warrenty with best buy, the power button was broken in the on position, they replaced my hard drive, didnt touch the button... but i got my hard drive back... not that it did me much good, still couldnt turn the computer on to reinstall it.

There were some very good comments about his situation. There were also some whiners and a few who just wanted to vent about "big box stores". I even saw what appeared to be a few who were paranoid about EVERYTHING under the sun.
I've been fortunate. I have a family friend who is very good with computers. The few times I've had problems with mine, he's been able to solve them, even when it meant replacing a vital part (and, yes, this kid is a paranoid, too). We, he AND I, trash the old part instead of simply tossing it in the trash.
Big Brother can watch me all he wants. He's not going to learn anything incriminating because I can't afford to do anything incriminating. I don't make or have enough money or have good enough credit for any identity thieves out there to be interested in me.
But I'm not going to trash-talk BestBuy, CompUSA, Dell, Gateway, or any other computer retailer simply because one of their stores hired someone who didn't THINK about wiping a hard drive in my presence. Most retail businesses will try to accommodate their customers.

Are all the people answering this blog completely stupid or just ignorant to how things work? It is the PERSONS resposibility and NOT Best Buy or any other company to assure data and personal information are destroyed,IF you CHOOSE to accept a new drive under warranty. Hard drive manufacturers require the old or existing drive to be produced in order to obtain a replacement. In this case I can almost assure you that the entire computer was left at Best Buy and not just a hard drive. Best Buy and other very large retailers have a process where defective, damaged or salvaged computers are collected and re-sold through a 3rd party company ONLY to people in the computer or electronics business. Those people then recycle and or rebuild or repair those pieces of equipment. Where in the world do you think all of the great deals on eBay come from and why are they so cheap? Once you leave, abandon or trade in a computer it is no longer your property and the person in possession can do as they see fit with it. We all have a choice to say no thanks I will just purchase a new drive at MY expense and please give me back my old drive. Almost nobody will do that, but everyone here is lining up to moan and complain. People need to learn to take responsibility for their own actions in life. Hard drives on computers generally do not just fail for no apperant reason. 90% of the time it is because the person using the computer downloaded something known or unknown or introduced something known or unknown to the computer that someone else gave them. It is VERY easy for malicious code to re-engineer or totally wipe out a hard drive. Computers are disgustingly inexpensive today and are very easy to replace. Bite the bullet and say no thanks to the trade in or yes I WILL take back my old computer and dispose of it MYSELF. In the log run are you really saving money or causing yourself more potential problems.

To lay all of the blame on Best Buy, especially without knowing the details of how the drive ended up where it did, is irresponsible. If it had been Circuit City or Radio Shack would everyone still be ranting about how they hate those stores and to boycott them? Just because you haven't heard about it happening with other stores doesn't mean that it doesn't; my guess is that most cases go unresolved. I personally have never had a problem with Best Buy and will continue to shop there. It is a shame when things like this happen because there is no excuse for them, but I will not lay blame without knowing all of the details.

If the hard drive was under manufacturers warrenty, Best Buy would have sent it to Maxtor. They are responsible for replacing and disposing of their hard drives.

Maxtor, NOT Best Buy is the company who replaced the hard drive and "refurbished" the old hard drive to sell.

The Geek Squad at Best Buy are the people that say, "Yes there is a problem" or "No, it's not broken". Once it is determined to be broken, the offending part is sent to the manufacturer. (Or if you have a Best Buy service plan, they send it to a different company, that they hire to fix/replace).

Best Buy seems to be he bad guy in this situation here. If the drive was a warranty drive then it was processed by Maxtor. Maybe Maxtor repaired the drive after it replaced the drive for Best Buy. Best Buy gets an RMA number from Maxtor. Then Maxtor sells the referb drive to the highest bidder after the repair has been made.

Best Buy sucks, plain and simple. They are theives.

Boo has a point, although the amount and depth of info on most people's hard drive is a lot greater than one credit card (and consumers are protected from cc fraud once they report the problem).

What I did when I swapped out my drive under Dell warranty was trash the partition table on the old drive before I sent it to Dell. This probably wouldn't deter someone with smarts, time, and talent from seeing data, but it certainly would prevent the drive from being read by the casual user.

It was Best Buy's responsibility to destroy the hard drive it didn't happen. Offering a $250.00 git card is a slap in the face to the customer.I wont shop there anymore that's for sure.

The Solution is to not buy into their Policy and stop buying preconfigured Computers. Take action by building and maintaining your Computers and you'll not have to worry about the whole bloody mess of where's my hard drive at, then have the Jack-booted Thugs from Home-Land Security kicking your doors in to have you sit in front of the bright lights of interrogation answering the same questions over and over to see if you mess up and say the wrong thing.
I agree that we consumers should have the right to get back parts that fail under warranty, but having to pay for the failed parts is just another way of holding you hostage to the corporate montage of misinformation that is spewing forth everytime something like this comes to light.

My husband and I have gone through many computers between business, children and personal use. Never, have we ever let a hard drive out of our possession when we scrap a computer. We have always destroyed the hard drive ourselves. In this day and age, you can never be sure who to trust ... you just have to take care of it yourself. It is a sad era for this Country, that we cannot trust our fellow man to keep his word. We do shop at Best Buy occasionally, however, we have never purchased Computers from Best Buy. We did purchase one from Circuit City once, but we did not purchase their warranty. In many cases it is cheaper to replace the parts than to purchase the warranty. We are now purchasing most of our computers from Dell and have had no problems with them at all. In fact we did send in one lap top for repairs and Dell insisted that the hard drive be removed before we sent it in. I wonder what our forefathers would think if they could see how we no longer respect our neighbor's privacy, and how the dollar is always the bottom line instead of what is right and honorable? Large corporations need to remember that keeping one's word, destroying personal information before reselling a hard drive, is what will keep customers coming back - will keep their business going - not dishonesty and reselling hard drives with personal information.

Dell ran off with my hard drive and without wiping the info. Their repair team consists of Housewives replacing cards etc. They installed the blank drive and did not even place the operating system on it. BTW-by the time they got the problem fixed ( about 6 phone calls to India, the Phillipines, and Tennessee and 3 home visits) my new Dell consisted of a refurbished motherboard, memory card, Hard drive and a couple of other items. I think the floppy and the start button are all that are original.

Protect yourself: First, buy non-proprietary systems. Second, format system with multiple physical drives: use master drive for OS and programs, use slave (2nd physical drive) for actual information. (partition 2nd drive into two sections). Third, get NORTON GHOST and use it !! check your system for spyware, virus', etc-- then defrag, then use Ghost to make image of your master in 2nd partition of slave drive. For your slave drive, burn to cd's (MULTIPLE COPIES !!) or use USB external hard drive. When all is done, you've got your system backed up, ready to replace in relative short order (if master dies--- replace with new HD, and use GHOST to return your system to same condition, including registry settings) this would mitigate the need for any technician from ever having to touch your hard drive. (It also provides a means from recovering from any virus, etc that you otherwise could not recover from and can be accomplished relatively painlessly.) The destroy any hard drive as others have mentioned above...

It doesnt surprise me...... all this coming from Best Buy.
I'm sure this is only one of thousands cases of selling or not disposing properly sensitive info.

I have worked for Best Buy's Geek Squad and I can assure you that most of them have no idea how to properly service a system. Best Buy does not require them to be A+ certified nor have I seen them ask for a certificate. When you take your car in you look for ASC certified techs for your safety and piece of mind why would a company such as Best Buy not assure there customers that their techs have a basic A+ certification is beyond me. Oh and by the way I do have a A+ plus MSCE certification's but no longer work for them.

Most so called 'Experts' here are talking utter nonsense! They are saying the guy should have erased the drive before taking it in well that is C**P. He was taking it in for repair because it didn't work so how can he erase it other than destroying it and thus voiding the warranty. Secondly he was taking it in because he is not a computer expert and expected a trustable reliable service for which he had paid in his warranty.

Basically it comes down to the fact that if you are keeping that type of data on a drive and expect it to fall into the hands of others then you need encryption like PGP or learn to switch the hard drive yourself.

Anyone who uses crooks like Best Buy are asking for trouble. Also Beware that Circuit City is the same company as Best Buy meaning they have a near 100% illegal monopoly on americas high streets.

PS their 90 day warranty is illegal in most states check out implied merchantability laws in your state.

Recently I purchased a gently used cell phone from an electronics store in central Ohio. I was shocked to find that the phone had not been cleared prior to resale. My wife asked me who the woman is in New York. There should be laws regarding resale of all data storing devices.

Thats why you should always delete data using a scrubber (freeware you can find on the net). Any data you delete is permanently deleted and can't be retrieved.

If I ever decide to become an identity thief, I'm going to get a job at Best Buy. Seems like a great hunting ground.

I've bought used hard drives before and they have contained personal information on them that is easy to retrieve with a program. For our company,, we physically destroy the hard drives when we are done with a computer. It takes a lot of effort to do this but it can be done..

I have started to keep all of my data on sticks W/ protection (you try to enter without the right data entry it's wipeg) Moral: Trust No One!

I think that this is a serious issue. I dont, how ever think the FTC should be involved. This seems like a private suit matter, and when we all go running to the Government with each and every individual proplem or grief, it allows the Government the right to come in and take away more of our civil liberties.
This Country wasnt built on Lambs, and we cant expect handouts/problem solving for life issues everytime we are disturbed.

Best Buy's legal liability is enormous. Mr. Gerbus should have gotten an attorney and nailed BB. Emotional distress, negligence, falsification of records/data, identity theft, failure to protect personal data, failure to follow promised procedures, failure to follow standard procedures, breach of fiduciary name a few legal issues.
I have found all kinds of hard drives with sensitive info on them. Because I am honest, I wipe the drive and start fresh. I don't care about someone else's info. I am happy to safeguard it by wiping the disk. Many people are not so ethical.
Having a computer is a responsibility. Learn how to use it and learn what to do with your info so it is safe. Cleaning/destroying hard drives before disposal is a no-brainer.

I recently had service work done at Best Buy after my drive crashed and they actually returned my old drive to me. Of course I've had the computer there six times under their PSP plan but since they won't count what was done during the manufacturer's warranty they won't replace my machine and I've gone through two hard drives and three screens.

Best Buy ain't no worst than the rest of the discount big box stores (ie; Circuit City, WalMart, CompUSA). Its the user's responsibility to protect themselves!!! Save sensitive data to removable media (ie; USB jump drives, CDs, Zip disks, etc.)

The main problem is that an outside vendor (NOT Best Buy) provides warranty coverage for these PCs, and they are the ones demanding the Hard Drive back. The vendor then either refurbishes the HDD (usually only the controller board) or sends them to another vendor for destruction. These vendors claim their methods are secure but our company used one of these vendors and found out that the drives were just being sold at swap meets (we now remove the cover of old HDDs and beat the platters to death with a hammer). We need to stop blaiming the retailer and hold ourselves more responsible for how we handle our own data. None of the information found on that guys HDD is anything more that someone could have gotten with malware.

Hard drives are cheap nowadays. Buy a new drive and physically destroy the failed one. It's not worth the warranty or the hassle for that matter. I treat my hard drive like a credit card. When one fails I get a new one and destroy the old.

I still have in my possession every hard drive from every PC I have owned. All the way back to the mid 1980's (Zenith Z-200).

I have no beefs with Best Buy. I have only had good experiences with them when on the infrequent occasions when I go to one of their stores. Cheers to Best Buy, don't let one bad seed ruin it for everyone else.

I have to say that the BestBuy stories are way too many and wonders if when, who and how will somebody who cares do something about it... don't ask me for an answer since I do not think anybody will including the authorities . BestBuy makes a lot of money and employs a lot of poeple and pays a lot of taxes to uncle sam. I really doubt this problem will be fixed by BB and their alike. I have seen similar behavior in Circuit City and CompUSA as well.... it seems to be a pattern for big retailers...

I knew i couldn't fight that when it happened to me so for several year and until today, I destroy my own hard drives and keep the one that still work very safe (even very old ones) if i still have data on them.

Finally, I have decided years ago not to buy full systems from any retailer or even makers like Dell and i build my own PC or buy it from local small shops who BTW, know a heck more than what we might think...

Today, I go to stores like BBm and CompUSA to listen to those sales guys competing in how to laugh at the next customer. Sometimes I laugh, some other times it upsets me .... needless to say , few sales poeple in CompUSA know me already and are extremely botghered by my presence , they generally pull their customers away from where i stand...

Best Buy's geek squad will do whatever is fastest and easiest to return your computer back to you in working condition. it is much more cost effective to replace your hard drive (telling you it is defective and under warranty)than to try to resolve the problem, fix it, and return it back to you. Just because your hard drive appears to have died, it is usually repairable...if someone takes the time to do it properly. My advice is to find a "reputable" computer reapir shop and leave the "big box" stores to do what they do best....sell.

Perhaps going forward, you should check out the new Seagate Drives with Trusted Computing that are coming out. No one would be able to access your information on this drive if your laptop was lost or stolen or worse, repaired by Best Buy! Good luck!

As a matter of fact, something similar happened to me. When I took my laptop to Best Buy in Portage, MI, I was told that the fan was blown and it needed to be replaced, but the HD was fine. I said okay, and that was the end of the story. When I received the computer, the hard drive was replaced, and everything on my computer was erased. Before giving them the computer, I specifically told them that if the hard drive needed to be replaced, please, make a back up, and give me the old one. Best Buy did no such thing, just handed a computer to me with a new fan, and a new hard drive that was blank.

Best Buy needs more than a slap on the wrist. I just wonder who has my HD now?

Kai Phillips

This is standard practice and a very good way for idenity thieves to gain to the dip that thinks people get what they deserve...errase your hard drive and bring it to me, bet I can find some interesting things that will surprise you! Wonder if you will still be whistling the same crap? Best Buy, Dell, Circuit City, Fries all operate the same way cheap and underhanded!

Everyone is blaming Best Buy for this particular incident. While I'm sure they are inept at lots of things, they said they would send it to Chicago to validate the warranty and they did. My question is: was it sent to a Best Buy office in Chicago or to the hard drive manufacturer's location in Chicago? If it was sent to the Hard Drive manufacturer's location, the fault lies with them!

A good computer technician is as hard to find as a good honest auto mechanic,but worth the effort. Dont assume that because a person is working at a Big Box store doesnt mean they know what they are doing or are honest. The hard drive comes out of your machine and $$ can go into the techs pocket on the sly. Also remember they sell washing machines and toasters in the back of the store. Whats their mission statement? Well its $$$$$$! Integrity and corporate America are two terms that dont go together any longer

Best Buy, the same place that caught me in an AOL scam! Beware what you sign there. It took a while but I got all my money back, unlike the poor woman on the news last night who lost over $1,000!

i can't believe that big companies like Best Buy are behaving so irresponsibly in such critical matters. i guess these stores should be properly srutinised by some independent agency(on regular basis), so that they behave more responsibly.neway guys, i am totally shocked and concerned after lerrning about such article.

the best thing to do is get a copy of ghost and boot from the cd then in dos goto the directory tools and use gdisk and do a dod 7 pass wipe this will eliminate all data

********warning this will take up to 24 hours some times more

Mr. Gerbus, my heart goes out to you-having experienced some issues with "borrowed" cards and stolen numbers myself! To everyone else...PLEASE realize that Best Buy is NOT the only place where short-cuts-intentional or not-occur. You MUST do whatever you can do to protect yourself-at least until, like a previous writer stated; Microsoft (or ANYONE else!) gets smart and creates some security for this type of thing. If you do not know "geeky" friends that you can trust with helping you out of messes like this, then either find some, learn how to encrypt or don't store your personal information on the computer. Ok, of course, that only helps at home-If Boeing could donate uncleared hard drives to Goodwill-then we could ALL be in trouble!

As far as I can tell Best Buy violated their privacy policy and should be required to assist the family in everyway possible.

This is one of the reasons why I always say that people should build their own computers. If we built our own computers, we would know what is wrong with it and we wouldn't need to take it anywhere to be repair.
By the way, the best way to get rid of all the information stored in your hard drive is to open the case, remove the "Disk", and put it in a microwave for about 10 seconds, yes a microwave. Don't worry, the microwave would not explote or anything..Done it before and nothing happened

The individual who obtains your former hard drive now has access not only to your credit cards and personal information, they also have access to every email you have sent or received and can potentially send emails using your address to anyone in the world . . . and it comes back to you. Are you scared yet?

I had my hard drive replaced thru my Dell Warranty. My husband was home when the repair tech showed up. I told him to leave my old hard drive, which he did but I had to send it to Dell my self. No problem. I wiped my data from the old one and mailed it in. People get jacked all the time because they don't know their rights concerning things such as this.

For all of you saying that anyone that doesn't wipe their drive is an idiot - how do you expect them to know that? All the comercial industry ever says is that it's perfectly safe, and if something's dead then no one can use it, right?
My mom is in her fifties. I've shown her how to hook up a DVD player several times, but she's terrible at working with cords. Or anything else. And she's the COMPUTER EXPERT in her division at work. Sometimes, she even beats the IT people for knowledge.
The vast majority of people out there have never seen the inside of a computer and have no clue how it works. Sure, young people get computer training and have geeky friends that can explain things. I was shown how to hook up a hard drive once, and I replaced my own (not under warrenty) drive when it failed. Not so for older folks, or even those that weren't in with the nerds.
All the 'experts' in here; how many of you have taught your parents how dangerous computers are? Your parents' friends? 'Common knowledge' for you is far from common elsewhere. You can't blame someone for not doing something when they have no idea that it's necessary. If you really want people to be smart about this, go let them know about it!

Its easy to to talk about wiping a drive, but remember this drive had already crashed and this consumer probably has little or no technical expertise. Best course of action is to buy a new hard drive and retain the old .. .. I got quite a stack of None are bad they are just too damn small.. grin

What is a good way to format a HDD? And how do I do that?

And why is anyone buying the Best Buy warranty? I have always ridden on the premise that if it doesn't work out of the box, return it immediately, if it does, it will usually run at least a few years. By that time the technology is obsolete. Doesn't anyone know that the manufacturer has a warranty and you can deal with them direct? I was told when buying a PS2 about 4 years ago that the Best Buy extended warranty would cover full replacement when a new model comes out if I just want to swap it out...not so when I later approached them for that one.

BestBuy here in Tennessee (Nashville particularly) has a BAD reputation of re-selling their excess OLD and RETURNED inventory to third party businesses, who then re-sell the items on EBAY. There are three businesses here in Nashville that do went out of business, one is in a serious lawsuit (because they are selling stuff they obtained from BestBuy and selling it to unleary ebay customers when the product doesn't work anyway), and another "buyessex" on Ebay is still local, yet has 7% of their negative feedback probably from mostly crap they bought from BestBuy that didn't work.
I recently bought one of their "refurbished pc's"... What a mistake. First, the computer had the previous owner's registration entered, and the software was crashing the pc (needed to be restored).. YET Bestbuy's incompetent GEEK SQUAD, neither restored the pc prior to putting it back on the salesfloor, NOR had the restore disk to put the pc back to the manufactured state. ANOTHER THING. At the same time I bought a spare harddrive for extra storage. I Had opened it. I ended up returning both the pc and the hard drive 2 days later (and they had they nerve to want to charge me a 15% restocking fee). What's so funny is that i went back a week later to pick up another hard drive (since I had already bought a NEW pc somewhere else), the SAME HARD DRIVE I HAD RETURNED OPENED was sitting back on the shelf, TAPED UP, with BEST BUY TAPE on the box (no reduction in price either).... The basis of all this shows that BESTBUY's TECH GEEK SQUAD REALLY are "GEEKS", and this is the same way the hard drive landed in another's hands in this story, not really caring, period. after all that hassle, I dont shop BestBuy anymore. They're customer service desk is terrible, and they always want to hassle you when you bring something back. shop the office superstores, or COMPUSA, what a difference.

First off if the hard drive crashed you wouldn't be able to retrieve any data, second just maybe if BEST BUY HIRED good techinicans we wouldn't be having these issues. Third it's your Hard Drive make it unreadable if you know for a fact that it crashed before you return it for warrenty work...

Another reason for my list of reasons to not patronize Best Buy. These people should be run out of town on a rail.

Thanks to everyone for all of the information. I use the computer all of the time to do Word and Excel documents and to use the Internet, but I never knew anything about deleting hard drives. I don't think most people do and I shop at Best Buy. I will not ever take my computer there now though. Thanks again.

I also had a bad experience with a Best Buy--in my case, clerks who lied about the products and a store manager who had no problem with that.

There already is. WIf you want to wipe your hard drive, just reformat it using Windows XP cd. Use the longer of the two versions. It wipes your drive and then rewerites the entire thing with blank data, and then does it again a few more times.

Good grief. Best buy made a stupid mistake, and they certainly have had issues with other people before, but they are quite popular, and are doing a lot of things right. When I think of electronics, they are usually my first choice, and I am not afraid to say I will continue to shop there.

This story disturbs me also. I used to manage a Best Buy's Geek Squad and we did things by the book.

1)First, not every store works as good as another, so experiences do vary. However it IS policy to drill holes in hard drives replaced at the service center.
2)Every company has a few bad employees, so bashing an entire company for the fault of 1 person is BS. You people need to grow up and realize that. Best Buy will find the person and terminate them, and if the need arises pursue legal recourse vs them.
3)If a customer brought a computer into the store with a bad harddrive, it would STAY in the store. It does not go to the service center anymore. When a hard drive is replaced inside the store, it IS policy to give the old drive back to the customer.
4)When you take a computer to the store, you SIGN a legal document stating YOU and ONLY you are responsible for the data on the computer. Best Buy does try to do its best to preserve and protect customer data, but as with any human person, mistakes do happen. Are you perfect?
5)To the person complaining about the used computer not being restored. That does happen unfortunately. It is supposed to be wiped, then restored. However some stores are just way over worked and it could have slipped through. Its not an excuse though.
6)To the person with the Media Center OS issue. Because YOU didnt create restore CDs like you were supposed to, Best Buy did something for you to help you out that they didnt have to. They installed Media Center OEM OS on your pc. Next time read the user manual for your computer before complaining.
7)Lastly, most bad customer statements against Best Buy are because the CUSTOMER failed to read the store policies printed all over the place. Customer's just dont want to deal with the fact that they made a mistake and blame Best Buy when they dont have their way. Grow up.

The mistake is a travesty, but it isnt Best Buy alone that makes these errors. Any computer company or manufacturer will have these exact same problems.

Again, a lot of people are picking on Mr. Gerbus for not taking the necessary steps to clean his own hard drive. I'm sure he won't make the same mistake twice. But if I had a computer error, I would like to take the necessary steps to try to recover the data before erasing everything. Mr. Gerbus' first step was to go back to Best Buy. They told him, under the warranty, they could still fix it at no cost. At this point I would still want my data recovered if possible. If I knew it wasn't retrievable, then I would stop, be assertive, and take the hard home and find a way to delete it. As far as Best Buy is concerned, they most likely committed a felony by mishandling information they knew was of a personal nature. They deserve to be punished for their crimes.

I worked at Best BUy as a 3rd party sales rep for Sprint a few years back. The store managers there were the shadiest individuals I've come across in business, and I'm from NY!!!!!!!

What about the manufacturer of the hard drive? Sounds like they may be the ones at fault. Faulty drives have to be returned to the manufacturer before they will send a new one. Where that bad drive goes after that would be worth checking into.

BestBuy used to sell all of their old crap, returns, and stuff they were stuck with to a company called ESSEX TECHNOLOGIES ("buyessex"). they were liquidators. PC's, hard drives, cd-roms. DO YOU THINK THEY ERASED ALL THE INFORMATION from THESE PC's and hard drives???????? Just recently, ESSEX doesn't sell stuff from BestBuy on ebay anymore, their negative feedback from selling bestbuy crap shut them down.
If I was sure my hard drive was defective in my pc, and I had bought some kind of extended warranty from BestBuy, I would have made damn sure I would have either subjected it to one STRONG MAGNET, or I would have been careful, opened the drive, and scratched the heck out of the platter(s). the GEEK SQUAD is so stupid at BestBuy, they would have never known the difference. BEST BUY Needs a big lawsuit slapped on them for this, and the $250 gift card they gave the guy is like a slap on the wrist ( I guess they thought that would keep in quiet

I bought a Dell, have had nasty customer service problems... thought by avoiding places like Best Buy, Wal Mart, etc. that I would get better customer service - HA! It's buyer beware everywhere; and you'd better be able to basically navigate the internal parts of your tower, as well as your way around the software labyrinths. Unless you happen to know someone personally who'll be honest with you, you are on your own.

For warranty reasons old drives HAVE to be sent back so the manufacturer can analyze and attempt to repair the drives themselves, if the drive is repairable then it is resold as refurbished or re manufactured... I just recently had to warranty a drive and got a remanufactured one back, didn't occur to me to try a data recovery on it, but you send the old drive back because the company WANTS to repair it and either sell it as remanufactured or as a warranty replacement for someone else drive that failed. It's how the ball bounces, it sucks that the data may not always be wiped, but if the hardware itself is at fault erasing the drive may not always work... Let's say the hard drive is going 'klunk, klunk klunk' and the BIOS doesn't see it, well you can't erase it using software at that point...

Also, drilling a hole in the drive before shipping it voids warranty completion. Best option is to use a giant degauser... Warranties are tricky things...

contrary to what was said earlier drilling holes in a hard drive will destroy it beyond the ability to retrieve the information, Unless you are the NSA.
once the platter is drilled no public market equipment can help.

A couple of comments

#1 Educate yourself about your computer. Hard drives these days are cheap and easy to replace. My wife's 60G Maxtor went bad and I replaced it with a 120G Seagate in 5 minutes. (Purchased at Best Buy on sale for $59.95) Hours are spent formatting, reloading the OS, and all of your programs and BACKED UP data. But, you retain complete control of everthing. The only regrets I ever have are the hours that need to be spent, not the cost of a hard drive.

#2 For the average user, two minutes with a cordless drill and the old hard drive will look like swiss cheese. No one is going to go to the trouble of trying to retrieve anything from it unless they are positive it has a motherload of valuable data on it.

#3 Most important data that people enter into PC's is kept in only a few files. Encryption of these files should be SOP. They should also always be kept in the same area, such as My Documents. It makes them much easier to locate and control. All of my programs are defaulted to save any data files produced to My Documents, NOT the programs default storage folder.

#4 BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP. Easy to restore, and no wallet busting bills for data recovery, even if it is possible.

This is why I don't Shop at Best Buy anymore. They have terrible customer service.

The credit card and computer system designed to make things easier has become far too complicated. Maybe the way things were done in the old days were not so bad, at least you knew what you had and no one could get to it unless you knew. Now, in this day and age you could wake up with your identity stolen, actually stolen and all your life's savings gone in the stroke of a key.

To the first comment in this blog:

The FTC has no, zero, nada authority in Identity Theft cases. They have no enforcement authority, athough they are the contact point for the Federal government. They only collect data. Why would Congress mandate that an agency with no enforcement authority in that arena lead teh charge on Identity Theft? Why not the Secret Service, who is charged with counterfieiting of money and documents? Why not the FBI, who is charged with hunting down criminals and terrorists that can acheive their goals better by hiding their identities?

Congress does not want to address Identity Theft. There is too much money for too many businesses to attempt to stop the problem. For example:

1) Credit bureaus can sell more reports, and can even split a record (called a "sub-report") to hide the identity theft and continue with two data banks for one identity.

2) Banks can sell more debt, and accounts. Their losses are insured, and help hide other bank-related losses.

3) Companies do more business. Companies that produce the goods move more volume, making them look more profitable. Retailers are give a larger consumer base, although they take a small hit when the items are bought and not paid for (which actually happens less in identity theft than you would imagine) Consumers take the hit for the theft in increased retail prices across the stores.

4) Insurance companies are now in the game, selling "Identity Theft" insurance. This is big $$$$, as it is almost impossible to report a theft or file a report with law enforcement. This serves as the basis for claim on most of these insurances, so good luck collecting

5) Credit Bureaus and other information sales companies are raking in the dough with "credit-monitoring". This is virtually worthless now as the Credit Bureaus have shifted to the "sub-file" routine.

6) Government makes money on identity theft. Illinois "sold" licenses, some of which ended up in tax coffers. The Fed collects FICA and Medicare on illegal immigrant thieves from businesses. The current amount collected for the SSA alone is $500 Billion!!! The also collect taxes on profits from businesses that hire illegals, as their payroll costs are generally lowered by this practice of human trafficing.

With 1 in 5 Americans becoming victims, something needs to happen quick before the damage is total. If your representative does not support Identity Theft reform, kick them out of office in the fall.

Dan, Manassas Va wrote that computers get put in the compactor... That happens at Walmart here in Ontario Canada and my buddy works for the recycle yard where that truck empties too. Their whole yard shuts down and they pick through the bin.. 13" Colour TV's, working computers that boot, coffee makers, dvd players, xbox games are all a taste of what he has been able to pillage and have work. Don't trust the stores to dispose of anything. My friend has had 2 Compaq desktop models that have booted to the desktop and been operable. They didn't contain any personal data but still were operable none the less.

If you place importance on privacy and wish for your data to remain that way, then simply wipe, partition or use the literally thousands of programs available to destroy the data prior to handing it over to a third party. At the same time to avoid liability, companies should destroy data prior to disposal. It only takes a few minutes which would have saved this guy some restless nights and Best Buy $250.00.

Self education is key here. Do not place yourself at the mercy of a minimum wage "Geek", either at BB, CC or any retail outlet. Trust me on this, he/she does not care about your safety and well being. For those of you out there that are truly worried about personal data security on hard drives and other storage devices be forwarned that unless you physically destroy the surface of the platters inside the drive you will not, I repeat will not, remove the data present. I'm talking about using drills, saws, hammers, screw drivers or some combination of these tools. Many software programs are effective when used properly, however when a software program cannot be used you will have to resort to physical destruction of the drive. This may require that you purchase a new drive to be sent to warranty land, but which is less expensive? You decide. 'nuff said

Best Buy is the absolute Worst Buy on almost everything and customer service is non-existant. You can get whatever sale price they offer (plus 10%) by going to Circuit City with the sale brochure. I have done this many times and am always satisfied with the product and service I get from Circuit City. Even my children know how awful Best Buys is, they have nicknamed it Bad Buy. I think it fits!

It is true that Best Buy's hiring practices are something that needs to be taken a look at. Their "Geek Squad" staff has little or no knowledge of computers and yet they charge so much for little or no work they performed on your computer.

I've seen a few posts suggesting Mr. Gerbus was in some way at fault. I Feel that is absolutely wrong. He paid for the service to protect his PC, and it's data per the warranty. I have had simular experiances and they have assured me the data would be destroyed.
Best Buy did Half the Job, they replaced his drive, then failed to destroy data on the old drive thus leaving MR. Gerbus' sensitive data exposed to others.
I am not on a jury here, but the facts laid out as they are, suggest huge compensation to MR. Gerbus.

Absolutely ridiculous and if I were him, file a lawsuit. Best Buy is totally responsible and this was a scheme of theirs to get more money by reselling items that are "unrepairable".

Best of luck to whoever this happens to.

Best Buy has never been a custumer friendly place. We all need to quit shopping there. That's the only way to stop this kind of practice.

This is most disturbing. In the medical industry, we are required by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) to either degauss returned drives or at the customer's request give them the defective drive, even if it is under warrantee.

Any personal/sensitive information on a personnal hard drivecan in effect be used to obtain personal medical information if one works hard enough at it.

I would demand the return of the drive to me or if the vendor won't, demand a letter from the same vendor stating the the information will be destroyed either. If they still refuse, then tell them that you will report them to Medicare fir violation of HIPAA. That should make them listen.

Of course those are just my thoughts.

I used to own a store that purchased Best Buy's returns and refurbs. Every computer that I bought in the 1990's and early 2000's had all the information on them even the internet set ups with all the passwords.

The procedure for sending a drive back to a manufacturer for warranty coverage is normal. Hard drives generally have a 3-year warranty, and even if this was some sort of "extended" Best Buy warranty, it's unlikely if it was beyond 3 years from the original purchase.

Drilling holes in it is news to me. Typically the manufacturer refurbishes bad drives, wipes them, and puts sends them out as replacements for other bad drives.

However, in this case, the drive obviously never went back, due to a dishonest employee, or just some sort of mistake.

Anyway, don't be alarmed that a shop doing *warranty* for you wants to keep your old hard drive. I've been in the computer business for 10 years, and I can assure you that the replacement drive I put in your computer comes out of my pocket if I'm unable to send back the old one.

If you're uncomfortable with that... offer to pay for the new drive, and you're welcome to keep the busted one.

I have the Hard Drive The County Attorney thew away.
You shold see the Case and personal files that were on it.

"Best Buy SUCKS" bumper stickers should be issued.

Taking a hammer or drill to your hard drive will stop the average script kiddy from recovering what is on a drive. Doing so will only challenge the professional or the serious hobbies. Keep in mind that Best Buy is the focus of this article. ALL venders pay cheap labor rates to short term employees. EVERYONE is responsible for their personal information. If you do not care enough to learn how to protect YOUR data why should anyone else care?

I work for a firm and service all hardware personally for over 100 PCs not including PLC/CNC machine operation and servers. There is only ONE word for this type of result: LAZINESS!!!

Best Buy is not holding their technical department to task and it shows. I see some comments indicating that we are 'getting what we deserve' and 'Best Buy is really not to blame' yet, the fact of the matter is this:

Mr. Gerbes's hard drive should have been wiped clean (there are utilities that write zeros to ever place on the drive... there's NO coming back from that!) However, it is a LONG process and someone (my guess is BB Corporate) is saying "It's not worth the time... we'll pass the buck."

Hopefully Best Buy gets BURNED and learns... Take responsibility, hold people accountable and DO YOUR JOB. There is absolutely no excuse for poor service quality.

Dell told me to remove my hard drive before I sent it in for repair. I had a mother board problem. They fixed and sent it back asap. buy a dell!

As a retired Computer Tech, Here is what happens when a hard drive fails under warranty, at least at my company. I would go on line to the hard drive manufacture, ie; Maxtor,Seagate, etc. They would issue me a RMA # and ship me a replacement drive by FedX. I in turn would use the same box to send the defective drive back to them. I can assure you that if I replaced a drive, it was bad. If you don't surrender the drive to the company, you can't expect them to replace it. The major hard drive companys WILL repare your old hard drive and keep as much of your data intact as possible. Places like BestBuy buy computers at wholesale. Although the techs try, mistakes do happen. My advice, buy from Computer companys, like Gateway, Dell, etc. They have too much at stake to risk shody maintance. If I can be of further assistance, Just contact me by email.

I'm not surprised at this story. Best Buy is not a trustworthy dealer. After they tried to stick me with an old 2gig Seagate drive in a 40gig Maxtor box (shrink wrapped), and gave me the run-around when I took it right back, I'll never shop their again. The crooks tried to resubmit my refused charge 6 months later, too.

I've spent thousands of dollars at Best Buy, but not in the last few years and never again.

If they hard disk has crashed it might be impossible to run any program to erase the data. A hole drilled in may void the warranty. If I can't run a program such as NSA uses to wipe their info, I put soft foam around the drive and hit it hard wirh a plastic mallet, many times. I've opened them and found the disk's are badly scratched and the heads mangled. This damage can't be seen from the outside and the data is gone forever.

It's a horrible situation to have happen. I am very fortunate to have a computer programmer for a husband. At least we know there are still some honest people in the world to return such a computer piece that could ruin your whole future. I've personally never had any problems with Best Buy but then again I make my husband do all the work on our systems. Glad it all worked out for you all.

Some financial institutions ask for the social security number of anyone named as a beneficiary. If Mr. Gerbus had investment and retirement information on his computer, he may have had his grandchildren's information for the same reason.

I use computers every day, at work and at home. I know how to use the software, but never bothered to learn much about the hardware. Hardware was always my husband's forte.

With years of experience in retail, he insisted that all extended warranties were bogus. He also believed that there was no way to successfully clean a hard drive. That's why four years after his death, I still have every hard drive we ever purchased since the 1980s.

My Gateay computer hard drive crashed two months ago. The drive was replaced under the warranty; however, Gateway required that I send the old hard drive back. I stated that I was uncmoforatble with this for the very reasons discussed above. The Gateway customer rep stated that I just need to send back the cover plate with scan bar code, just to ensure that I was not trying to receive a second hard drive. Fair enough, I thought. Since then I have been getting phone calls from Gateway telling me that I need to send the old drive back or I will be charged for the new one. No Way!!! That old drive is a heap of plastic. Gateway said they would "see" if they could write it off.

While I do hold Best Buy liable, there are things Gerbus could have done too.
1. Don't store sensative info on the drive. Yes, it takes a little longer to type in credit card and social security numbers every time, but it's worth it for the added saftey.
2. Destroy the drive himself. The drill works pretty well, if there are multiple holes drilled into it. But the hammer works even better- especally the back side! That thing coming down WILL puncture it no problem. Or, if you want to have fun, you can drop it off of the roof, run over it, burn it (thereby melting it), submerge it in water, etc. etc.

I knew this sort of thing could happen. That's why when my last computer started doing strange things and eventually blew - I didn't even want to take it to a computer place to have it fixed. I knew that even the person fixing my computer could easily get my personal information.

I went to Best Buy and bought a new computer. Lo and hehold, my drive kept crashing within the first couple of months having it and I had to return it. They replaced it and when I asked how a new computer's drive could crash so quickly after I bought it, they explained that 'this happens'. So - what did they do with my old one with all my personal info on it? Hmmmm - you have to wonder!

My solution to this problem:

Have them drill holes in the drive - RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE CUSTOMER, or have the customer be able to see them completely erase the old hard drive OR give the drive back to the customer! This should be mandatory!

And on the credit card issue - our number should be encrypted on the actual card, and ALL purchases bought online should go through something like Pay Pal (it still wouldn't be perfect, but there would be less incidence). As far as giving our number over the phone, I don't have an answer for that.

Umm reguarding any moron comment. Any moron that thinks someone with a crashed computer can wipe out a hard drive is an azz.

I'm a computer engineer who used to work in a warranty repair facility for a major computer company. Let me tell you what happens when you bring your PC in for warranty repair. The first thing the technician does is fire up your computer and scan the hard drive for porn. After copying all your porn onto his personal USB drive, he copies everything in your documents folder. (That stuff makes for great reading after work!) Eventually he will get around to checking the disk for physical errors. If it's bad, he replaces it. If it's good, he format your drive, reloads Windows, and gives you back the same drive you came in with. I have two rules I live by. First, I never purchased a computer off the shelf, I build and repair my own. Secondly, I have never owned an IDE or ATA hard drive. I purchase only SCSI disks. When I'm done using them, I use the SCSI controller to low-level format the drive.

Hi, personally I suggest that privacy and trust should be two subjects headlining our mental streamers. Whether the focus be on specifics (i.e. a RIP hard drive resurrected at a flea market) or generalities (every phone call in the U.S.A recorded), we as participating individuals in the American-human experiment, should explore the known situation its possible outcomes and the possible unknown situations at hand. If good hearted trust was rampart then why would privacy matter? I mean your social security number would be of no interest, your web habits would not be used against you, your college follies would be just that, your purchase history would not be cocktailed by the marketing gurus at companyX to squeeze more money out. Your "bedroom" activities if posted on the number one website would be of no real judgmental concern. Everything would be regarded "as is". But we live in a time where fear is mass marketed and one of life’s great focus is the prevention of the minute. Where's SARS? Mad Cow Disease? The Africanized killer bees? The WMDs (more American troops have died in the middle east in the last three years then people in 9/11, and five fold Iraqi civilians)? And Y2K? Seems like what we are fed by the media is the last thing to happen. I've heard my father’s generation recalling a couple of decades when a commy invasion was imminent. Now take China out of the trade and good bye world economy. Before 9/11 no one I know of thought of such a no-brainer atrocity likely to happen. I mean these dead hijackers where no geniuses. So the curious thing here is that it’s what we have no clue about (the totally unknown to us U.S. dwellers) that truly hurts us. Maybe we can outwit history and worry more to prevent more to worry less? Huh? I for one think I’m too wrapped up in my personal matters to step back and see that the big picture is getting pretty ugly and the artists painting it have never been those who the "critics" say they are, it's the evil do-ers and the bees. But does that matter I mean for god sakes what about HD DVD! Drive thru Starbucks! That's the ticket to world peace make everyone middle class and SUV mySPACE friendly. Screw what those Nobel-prize economists said about "impossible". I mean, it's only true if Wikipedia says so. Why check the University Library? Bleh! I am truly upset some guy somewhere might get access to my hard drive data without my consent, at least government agencies have the courtesy to use it for our own protection, I mean I’m not responsible enough to handle my safety, I mean look my hard drive might end up in Buxetoni (and my spell-check?). Receiving such news is up there I tell you, right next to hearing about Branglelina offspring, or hearing about a quasi third-world barrette wearing Tyrants who just might do something that might lead to something that maybe someone somewhere might somehow acquire to somehow outwit those super multi billionaires 1st world mega advanced agencies here to help and protect us. Such news is up there, makes any Massive death toll causing Southeast Asian Earthquake, get bumped off the papers. Well at least they can’t get my social and order HD DVD in their huts before me . . . cont.
Am I approved? Free thinker aisle one. Cleanup crew to aisle one. Seal and contain.

A friend brought back her computer under warranty to Best Buy for "not booting to windows".....they said, hard drive bad.....they replaced it under warrenty and charged her $90.00 for a disk of her recovered files.....they gave her back her hard drive. Maybe they are changeing their policies and practices.

I am an avid Mac user. Sorry PCs don't compare.. I also have worked as a cumputer tech for years and on average out of 10 computers I have fixed only 1 or 2 will actually have a fatal hard drive error wich makes it unusable.(that's why I use a Mac among other things).Consumer education is key. We own computers to store and compile data. we can't put everything on discs that defeats the purpose. Apple has a utility that will write zero data up to 35 times over the hard drive to erase it. Windows programs exist that do similar but you have to know about them. You cant trust other people with your info or security. My recomendation is if you are going to invest in technology please learn all you can about its use to protect yourself. Yes the store is at fault I can tell you with most certianty that Maxtor did NOT get the drive back. It was probably resold the next day or even that afternoon! My recommendation is just like with car repairs find either a person or a small computer shop you can trust and any time you can, buy direct from the manufacturer. All of them offer refurbs. The quality is better guaranteed.

As a retail computer store with a service department, we are very familiar with this issue. A low level format, with a software utility available from any drive manufacturer, will erase any data from the drive and render it unrecoverable. As the drive was replaced under warranty, it became property of the vendor. No need for a drill. By simply inviting Mr. Gerbus back to watch a technician run Drive Pro, Best Buy could have avoided the problem.

I agree with some comments, but no software in the world will delete all information on a hard drive. The best solution is education. Just as the hard lessons have been learned with dumpster divers obtaining personal information, the best way to protect you personal data is to destroy it. Even if your hard drive has failed on its own, you should destroy personally, or watch it being destroyed. If you have made online transactions of any type, there is probably a hard drive somewhere right now that has your information on it.

I am an avid Mac user. Sorry PCs don't compare.. I also have worked as a cumputer tech for years and on average out of 10 computers I have fixed only 1 or 2 will actually have a fatal hard drive error wich makes it unusable.(that's why I use a Mac among other things).Consumer education is key. We own computers to store and compile data. we can't put everything on discs that defeats the purpose. Apple has a utility that will write zero data up to 35 times over the hard drive to erase it. Windows programs exist that do similar but you have to know about them. You cant trust other people with your info or security. My recomendation is if you are going to invest in technology please learn all you can about its use to protect yourself. Yes the store is at fault I can tell you with most certianty that Maxtor did NOT get the drive back. It was probably resold the next day or even that afternoon! My recommendation is just like with car repairs find either a person or a small computer shop you can trust and any time you can, buy direct from the manufacturer. All of them offer refurbs. The quality is better guaranteed.

Why didn't the customer in question clear the hard drive of personal information before bringing it in for service? If he was really that concerned about someone seeing or using his personal information, wouldn't he have considered that option?

As an ex-employee of Best Buy, I can vouch with the corporate offices that this isn't normal. I find it amazing how Best Buy can process thousands of warranty replacements and claims each day under the proper protocol but yet one thing goes wrong (probably because of an incompetent or new employee) and suddenly the whole company is a sham. If you don't want to shop at Best Buy, don't - they don't need nor want your kind of business.

This is another reason why Best Buy is such a terrible store

When I have trouble with my harddrives, I trust no one. I back up all data onto two DVD's every week or so and store them in a safe deposit box. When a drive fails, I drill it and crush it myself and install the new drive myself. With my data I'm back to horse and buggy days...I'm self-reliant.

On my desk are two computers purchased from BB (I bought the ones with no rebates, but that’s another issue). I did NOT purchase the extended warranty, which I never buy, anywhere, ever. Extended warranties only extend the careers of the salespeople that sell them. What do I do if something breaks? If it’s not under original warranty, I either fix it myself, have a friend do it or pay a reputable person to do the repairs. In the case of my old computers, when all of that failed I took out any innocuous reusable parts (fans, power supplies, etc), put the hard drives in shoe box and stored them in a closet. I have six of them in there now. When I die, those hard drives and any future fried HD’s will be placed in my coffin at my feet.

By the way, I’m over 50 and not a computer professional. However, I’ve asked several of the “geek squad” guys for advice on several occasions. I’ve reached the conclusion that I know more about computers than most of them. So, I plan to dye my hair black, paint some pimples on my face and apply for a job on the Geek Squad after I retire from my current job.

One final comment. Class Action for everyone who’s had a HD replaced by BB and not returned or destroyed. There MUST be some slimy attorney out there who thinks he can make a buck on this issue.

When I have trouble with my harddrives, I trust no one. I back up all data onto two DVD's every week or so and store them in a safe deposit box. When a drive fails, I drill it and crush it myself and install the new drive myself. With my data I'm back to horse and buggy days...I'm self-reliant.

Dell has a policy that allows you called "keep your hard drive". If you express your concerns to the Dell tech, the tech should give you the option to keep your hard drive. You just have to fill out a form they send you, which verifies that you have destroyed the hard drive.

Mr. Gerbes, follow up on this and take it as far as you can. Get a lawyer if you have to. Most people take the $250 gift card and pray their ID doesn't get stolen and leave it at that. DON'T SETTLE. Force Best Buy to give fair compensation... identity theft insurance for at least two years and what ever else your lawyer recommends. If more people truely hold these companies accountable they would lose enough bottom line profit to actually correct these issues so they at least happen much less frequently.

Another option is the one I took... I learned how to build and repair my own computers. If my hard drive crashes, I most likely know why and what I need to do. As for unsalvageable drives, I still have them in my possesion, dismantled and hanging as a PC mobile.

Educate yourself on how to do it yourself. Use Google to plug in your question and then read everything you can. There are step-by-step do it yourself articles everywhere! May the Force be with you.

the best way and the cheapest of getting rid of a hard drive and its information is to not drill the damn thing but to melt the platters an acedlyn or butane torch can completly destroy a hard drive platter I have been to many Fires and have done overhaul on them and every time there is a computer there as long as the hard drive is not melted they can recover your data

As the owner of Corporate Computer Systems I must warn all that just about "ANY" damaged hard drive can be actively searched for data. My company has retrieved data for companies where the system has been burned in a fire, soaked in water from the fire department hoses and then thorwn into a junk pile. A quality tech can remove the disks from within and rebulid them into another hard drive should there actually be a problem with the original drive. The process is complicated, BUT in the instances where the drive contains critical data it's worth the hassle. Companies like Best Buy, Fry's, etc., deal with Warranty decision like "Mean Time to Repair" or "Mean Time cost to Repair". Basically that means that under warranty decisions the CUSTOMER is not part of the equasion. Packard Bell, Dell and HP are an EXTREME abusers of this policy with average warranty returns of up to 33% failures within the warranty periods. It is their poilicies of replace and then RESELL that allow them to profit from what you are lead to believe are GREAT COMPUTER DEALS.
The soultion is to find a GOOD computer tech or company that custom builds your system to your spec's. You pay a little more upfront but you end up with alots less hassles and a better system for your money.
My policy is to destroy any damaged drive in the presence of the client should the drive not be "FINANCIALLY" repairable. Remember "ANY" hard drive is repairable if you want to spend the money to do so.

I got a call from a women who had all of my personal data on a new computer she had just purchased from Best Buy. I had taken my computer in for repair and had them backup all of my data on their store "highly secure" data backup computer. They downloaded her data from her old computer and my data on to her new computer. They also gave me a gift cert. for $250. I have sent several e mails to the company-I want them to pay for identity theft ins. Have not heard from them. Their customer service is terrible. My local TV station ran a story and the atty general has contacted BB. I have not heard a word from their corporate office.

consider that after the last space shuttle crash NASA recovered something like 90% of the data from the hard drives. I would beat them with a hammer or put a few rounds through the platters, then put the in a cement footing somewhere.

We now have a new company policy. No purchases from Best Buy.

Wow, I stumbled across this article, just as I am in the middle of dealing with a "corrupted hard drive" on my laptop. Best Buy told me that I have to replace it and now I'm reconsidering, especially because I belived the problem to be a software issue in the first place. I may be taking my business elsewhere.

There was a big article in a reseller's trade magazin on how BB is trying to muscle in on the "enterprise" business. I would never trust nor buy from them for business.

Unfortunately, I was "schooled" by BestBuy about a year ago when I had my car stereo replaced in there instalations bay. (under warrenty) they did a good job but a few days later I went int o my ashtray to get some change............

Would it be too costly for BB to maintain some type of small degaussing unit, to destroy hard drives? I'm sure they don't do it with the idea of 'refurbishing' the drives, but with the costs of drives being so low these days, it's better to avoid the expensive lawsuit and destroy the drive. Shame on BB for this.

We use a large degausser here, and an ImageMasster with DOD approved wiping software. And a drill!!

Don't disregard the statement many have made: "warranty". If you, the consumer, open the case or tamper with the drive in any way you've voided the warranty and subsequently will be responsible for repair cost at the going rate. Yeah, no one knows if you've opened the case, guassed the drive, installed crypto, burned in the drive, or otherwise wiped the system; but, if you had I'd have to say you've done your homework already and you'd no reason at your advanced state of readiness to have purchased a warranty from the git go.

Wnen this happened to me the new owner was able to secure so much information on my that he essentially took over my, job and insurance activity, and was eventually able to take my place in my family. He and my wife seem to be happy, and I enthusiastically recommend leaving the hard drive intact for the next user.

I have had problems with Best Buy in the past, not just with a computer problem. So I don't do any business with them or Circuit City either.

Best Buy really screwed up with this one. My advice to anyone, keep your personal info off of your hard drives. Use portable media( jump Drives, CD's, DVD's)if you can. Once that PC leaves your house, there is no telling what can happen.
On the other hand, Best Buy..... I'm in shock here. You have your technicians taking these systems from customers under warranty, and not reformatting the drives before selling them, which is obviously what is happening here(returning them for credit from the distibutor also applies). These technicians should know better than to not format a HDD before turning it in for credit, destroying it, or selling it to another outlet.

Sure, Mr. Gerbus could have been more careful, but if you hold him at fault for what happened, then you are advocating that what Best Buy did was alright. Even though he was dealing with retail workers, a certain level of professionalism is still expected in handling these matters. People are pointing fingers at this man because he didn't take steps to use professional-grade degaussers and such? He didn't know how to fix his own drive which was obviously just fine in the end. Does he sound like someone that should have known to degauss the thing!? Please... the only thing this man did wrong was be innocent.

NEVER EVER EVER EVER let an old hard drive leave your possession without either WIPING IT with a secure erase program. If you are certain it is "DEAD" and you can't wipe the data, repeatedly drop it from at least 8 feet onto a carpeted floor (so the case shows no outside damage) or shoot some vinegar into one of the breather ports with a syringe, shake it around a bit and then send it in for repairs.

If it has data THAT important to you - screw the warranty - keep the drive and pay for a new one. $300 bucks is cheap compared to cost of having your credit trashed or identity stolen.

I agree with many of you that too many computer users are inexperienced when it comes to personal data protection. I bought 2 used computers from a yard sale with personal data still on them. And get this the previous owner was a lawyer! I had to delete over 300 client files! Then I reinstalled the OS. Just think of the ruckus I could have caused.

The best way to protect yourself is not keeping sensitive data on your pc in the first place. Almost all pc's these days come with cd/dvd burners. Keep all data backed up to cd/dvd. If you crash, buy a new drive, install your programs and rebuild with your latest back-up.

I can feel for this (former?) customer of Best Buy. There are a lot of good comments and suggestions in this article. So many comments made about not storing personal information on your hard drive. If you don't intend in using the hard drive for storage purposes, I guess we really don't need the large hard drives after all. We need larger floppy/cd disks which can fail as well. As with the case in this article, the customer really wasn't at fault. If the computer doesn't work, and there isn't access to the information, how do you back it up? How do you get the software to destroy the data? Remember - the computer isn't working... Yes, backups are necessary, and are to be used to restore the data ONCE the service has been done to the computer.

This isn't a situation that has occurred, and probably not just Best Buy (however, I'm not a fan of Best Buy) and happens every day in most commercial repair facilities. This particular instance of what happened did start at the Best Buy facility, and they should be the ones responsible for this.

Data recovery/backup/storage isn't something that's common to the average home user. They bought the computer to use, store information, and easily retrieve it. When it doesn't work, the average person doesn't know how to fix it, and they take it to someone they "trust." A "broken" hard drive isn't something a common end-user fixes. Those of us who are techies can do this, but not the average person.

I work for one of the companys that does the repairs for these "extended warrantys". We have a salvage dept here for that exact reason. 80% of the stuff the warranty deems "unrepairable" is repaired and sold on ebay or used for replacements for equipment under the warranty. Check the fine print on your warranty and chances are they have the rights to send you refurbished equipment as replacement for your defective machines. At least when we repair a laptop, and the customer asks for the old HDD, we send it back no questions asked. And true, alot of the refurbs end up on EBay, even at large companies such as this.

BB are a bunch of overpriced, unquailfied goof balls. Just because they drive around in theme painted bugs does not make them a very good service center. I think they big box stores of all kind are killing this country!

It's amazing all the jack***es taht are saying 'I would never do that" or 'stupid guy should have wiped his HD first'. Everyone is NOT a commputer genius! Some people are barely computer literate at all! Best Buy and all the stores that do that are at fault... As for myself, I never return any electronics that might have personal info on them; people that know just need to educate those who don't!

I do not have any love for Best Buy or stores like them BUT the store is not so much at fault as the people they have working for them. It is possible that the hard drive controler board that is mounted on the drive might have gone bad. If this was the case a regular tech would not replace it when he could replace the drive for free. It would then go in the junk box as not working. Eventually they would collect a bunch of these drives and they would be sold as scrap. Some "hobbyist" would come along and buy up a whole job lot of them and start swapping boards and parts to see how many good ones he could get out of them to sell and try to make a buck or two. While the companies involved (ie. Best Buy, Seagate, Maxell...) could take more security precautions it would only raise the prices in what has become a very price competitive business.

Lets just face it, you get what you pay for. The Megastores offer cheaper hardware compared to the smaller stores. The latter may have older (and hopefully) more experienced employees and this has a direct influence on price. As for the dangers of identity theft and identity misplacement, even if we're computer literate, we barely understand how it works. The only good thing about what happened to Mr Gerbus is that we become more aware of the dangers

Dear SH in Dallas, TX
Fry's policy is simple. If someone returns it, you put a tag for 5-10% off and you return it to the shelf. No additional steps are taken to ensure functionality or data security.

This is just one more good reason not to do any business with Best Buy. My personal experience was different, but has led me to the same conclusion: I will never again do any business with Best Buy, and will always do my best to dissuade others from doing so. Their sales techniques are based on half-truths, and their practice is to sell "90-day free trials" as "real software." For those of us foolish enough to have studied something other than computers, their predatory tactics can be frustrating at least, and disasterous at worst. Best Buy, no. Worst Buy, definitely. Never buy, you can count on.

I do OEM manufacture of cases myself, and I am a certified systems technician, and am not at all shocked to see such an incident. The software to soft-recover files from even a drive formatted eight (yes, eight!) times costs only about $500. That is why I still have every drive that has come through my possession, with the exception of two: one I sold to a friend, but only after formatting, overwriting the entire surface of the drive with garbage and formatting it again. The other I physically destroyed in a fashion I will not relate here, and the pieces of the platters are still under my purview, if not necessarily in my immediate possession (e.g. I buried them somewhere on my property).

In short, if you want your data secure, keep all your hard drives. Buy replacements. Drives right now average less than $1 per gigabyte of storage; Two plugs and they are installed, sometimes a jumper change, sometimes not. I have never once had to execute a drive warranty, because I keep them all and only replace. The cost adds up but the replacements are far less than the probable cost and damage of losing such data. End of story.

BTW I do not shop BestBuy, I find their prices to be high on some things and abhorrently overpriced on others. If I need a computer component fast, I shop online and get it expedited / overnight shipped to me, or I purchase it from a friend who has one.

Best Buy doesn't care. They are more concerned with losing market share to Wal Mart than their own customers. How can you believe anything their employees say. They are just kids.

I have read a few entries where people have criticized Mr. Gerbus for not fdisk-ing or formatting the drive. There are many instances where the drive becomes unusable to the user. A 'Dead' drive, for example, cannot be used again by many common users. When the BIOS cannot see your HD, you (if a common user) cannot do anything with it. Also, the points about smashing your hard drive, I sincerely doubt that Best Buy or any other company will ever give you replacement drive if you bring it in destroyed. Furthermore, you may want to see if the drive is recoverable. Best Buy's policies will have to change for me to ever buy a warranty from there. In the long run, warranties cost you more anyway. It is like the insurance that you get when you rent a car, use your own, or you will pay $30-60/day extra.

So following the advice of JJ Luna-"How to be invisible", use an external USB key and save all your data to it. Your computer will only contain programs, and zero data that might identify you. Buy and use's product and set it to nine random cycles and be sure to wipe the swap file too. This will render any hacker's or government's data recovery tools inoperable AND your hard drive will be safe. The big question is here, How can you be sure that the laptop, desktop or whatever has a brand new drive in it, are you really going to believe the salesman after hearing about all this?

This is just another example of a Big Rich company wanting to save money & not take that extra step to make sure that their customers are safe. Just to show how much they care they offer Hank a Gift Certificate which when used will barely cost the company any money, what a joke. They don't care they just want Hank's problem to go away. I RECOMMEND A BOYCOTT OF ALL BEST BUY STORES UNTIL THEY TAKE CARE OF HANK THE PROPER WAY AND ENSURE THE PUBLIC THAT THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. These type of companies get big and forget about their customers. We as consumers need to stand together in numbers because that is the only way to fight these big corporations with their big money & big lawyers.Lets send a message to Best Buy that this type of activity is unacceptable. I also wanted to say that ED is a heck of a person for doing what he did. There should be more honest people out there like you ED, GOOD JOB.

This is typical "Big-box Chain-store" stuff. My company buys all of the computers from the company directly but we have our own service reps on contract. With the prices of hard drives and other components so low at he time, we just replace the item and destoy the hard drives as needed.

Even though the hard drive on your system may be crashed, if you still happen to have a bootable floppy, or cd for your computer, you can easily removed any and all data from your old hard drive by using a very old command that is still is use by microsoft that command is known as As long as you type in the proper codes after hitting enter after you type in debug the hard drive will be completely wiped clean, because the master root directory is rewritten, the only way that possibly any data can be taken from the drive afterwards is with a clean room. Any competent computer tech will tell you the same thing, I'm not talking about the idiots that think they are techs by passing a class they take from microsoft.
I've been a computer tech for the past 26 years and I am an old school computer tech.

Computer Geeks, or should they be call Computer F*ck ups.

Someone asked why the user didn't clear his hard drive of sensitive data before taking it in for repairs - if his computer wasn't working, he couldn't do that!

As far as the warranty goes, hard drives are not that expensive, and I would rather just get a new one and keep the old one. Isn't it worth protecting your sensitive information? Best of all, learn how to do computer repairs yourself and not have to depend on places like Best Buy. It's so incredibly easy to replace a hard drive...

If the hard drive crashes, the average consumer has no way to clear the data from it before taking it in for repair. The consumer is not at fault here.

Use a local system builder in your area, you will be dealing with a person and not a company. You deal with the same people every time and you deal with them in person. Best Buy, Dell, Gateway, they all have cut their services so much in recent years, it's not worth dealing with them. Thanks to Best Buy, Gateway computers are no more than e-Machines. The last good computer store is gone, having picked up and moved into big-box stores.

And one note about geek squad, they purposely hire inexperienced techs. If they don't know how to fix something right away, you pay for the time it takes them to figure it out. They sell you Norton and Webroot products even though these products don't protect you from viruses or trojans. Geek Squad preys on people's ignorance. Flashy signs and black ties mean nothing to PCs.

If you're shocked and apalled by this story, you must also be naive enough to be taken in by such tactics.
Some people just shouldn't have computers.

The most important thing for most people is the data on their hard drives. I have worked on PC's for 20 years and have many times found important data on hard drives. Twice I have found used computers with health care data on them. I use a device that I can hook to a hard drive and do a DOD wipe without ever installing the drive into a PC.

This same thing happened to me at Circuit City in 2003. I had bought a new HP, and the fan broke after just a month. They replaced my computer, however I got a phone call a month later from some guy who said my information is on his brand new computer. I didn't have anything on it that would cause any trouble for me, but I was still pretty angry. Then again, I expect nothing less from corporate America.

For the idiot who says he should have erase his hard drive and if he didn't he deserves what he got. Don't know what they are talking about. He took it in to get it fixed not replaced! The replacement came after the fact, so how would he have know to erase the harddrive of all the information. It should have been BB job to give the old harddrive back or destroy it.


When I needed a hard drive replaced for my Tishiba laptop under warranty I asked to personaly destroy the hard drive before it was sent to Toshiba. The warranty department for toshiba told me that they repair the hard drives and DONATE them to schools. The vendor performing repairs under the Toshiba warranty wiped my information before sending to Toshiba, but they only wiped it because i requested it. their normal provedure is to leave the data on.
I now do my own wipe before bringing in for any computer repairs.
When the hard drive had to be replaced on my HP laptop, their warranty is a fix it yourself deal and they mailed me the hard drive with instructions on how to replace it, along with an envelope to return the original. I wiped the drive before sending it to them. The FTC should require all computer manufacturers and computer service companies to advise all consumers replacing a hard drive to have their info wiped. I agree with the auto mechanic that the consumer should be entitled to keep the damaged harddrive.

Best buy told a friend their computer was gone and needed to be replaced. it was a one year old dell. a reputable technician removed an expired trial firewall and the modem began working again.

Whacking your drive with a hammer won't do it, nor will bending the disk. Data can still be gotten with a scanning tunneling microscope (granted, most info thieves don't have one).

The only truly secure method is to physically destroy the disk and its magnetic coating. Acid or sandblasting the mag layers should do the trick. Magnets may be destructive enough for the casual thief, but I wonder how much time and expense these criminal gangs in the US and other countries may put into data recovery.

Although this is shocking to most people, it does not surprise me. I worked for a very large clothing retail chain in the IT department. Everyone was so "into" security, but when they replaced all the pc's (hundreds) with new Operating systems and hard drives, they NEVER erased the old 4-10 gig hard drives. They did not even throw them out, they paid a recycler to take them all away.

Yo Gordon, you must be almost as old as me. I too have every hard drive from every computer I have owned. I own a business with a 6 computer network and we have a 4 computer network at home. My wife and I use external storage b/u for all critical info on us and our clients. Hard drives are cheap and easy to replace. OK, not every can do it. But if you buy a computer at least get your kid lessons so he can do it. I only deal with a local shop That I trust for the few repairs that I can't do myself. I buy my computers at COSTCO. Their return policy is unreal. Best Buy and Circuit City just infuriate me. The sales people are younger than my grand children and when I can break up one of their little conversation groups, they don't have a clue. I have to research on the net before I buy anything. Folks, you have to learn enough to protect yourself. Also only by soft ware that comes on a disk. If you have to reload a computer tha's acting up, download software is the pits. Learn how to use an image program. It will make your life much easier. Good luck everyone.

Take it for exactly what it is. The clerks underhanded management of a customer interaction to replace a "crashed" hard disk that obviously was still workable , followed by the company's unfortunate policy of 1) not letting the consumer keep the part (if broken it should be of minimal value to them anyway) and 2) not protecting the privacy of consumer data , appalingly to a criminal fault level.

These people need to be punnished quickly and harshly, and shouldnt be allowed to grease the hook of justice with money to slip away, as they probably will after bribing some corrupt member of authority.

I used to work for Dell Computer, I helped set up the part of their 'service returns' dept that handles hardrives back in the days before Identity Theft had even been given a name. I can tell you that the equipment that Dell uses to test a returned harddrive to determine if it is useable as a warranty replacement part does completely overwrite anything that is on the drive. It starts by writing a pattern of 1's and 0's to every location on the drive and then goes back and reads every location on the drive. If the drive passes that test, it then writes a different pattern of 1's and 0's and then reads that back. At the time that I set this test up, the machine continued doing this write/read change pattern write/read process for 24 hours. If the drive had no errors during this time it went into the warranty repair inventory, if it failed it went into a crusher.

The "Best Buy Worst Service", said as one, while working on a faulty on-off switch on my laptop, replaced my hard drive without telling me. When I went to use my computer I had to re-register a new operating system and only when I called the Best Buy Worst Service store in Reno did I find out what had happened. They certainly did not tell me when I picked up the unit. Where my hard drive is I know not. I thought my experieince was unique. A pattern of lies and deceipt by Best Buy Worst Service. Do not waste your time calling their Customer Service, they are well coached in hiding behind their service warranty small print. They do not care, they already got your money. Will I ever buy anything at Best Buy Worst Service again, absolutely not! The Geek Squad, incompetant boobs that can't even get a job at the local buffet washing dishes!

That's why I'm glad we don't have a Best Buy near my city. We do have a Circuit City and they are lax in about the exact same ways. These days in order to make sure your old hard drive is disposed of properly, you have to destroy it yourself and fork out a few extra dollars for a new one. That's going to be the only way that you are 110% sure you and your family is protected.

We bought a new computer at Circuit City and they gave us the wrong computer when we went to pick it up. We put all our info on the new computer and they wanted it back. They promised to wipe the hard drive but we still didn't feel comfortable with that. To keep our hard drive it ended up costing us an extra $350 and they made sure our rebates were nullified.


thats a walter chronkite entry line followed by some very insignificant low level story... if you had the hard drive of the dirrector of the cia... then you might have something...
why the puzzled look? ill go out on a limb here.... say you live in one of those communities that has an open door comfort.. where you dont lock up your house before you drive 40 miles into town to go to the store... yet you have a computer in your house.. and god forbid someone just were to break in there and steal the whole damn thing....DoH!.. or say you just needed some money one month so off to the pawn shop u go with your computer in hand...ect ect.... why are these accepted measures for your personal data to be in a state of constant readiness to be exploited stolen whatever...and yet you and i say nothing of it... until one day you willingly make the stupidest descision of your personal information life, and willingly hand your tower over to the under 21 year old counter attendant of the local "CANADIAN" owned Best Buy. You know better than that, you dont let your grandkids play in the street with their toys, thats common sense. yet you seemingly loose all your presense of mind about the value of your whole life on paper at the sight of the electronics store....gimmie a break...and its funny that people have an opinion on this from the perspective of concern, its funny. there was no mention of his personal data ever being used by anyone for personal gain ... mabe someone looked at it and thought to themselves that this guy is in worse shape than me ... my history is so fragged up it would be a curse on anyone who took it.. and yet somehow i seem to have just as standard of a day as the rest of you ... is that possible.... that as a poor person i can consider myself just as valueable on the open market as those of you out there that really are worth something...i mean thats your perception right? otherwise why else would there be a fear factor here...fear of being destroyed on paper....fear of having everything taken from you that you have spent all your life building...sad that you think a harddrive can hold the contents of a lifes work at that price... 99.99$ at best the cost of 12.50$ for the extended warranty you felt compelled at the time to purchase to give you the piece of mind that youre covered in case of a malfunction...well next time you buy a warranty for 12.50$ remember that your whole life is on the line...

I, for one, will never frequent BB again. This is outrageous for all consumers to know that this sort of thing should be allowed to happen, but the slap in the face is the meager $250.00 certificate.

Best Buy is being more than generous than usual by offering $250 gift card. This is yet another example out of MANY how Best Buy treats their customers. After horrible customer service, a lame response to my complaint to the president and founder of the company and an equally lame and unfulfulled promise, I refuse to shop there anymore. I've made it my mission to tell everyone why they shouldn't shop there either. More often than not I'm met with similar experiences and refusals to even enter their stores.

Best Buy - and buyer - beware!

Circuit City is no better. We've taken our computer there once, and only once because we had some kid telling us things and he had no idea what he was talking about.
I noticed someone already mentioned the one in Dothan, AL. I suggest learning things on your own because nobody in that store has any idea of what they are talking about in any department. (Don't ask them anything about any of the tvs. They don't understand dlp or integrated.)

I bought my laptop from Dell, as did my exhusband. After my system crashed, because the two computers were linked almost constantly through our network and a virus had caused my crash, we had to have both computers checked out by Dell. They opted for replacing both hard drives because the virus was so deeply embedded into the system. My ex was career military and had information about all of the men in his platoon on his drive, as well as some information about their last tour of duty that could qualify as sensitive to national security. Even so, it took several calls back and forth between Dell's executive branch and my ex's commanding officer to get them to turn the hard drive directly over to him. The rules for computer service contracts are ridiculous BS no matter where you go.
On another note, I work for a car dealership and we deal with warranties every day. Car and computer warranties actually work the same way - the warranty is not held by the store, (i.e. Best Buy). It is actually held by and outside company that typically doesn't believe a word the store says because it's cheaper to find a flaw in their reasoning and therefore deny the claim if possible. At the same time, this implies that there is more shadiness going on than Mr. Gerbus realizes, because the hard drive would have been reported as stolen when it didn't show up at the warranty company's facility if it had actually been reported to themat all. I hope he gets this sorted out, and that he reports Best Buy to the Better Business Bureau.

This is a hot topic. The only way to truly delete information on a disk is to do what NSA and other elite intelligence agencies do: Grind the disk into a powder.

My Dell laptop when the hard drive crashed they just sent me a new harddrive. I still have the old one. As I wouldn't want to send such sensitive information to anyone. Such reasons are why I usually build my own computers. But Dell so far has been worthwhile. Best Buy, just frightens me.

I used to work at Best Buy. The problem is that the company "only" thinks of the money, not on the quality of their workers. They used to be very differernt then this. Trust me, they do not pay even close to “the going rate” of computer techs, although they will charge this rate to you the consumer. :-)
Mr.Gerbus’s hard drive was either taken by one of the local store employees or by their service center in Chicago then sold to other people. Another possibility, is that Retail Stores usual “sell back” old hard drives to the original manufacture, then that hard drive manufacture re-sells them to “other companies” in bulk.. could be large corporations or small individuals. Some times you can see these types of hard drives finally end up at computer discount shows and flea markets. What happened to Mr.Gerbus, was also a lack of basic computer security awareness, which isn’t his fault, not being “in-the-know”, however, situations like this isn’t too surprising as of late. (ex.. the VA and all of the veterans stolen data,ECT..) and has been a on going problem. Educate your family and friends that are lacking this basic computer security awareness, is the “only” short answer, that can solve this long problem. This includes Data Theft, Spyware/Adware,Viruses and phishing attempts.
If you have a hard drive that you are going to get rid of.. or sell.. there is “one thing” I would do. Use a overwrite program to effectly “wipe” your data. A lot of agencies use this type of method.. even “if” they are physically destroying the hard drive after!
Here is one of the best “wiping” programs. And it is “free”. Darik’s Boot and Nuke.

This is another example of Big Corporations exploiting the masses to save a buck. The only way to change this system is to sue. Loss of large sums of money is the only thing that seems to get their attention. Do not depend on the goverment. If they were to pass laws to protect this data (and this is a extremely large if!) The governments track record in enforcement is non-existent. Truely the only way to fix any of this, is to change the way we elect our representatives, and get corporate dollars out of government.

I know by the time people get to the bottom of this article, no one will be reading this.
Keep a set of software tools designed to erase and/or recover hard drive data on a bootable cd.
(That way if it won't boot you can still use the tools to erase it or recover data that you still need.)
When storing sensitive data store it on a removable media such as a CD RW, DVD RW, or flash memory stick, and when those fail dispose by disintegration.
Always have 2 computers, if one fails you can always plop the hard drive in the other one and try to recover it.
The average technician at a department/electronics store has about as much computer experience as the person who brought in the computer to be repaired. The actual physically damaged computers must be sent somewhere else to be repaired, so if you're wanting to protect yourself and still buy a warranty, buy an external hard drive or removable media drive as well. You can install all your programs to the external hard drive or (if it is big enough) the removable media such as flash card or cd/dvd rw.
Warranties are like insurance, they are based on probability rates designed to make pure profit for the company, they end before a majority of the materials that are insured actually fail. That does not make it a bad idea to get a warranty, especially when protecting a costly investment, or even a cheap one made poorly that may fail alot.
Wiping a drive with a magnet may not be sufficient, but by drilling a hole into the magnetic platter, even a more determined person won't be able to get at the data that was there. So far the only people able to recover data from that extent are professional data recovery firms/government agencies who are required to maintain confidentiality agreements. It becomes too expensive after a certain point to try and recover the data that may only yeild a few thousand dollars worth of info. When disposing of a hard drive with a drill, turn it over and drill 3 holes evenly spaced around the round part of the drive
[o#] as far through as you can, and this will make it so holy that it would be so expensive to recover that they'd be in debt even after they stole your identity.
That would only be necessary if you could not boot to the drive and clean the data off yourself with a program designed to do so. The entire data on your hard drive can be rewritten by software designed to take up every crack of data so that not even a single letter or number of what was previously there remained.
Remember, that is how you can protect yourself, more importantly you can bring financial pressure on the companies that insist on faulty practices and outright lying to you, and instead of only *repairing* the materials after they have swapped them out for something new and re-selling them, they could actually repair them when you bring them in to be repaired. We as a global society need to start holding the ones in charge accountable for their refusal to listen to us and hold them to the necessary standards for honesty safety and prosperity.

To Lindsay in Lancaster... People like you and your attitude in be best reason purchase elsewhere. If you are typical example of a Best Buy employee, then Best Buy better to get readty to pay and pay and pat... What an moron.

Here's another good way to trash a hard drive if you need to. We do it in the Army like this: Use a propane or acetelene torch and burn it! Make sure you fry the circuit board so it's nice and toasty. NO ONE will ever get anything off of it. We also hit it with a hammer a couple of times just for good measure. Oh, and Best Buy better change their policy.....or I'll never shop there again.

With all the negatives posted RE: Best Buy, I wouldn't be shocked to see a class-action consumer lawsuit filed within the next few weeks. Certainly this is a matter for the FTC and legislative action in any case.

Those guys at Best Buy don't couldn't tell a dead possum from a dead squirrel.

Both parties are at fault. First off, Why would a User keep important information on their Hard Drives to began with? That information should have been backed up to a secondary device and the information deleted from the users computer. over time, data will be written back over the sectors, which will prevent outsiders from accessing the important data. I use another HD that mounts in a removeable bay for data retrieval. Simple to mount the drive again when I need to access that data in the future. I would not recommend backing important data to a floppy diskette of CD beacuse of life terms for those products.
Best Buy and any other service center should have performed and FDISK and reformatted the HD after removing/replacing. if they could not perform that function, they should have desposed of the driver properly. I don't see where Best Buy was at fault as much as the technician who actually worked on that machine..Its obvious the tech was incompetent and therefor should be in a differnet line of work...perhaps flipping burgers at a fast food joint...
Consumers need to use extra precautions when it comes to getting their Computers serviced...If we as consumers do not take the necessary steps to prevent such actions, who can we really blame when something similiar to this occurs?

PC retailer shud make a self destroyed system wich can erase some or particular folder without damazing the hdd.
gsm phone solution

Nothing surprising - my first two computers were built from parts picked up at a computer show held once a month in Tulsa, OK. The hard drives were filled with data but I wiped them before use...which should be SOP before anyone buys any used equipment. Having said that, however, I am quite glad that my current computer was bought brand new with all pristine, new parts.

Best Buy is the worst store I have ever been inside. The service there is absolutely horrible and, as illustrated by this story, they do not have the mechanisms in place to protect their customers. Do yourself a favor, go to Circuit City.

I have had my share of problems with Best Buy, and as a result I have switched to CC. The only problem that I've ever had there was a warranty issue, but was nothing compared to what's going on at BB. They are a terrible organization and I will never set foot in thier stores again!

While I dislike the Geek squad as much as anyone else, Best Buy is just the victim of media attention here. This practice goes on everywhere with every computer retailer, wholesaler, and even manufacturers. I bought a batch of "refurbished" drives from Dell that had data on them... I received a replacement drive from Maxtor that had data on it..
The ENTIRE industry needs to review standard practices when it comes to HD handling.

As for this incident, if you want to get the drive replaced under warranty, the manufacturer has a right to obtain the original. Someone above used the auto industry as an example but was incorrect. If a part is replaced UNDER WARRANTY, you do not get it back but rather it's sent back to manufacturing to determine why it failed. The same applies here. However, what probably happened is that someone "lifted" the bad drive or drives and were selling them on the black market. It's a shame but it happens all the time.

When I went to BB, I looked at their array of incompitent sales staff and employees, shook my head with dismay, passed some serious gas and walked out with a grin on my face. If any one else has serious gastranomical issues, I suggest you go to BB to "vent". Their service stinks, so why not return the favor!!!!

My husband used to be an in-home warranty service provider for Best Buy and a few other computer stores. Alot of the time the warranty company would send refurbished hard drives(and other computer parts)to be installed into customers computers, and the "broken" hard drive would be returned to the company. My husband would always put a permanent ink mark (his intials)on the bottom of the hard drive, and there were many times when he would receive one of those hard drives back to be installed in another computer. And it wasn't limited to just hard drives either. Many other parts were done the same way (motherboards, CPU chips, memory sticks, etc). My husband finally quit doing the in-home warranty service as so many people were becoming irate at getting refurbished parts for a computer that they had spent alot of money on, not to mention the warranty that states they will get new replacement parts if something goes wrong.

Only way to make companies like this do the right thing seems to be punishment. How, or who can punish them? Meanwhile, Best buy somewhere else..

Purchasing a computer from Best Buy is like trying to
buy a heart defibrillator from a McDonalds. It just
doesn't make any sense at all. Buy from a computer
store. My opinion: you get what you pay for. You
can get some great deals at the big box stores but
if you're not computer savvy, there are other and
better sources for this.

I also have a "vault" of old hard drives. Sometimes
they come in handy years later.

To properly clear your damaged hard drive, take a grinder to it and grind it into powder just like top-level intelligence agencies do.


I have had to replace two harddrives, a ruger 9mm with hollow points works wonders.

I have sent the URL of this story to several TV media outlets, and have requested much needed attention to these malicious practices. I do believe less 'tech savvy' individuals need to be informed of these going-ons. I recommend alerting your local media as well of this, as this is definitely something EVERYONE should be aware of. How would YOU feel if a close relative had this happen to them and you were aware of it and didn't tell them? Truly a point of "knowledge is power". Let's make sure the 'everyday consumer' has as much 'power' as possible!

Does anyone know why identity theft is highest in the US than any other country? It's because we are too used to convenience and storing all of our personal info on our computers. I work in the auto industry. If a part goes bad on a car, it gets sent back so the warranty company can make sure the user of the vehicle didn't break the part himself. Usually, the part is salvagable and recycled for future use. It's called a remanufactured or rebuilt part. Extended warranties say they will use these to help keep costs of repairs lower for you and them. Why is anyone storing any kind of personal info on their computers when hackers can access it at any time due to technology not keeping up? Why would you expect that they can fully erase all of the info on a hard drive prior to reselling? I don't do my taxes, pay my bills, direct deposit my check, check my banking accounts, or any other personal stuff of that nature online. That's how I fight identity theft and keep my privacy. If you store all of your personal stuff on your computer, then this is what you get. It's bad enough that people have this idea that this kind of thing will never happen to them and it's just sooo convenient to just click and store on your computer, but it is FAR from safe. If you don't want your personal info out there, don't store it on your computer. period.

I've not purchased any major appliance from Best Buy in over five years due to a month-long fiasco with their service department. They're okay for CD/DVD purchases, but only if I can not find them elsewhere (and I usually can). Best Buy is the Worst Choice for me.

if i where hank.i would sue best buy.i have had some problems with them in the past.they would sue you if this happend to them.a big company like them nobody should have this concern..

I've purchased hard drives on eBay that were not even re-formatted or damaged. When I contacted the former owners, they were typically very surprised as it was handled by a "reputable" company who upgraded their hardware. In those cases, they always had the option to keep their old stuff, but didn't see the reason and didn't ask for the data to be destroyed.

I build computers as a hobby and a lot of my parts come from thrown out, stores, friends and flea markets. All but 1 drive had info on it, I always just wipe them and reboot the drive anyway incase of viruses. If you don't want your info out there this is what you do:

Take out the drive soak it in sea water or sea salt solution, hit it with a heavy hammer, drill holes through it and then pour iron fillings in it. Any combo or all should finish it off. That's what I do.

About 2 weeks ago my notebook HD started grinding and stopped working, it was replaced under warranty by Best Buy. I requested the old HD be returned to me, and they did return it to me without any hassle - seemed to be SOP for them. Although it seems unlikely, maybe policy varies by location? Crystal Lake, IL

Gee!!! and we wonder how so much of our private information sems to end up in the wrong places. YIKES...

I bought a TV at best buy that supposedly was missing the box. When I got home i had trouble with it and attemted to return it. During the discussions I was told that it was a used TV. Needless to say that was news to me because it was never advertised as a used TV. I have never gone back to Best Buy.

While on business in Cairo, two years ago, my laptop surged throught the power-supply; my hard-drive(which I kept until I came home) was schnizzled, as was the power-supply. I found a dingy, sweaty shop and replaced the bad components; however, the drive was packed with old police reports, legal briefs, and "compromising" photos of a 50-ish woman. I made a few calls, and found the owner within a day--a high-ranking Marshall in an unnamed state. The pictures were of his beloved wife; I didn't mention them, but he DID. He had had the drive from his PC at work replaced by Best Buy, nearly a year earlier. Private, legal, and criminal information, found near a flea-market in an unfriendly country. Nice work, Best Buy!

I find it surprising that after fifty or sixty comments here that though most people are happy to trash Best Buy and other computer retailers that the main issue is going unaddressed. BB and the like are simply suppliers of hardware. As stated in the article, the Hard Drive was sent off to the manufacturer for replacement. However the hardware was mishandled it was probably NOT within BB. Though I agree that a gift card (for any amount) is inappropriate compensation for something like this, at least they offered SOMETHING. Once the hard drive was sent off for repair they stopped being liable for it. It became the manufacturer's responsiblilty. This thread stopped being a discussion on the topic long ago and turned into an opportunity to whine about how people didn't get their way at a computer retailer.

Can someone please advise the best way to personally dispose of a hard drive? I have heard of degaussing the HD with a strong magnet, but where do you buy them? Best Buy should be ashamed.

I have to side with those who solely blame Best Buy. For crying out loud people, they want to search your bag after you've spent $800 on merchandise, like you're a common criminal. I can't imagine what possesses people to put themselves through such a ridiculous policy, but here's the deal: More gov't oversight will not solve the problem. The problem is that consumers willingly give up all their rights. You don't have to shop there - and EVERYBODY knows that Best Buy is one of the worst places on earth to patronize. Sure, you'll get a hundred bucks off the price of your DLP tv, but they'll find ways to get that money back from you, and they are NEVER looking after your best interests. There are other places to purchase product from that don't have policies in place that solely and intentionally screw the consumer.

The word of the day is lawsuit. Can you all say law-suit?

When ever i have an old hard drive, instaed of throwing it out, i completely take it apart, put a bunch of radial lines in the platter (looks like a stylized sun) and use them for picture frames.

I had a problem with the so called Geek Squad here in Columbia, MD. They couldn't even transfer my files from my old computer to the next. They deleted half of my data. I will never take anything to the Geek sqad. They are incompetent!

serves one right for doing such heartless things as REPAIRING a hard drive.

I'm tired of reading that anyone that turns in a hard drive without deleting the information first deserves what they get. It sounds like he took his computer in hoping to salvage his information and have the problem fixed. When that wasn't able to be done, he was not allowed to take the hard drive. It is ultimately Best Buy's responsibility to dispose of it properly.

Best Buy should seriously consider changing their name to WORST BUY. I purchased a 60" LCD TV from them 2 years ago and when it needed service,
I called their customer service morons and after multiple frustrating calls to the idiots at Worst Buy it took over 2 months to come and repair the TV. And, I was stupid enough to actually buy the extended on site warranty at the time of my TV purchase. I have not stepped back into a Worst Buy since and it gives me great pleasure to say that I've spent over $10K in new electronics purchases since and NONE are from the IDIOTS at Worst Buy.

Compaq came to my house to replace the hard drive and mother board 3 weeks after I purchased my computer. We literally argued over the old components until I finally kicked him out of my house. Although, he did take the parts. No BestBuy or Compaq for me ever again.

It's sad that a company can't be trusted to provide even the most basic protection to its customers, never mind that it lies about policies (a corporation lying to gain profit? no, it can't be...) Really, I guess the lesson to learn is this - caveat emptor - let the buyer beware. I trust only one person to protect my interests - me.

Be sure to stay away from the "dork" geek squad in the Mesquite, TX. Best Buy

You need to know about Comp USA as well. I took in a laptop for service that was out of warrenty. Somehow they managed to "loose it." Luckily I did remove the hard drive before I left it with them, since I have already been a victim of ID theft. Comp USA refuses to pay for the value of the computer or even refund their service fee. After that I no longer buy or take anything to computer related to any of the "big box stores" instead dealing directly with smaller computer specialty stores

I used to work for Best Buy, Office Max, and Circuit City putting my self through College. I've never seen a computer put in a Compactor like someone above stated.

#1. Best Buy has repair depots or Service Centers like they call em' Whenever a PC tech has to do anything more then install something that was bought in the store or maybe run the recovery cd and some diagnostic software (it's crap by the way, save the time and send it to the manufactuer your self) they ship it off to the "service center" In IL it's in Carol Stream. I was only there once, but needless to say they replace parts from the manufactor and generally send the stuff back through the channel. Now somewhere it has to have the ability to sell off for salavage. That could be for metal or someone tying to sell in the used or semi-used grey market. Besides Simply trying to compact a computer with a hard drive in it is stupid. That's not eraseing data.

#2 You'll see boxes of HD's at flea markets or
computer shows as there called here. I've bought some for diffrent reasons. I have even looked through some. Now I'm lazy. I was just looking for some MP3's or maybe JPG's or other media type files. On one or two of them I saw some "nudie" type content. Maybe I chuckled a bit and that was it. When you think about it there's not much diffrence with digging up the graves of some long dead king's. I'm sure they wouldn't want you seeing their "private" stuff. But I guess it's what the digger does with it that's the moral part.

So let's leave it with this. If you have "stuff" on your hard drive that you want private. Protect it. Take some ownership and protect your self. When you sell your home do you leave your "stuff" behind? Then don't do it with your Hard Drive. If you don't know how to clean it, Learn. Being ignorant is not an excuse. Sure, "THEY" should do what needs doing. But people are not perfect. They forget, they choose to not do as they are susposed to. Why take the risk.

3# Nobody said you had to replace the hard drive under the warentee. (spelled wrong sorry I'm too lasy to fix) You could have just bought the drive off the shelf and replaced it. Everyone, including Best Buy makes you sign a wavier about the data on the computer. It states that they are not responcible for the data on the computer. Guess what? Dell and the rest often include such a notice on the box you ship the computer back on.

Look I'm sorry the guy lost his data and it went out into the world. But we should all learn from this and protect ourselves so it doesn't happen to us. I've got a dozen of old drives in the basement rather then throwing them out. Remember I'm Lazy. :)

I'll add my experience to this long and depressing list. I had a Dell Pentium-90 (That'll tell you how long ago this happened) and I wanted to upgrade the hard drive. I contacted Dell, and was told that I could have a reconditioned hard drive with much greater capacity, for a very small price. So I said, "fine". I received the hard-drive by mail - in a box that still included the ownership information for the person who had ORIGINALLY owned the "reconditioned hard-drive". I just had the installer wipe the "new" hard drive when it was installed, so I have no idea whether it had been cleaned off by Dell before they sent it. But the fact that it was in a box that still had the old owner's shipping information (on Dell forms) makes me suspicious that it had never been touched by Dell.

BB is infamous for poor service. After they sell you their junk, they've made their money and will not cater to anyone's misfortune. There are competitors of BB that have better customer relations and practice good business ethics that hopefully will run BB out of business.

Best Buy is known for giving away peoples hard drives- a similar incednet happened in North Louisiana

I've been a computer technician serving the Rochester, NY area for over 10 years. Seeing a story like this makes me sick, that there is so much incompetence and lack of proper procedure out there. My rates may not be the cheapest, but at least when I do a job, I do it right. I welcome anyone in the greater Rochester area to contact me with their computer needs. Don't trust the smurf squad at bust buy!

Winston Smith, LA, California - No one's impressed with your Look-at-me-and-how-I-put-pretty-words-together-psycho-babble posted on an MSN comment page. Seal and contain your ego, please.

I never liked Best Buy because of the way I was treated everytime I went to the store, now I have a another reason not to like them.

Maybe a $50 Million lawsuit would get their attention!

Rod -

Thank you for mentioning this. How could a SMB company trust a company that does not follow it's Quality Assurance Policy? Simply put - THEY CAN'T, nor should they!

As for the reader that commented he or she gets deserves what they get if they don't erase their hard drive. YOUR day is coming and they we shall all laugh at you!!!

I hope this gentlemen takes Best Buy to the cleaners and makes them pay DEARLY!!! Can you say Millions, sure I knew you could.

I'm not going to defend BB specifically as I don't buy from them...and NO, I don't work for them. However, I wonder how many of you actually think BB makes the hard drives, or computers for that matter, that they sell. You seem to forget they are retailers who buy and sell these products. They too have to send in the components to the actual manufacturers for replacement. Of course their service techs are not the elite in the industry... they're not asked to be. All they need to do is perform a first level diagnosis and replace components. Did they get Mr. Gerbes' PC back in working condition? Apparently they did so they did their job. BB (and all the other companies named in these replies, including Dell and all other top-tier companies) cannot give you the 'defective' part back because they too have to submit it for warranty replacement. Do you actually think they just throw it out or sell it? These are not burned out 'car parts'. They send the hard drive back to Maxtor or Western Digital or Seagate or whatever company actually manufactured the drive so they can get a replacement for future repairs. Has anyone considered that perhaps those drives in fact did not work until the manufacturers received them and re-aligning the heads or some other repair (that retailers are not qualified or authorized to peform) and then resold them as refurbished. Everyone seems to be quick to blame BB without all the facts. Yes, BB made mistakes, but did they have malicious or criminal intent? I doubt it. Someone did, obviously, but we don't know who it was just from this article. Bottom line is that it is YOUR responsibility to protect your own data and back up regularly so quit blaming others for your screw up! If you don't know how to do it, then buy a new hard drive to replace it, then you can keep your 'defective' drive.

I use an external seperate drive that connects to the USB port on the computer. I save nothing of importance to the internal drive. All of my important files are saved to the external. I recently purchased another new external drive (250 GB) for around $100 as a backup. I've read too many horror stories lately. A couple of years ago I purchased several laptop drives off of EBay. They had personal data on them. Being the honest person I am I did the best I could to keep from reading the data. Bottom line, use an external for your personal stuff, insure that any autosave is saved only to the external, and don't sell your externals to anyone.

I am so glad I do all of our own computer work and don't have to depend on someone to tell me what is wrong. I trust know one when it comes to personal info on my family and friends I might have in my computer. I have fixed a number of computer for friends so they would not have to deal with best buy, wal-mart, Fingerhut and any other places they may have bought them. Recently had a friend buy a computer from Best Buy, they loaded the windows operating system and all the other things for her, but they also kept all the disks. She not knowing very much about computers, didn't know that she should have received the disks back. After her computer crashed, and I was asking her questions, I found out they gave her nothing. I called the manufacturing company direct, and explained to them what had happed and they said it was not the first time, and sent us a complete set of disks by next day fed-ex. Her system is back up and running and she learned a valuable lesson. I don't claim to know it all about computers, but what I have self taught myself in the past 10 years has saved me and some friends a lot of headaches and a lot of expense. If there is something I don't know, I do have one trusted person I can call on for answers. Mr. Gerbes, I wouldn't say anything against you, you were doing what a lot of people do, buy the warranties and expect honest work for your money. I wish I would have been around you to help you.

To the Fry's guy with the question...They sold your drive to " Best Buy"!! Good luck!

I work with various financial institutions and agree that dban/paragon or the like (dban is free) is the way to go. Personally we wipe every hard drive that's shipped off site with 10 passes of 0's. This can take a while, but it pretty much ensures that no sensitive data gets out. The only downfall comes when a drive has completely crashed. Head crash - unable to move the head at all for example where data can not be overwritten. In such cases we drill (or saw when I'm feeling frisky) the drives ourselves. Another suggestion is that even though the drive is from Best Buy or a similar establishment contant the drive manufacturer and tell them your concerns. In my experience they have been very helpful. (I was told to drill a drive before returning it to a retailer once by Seagate.)

I first became suspicious of Best Buy's practices in 2004, when I purchased a computer for them. They claimed that "corporate policy" was that their Geek Squad HAD TO open the box, setup the computer and "make sure everything was working" before I would be PERMITTED to leave the store with it.
Being generally paranoid, and not wanting some dudes I didn't know tinkering around with my new machine before I had at it myself, I balked. I had to get pretty loud with the sales and Geek Squad reps before they finally produced a waiver form for me to sign, absolving them of whatever responsibility they might have claimed to hold. But, I was able to leave the store with an unmolested PC.
In light of recent events concerning the NSA's collusion with the various telecommunications companies, it wouldn't surprise me to learn at some point that retail corporations like Best Buy have been contracted to perform covert software installations for the govt.
Once I got wind of the Best Buy incident, where they called the Police, FBI and Secret Service on the guy who simply tried to pay them using $2 bills, I decided to end any future consumer relationship with Best Buy, and to be very careful with anything that I purchased from anyone going forward.
Bottom line is - be aware and suspicious of everything and everyone - the only person looking out for your best interests is YOU. And don't cry, "Save me, Daddy" to the government, because 9 times out of 10, they are either in bed with whomever is trying to screw you, or they'll do an even better job of it themselves.

This isn't the only problem that Best Buy and also Circuit City has. I know of more that a few people that have had Car Audio equipment installed by these businesses only to have them stolen or had attemps made to steal them within a week after the purchase. It is very easy for the person that rings up the sale or the installer to give or sell your info to the local stereo reseller (specializing in hot stereos).

When I went to BB to discuss a problem with my hard drive, the service desk employee was more than curious about the sensitive information stored on the hard drive. His eyes were shifting so fast it made me dizzy. I think BB's core problem is in the screening of employess prior to hiring. I left the bloke with a pass of fresh gas when I walked away, as I looked back, I could swear tears were rolling down his cheeks. Gas''s the "way"

Similar Story,
I took my PC to Best Buy for repairs,(not under warranty)and paid a service fee. Got a call from their Service Department a few weeks later and was told what the problem was, the cost of the repair, and when to expect it to be repaired. When that time came around, got another call from Best Buy and was told that there were other problems too and it would now cost twice as much as the original quote, nearly $500.00. I told them no way, not to fix it and to send it back to their store where I could pick it up.
When I finally made it to the Best Buy,(it's nearly 50 miles away)I was told they couldn't find my PC and no one knew where it was!
What to do? They lost my Computer!
I chose to take my loss and buy a new PC and not from Best Buy. I'm sure Parts from my PC are still alive somewhere.
I will never buy anything from Best Buy.
That wouldn't be too hard to do as I am never walking back into another Best Buy EVER!

In response to Hamilton, Bill. Yes "the masses" want more laws. "The masses" are people with low income and limited education who put there faith in the government because they have no other choice. They cannot help that the education they were given (that many could barely afford) did not offer computer classes.

I had a similar incident at a Best Buy in Elyria, Ohio. The first computer we bought (A V-Box, I don't think this company exists anymore), had a bad hard disk in it. It wouldn't load anything. I took it back to Best Buy and was assured that the hard drive would be erased completely and it wuld be sent back to the company it came from. About 3 weeks later a gentleman called me and said he had purchased this computer as is (open box) and my information was still in it. He couldn't get it to work either. I told him to box it up, take it back to Best Buy and let them know that if they sold it again, I would have someone's job.

Best Buy should be forced to have to pay for identity theft insurance and should be sued for exposing this man to identity theft. Unless the consumer does something like this there is no reason for corporations to change their ways.

BAd Buys Strike again. Their managers and techs have absolutely no customer service in mind. I purchased a new HP it sat in the box for 15days. Opened the box hooked everything up . Unit did not boot up(after I paid Best buy 129 dollars to update the bios and tweak the hard drive on day of purchase) Called the store was told to return unit to store. 17 days from purchased date spent 2 hours at store whiole head bozo attempted everything that I had already tried. Was told if I had purchased their extened warranty they would help me out. What the? So I took my broken personal computer and stopped at the managers desk on the way out. I then cancelled a 5k order for my business set up. They really wanted to help me then but it was already too late. I will never purchase from best buy again

I had a problem with the so called Geek Squad here in Columbia, MD. They couldn't even transfer my files from my old computer to the next. They deleted half of my data. I will never take anything to the Geek sqad. They are incompetent!

The bad - I bought an open box PC from a Staples a couple of years ago and found another person's name and address registered as the owner (but no personal data or files). I deleted the info and searched the registry to ensure it was not hiding anywhere else. I notified the store's manager, who was surprised and said he would look into it. The good - when the original Maxtor HHD failed during the extended warrany (protection plan) period, Staples sent me to a local repair shop and they returned the dead HDD at my request, without any discussion.

This happened to me when I bought a hard drive from Fry's about 6 years ago. It was a "new" HDD, but it had come from an ISP's pc. It had lots of interesting things on it. I called Fry's and they just said to format it. Some hacker would have had a field day with that info.

Microsoft already has one it's call 'format' under DOS. You have to add a command to have it write 1's and 0's over your formated drive. It's old school stuff.

It's not just Best Buy though - My local PC shop tried to do the same to me a few years ago. Win98 had a corrupt .vxd and refused to boot. I took the machine back and the man behind the counter insisted I had to buy a new HD and they would fit it for me and dispose of the old one. I knew instantly he was telling me a massive lie as I had already run Knoppix on the system and the HD was fine with all files intact. I mentioned this to him and he wasn't very happy. Needless to say I had a chat with his boss and not long after he was running his own computer business elsewhere ;)

Go to a reputable computer shop for your computer needs and this type of thing would not happen. Think about it, you would not go to a plumber to get your car fixed would you? so why take your computer to a home entertainment store to get fixed.Yes its conveinent to go to one store for everything, but then your stuck with a store that knows nothing about the products they sell, because they sell so much different stuff.extended warranties, have you read the newspaper or watched the news lately? What a scam these are.

Well, the root of the problem is also TRUSTING ANYONE that CLAIMS to be an expert. ESPECIALLY the ones at ANY consumer retailer.

I have been in the computer industry (networking and security) for 16 years now, and have NEVER had an issue with a drive that had actually died (not a windows crash, I say windows, because most other Opeating systems dont HAVE issues like Windows does) being able to be reused, and of course I have never replaced a hardware part due to a software issue, I back up everything and restore it and then give the client the backup media or destroy it there on the spot in thier full view. And if I have a drive that I have to replace under warranty, I wipe it IF it is capable of working, just to make sure that there is nothing on the drive proir to leaving the customers site.

The other issue is that Microsoft has made things so damn easy for any 5th grader to support(read screw it up) a Windows based computer any more, and they really dont know how to troubleshoot an issue, and they all want to blame hardware, because we All know that Microsoft makes such a good product (and I have some swamp land in AZ to sell you as well)

I think there needs to be higer standards (there are none) imposed on people that deal with personal information on computers, or might have access to them.
And just because BILLY has been at Best Buy longer than SUZY, doesnt mean he should be on the GEEK sqaud first!
People need to quit trusting the retaillers because they APPEAR to be all knowing about computers. All they tell you is what they have been told to push for the week, the month or the quarter, and they have no real world experience with computer support or customer service.

The bottom line is they are worried MORE about selling you a product and not worried about what you really need or what really needs to be fixed. They are after the all mighty dollar, before thier competition gets it first.

how does a place like best buy stay in business?
I hope after everyone reads this article they will think twice about ever going there again!!!

Well, it is no real surprise to me, as major retailers are notorious for wanting to 'get one over' on the average guy to make a buck. Makes me glad that I have been dealing with computers for nearly 30 years, and I can build my own PCs from parts, even though I also own two Dell desktops and a laptop. I also help friends and do consulting on the side for those who are not as PC-savvy as myself. Yes, I could take advantage of some, but I was always taught to treat others the way you want to be treated. Mr. Gerbus didn't have the option to remove the sensitive date (regardless of why it was there) because of the apparent crash. In my opinion, USB-connected drives and other storage options should be considered for critical data.

Jerk squad is correct. My computer was infected with the "worst virus, worm , or trojan" my tech had ever seen. How I am the only person on the planet to recieve this to date amazes me. My computer still does not work and they have refused to repair or replace it!! It isn't even about the money, they refused to have any thing to do with this unit.

Well I have read the story and understand the problems. Also as a member of the Geek Squad can point out all the errors. But once again point out all the misconceptions that people think happens. (I personally liked the one where the writer said the geek squad member said it was "bad" to get himself a cheap hard drive. *sigh*) There is a standard process that all agents must follow due to security issues. If you had a warrenty through the manufacturer of the computer, not best buy's problem. You are dealing with the manufacturer not Best Buy or the Geek Squad. They are only going off equivalent trade. You get a hard drive, they take a hard drive. I don't see how that isn't fair. I understand why the gentleman is upset and how scary it is, I have had it happen to me. But I learned from the situation, now it is time for the common people as a whole to learn about the whole process of a computer repair before jumping to conclusions.

I'm not surprised in the least that Best Buy would let such a thing happen. The large discount stores do not pay there techs poorly. Consequently they usually have subpar techs or the good ones don't stay long. Remember, these are big companies that are driven by the bottom line. You better believe if it's your best interest or them making an extra buck, then you lose. Seek out a reputable local computer store where the owner knows he had better keep his customers happy. He has much more of a vested interest.

I suggest you take your old hard drives out to the back yard and bury them. Then, when an archeologist digs them up in a thousand years, your personal data will be nothing more than a curiosity.

Just another reason I dont shop at Best Buy.....

In response to the "conspiracy" post. Actually, that is exactly how people get caught. I used to work for Best Buy and a man brought in his computer for a routine data backup. As we were backing up his files, I noticed a few very descriptive file names. They were in fact child pornography. We called the police and they confiscated the computer. Hard drive replacements were done under warranty all the least a dozen a day. If you really think the government has nothing better to do than to analyze thousands of old hard drives when there are much easier ways to capture people, then you are pretty foolish. That is why they are called conspiracy THEORIES. Try actually getting some real facts before you make ignorant posts. Thanks!

I just want to say the one thing that people are overlooking is that the Hard drive was replaced when it wasn't needed. Best Buy did that and got paid by the waranty insurance company to do the work. They get more for replacement of parts then they would if they would have to fix a program glitch.You had one person say it like it is. If you haven't bought your computer at a locally own store at least take it to one for repairs;their reputation is what keeps them in business.

Jim from WV, you claim that if you have made an online transaction of any type there is probably a hard drive with your information on it is the most understated comment here. I would bet that if you were born within the last 75 years in the US then there is definitely a hard drive with your information on it. Every person with a bank account anywhere has a hard drive with their info on it. I think that the main problem here isn't how easy it is to get people's information, it's how easy it is to be destructive with that information. Until our state & federal governments step in with more difficult procedures to open accounts and create fake IDs (they are coming soon), problems like this are nearly unavoidable. You can be as careful as you possibly can with your data, but you can't control nor fully know how everyone else that has your data controls it. One simple mistake by anyone could get your data into the wrong hands. E.g. the IRS laptop being lost this week. It could have just as easily been a laptop from an exec at your bank that had all of your data on it.

Write over it, drill it, smash it, burn it, shred it, cast it in concrete and bury the drives with you. Won't matter. If you are using computers to shop, retrieve data and just have fun, your information is out there on someone elses drive. If you really want to be safe, shop locally with cash you get from your matress that was placed there from being paid for an under the table job to a person the IRS doesn't know exists.

I actually was going to go to BB for the first time next weekend. But not anymore, thanks for the heads up.

Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware)
Always do your research before buying or having something repaired. That goes for electronics, your house, and car as well. Whether it's plumbing, your cars starter, or your computers hardware/software. Learn about what may be the cause of your problem BEFORE you talk to the "professionals" or get opinions from more than one person/company. Warranty or not.

Someone here mentioned doing a low-level format. You don't need a SCSI hard drive to do that. MAXTOR makes FREE harddrive diagnostic/formatting tools that can be used on ANY drive.

A low level format writes '0's' to the ENTIRE harddrive including rewriting the boot sectors making it impossible to recover anything because everything is overwritten, even blank areas. This is different from just deleting a file where only the first couple of characters of the file name are removed so the OS doesn't "see it" or a "shredder" program that encrypts the deleted files. Both of those methods are easy to recover from if you know what program was used to do the 'shredding'. As for degaussing... bits of info can still be left behind.

Everybody has a horror story about every retail store. Just becuase someone has a bad experience doesn't mean you will too. The odds of that are as high as your chances of winning the lottery. If you go to a site where everyone has won the lottery it will seem common. Just like if you read this blog where everyone has had a bad experience, it will seem common.

Do your research, you get what you pay for.

As a owner of a small onsite computer repair company I have heard some stories. One that sticks out is a successful writer in my area said they were having problems with there computer with pop up ads and returned it to best buy, after being told it was fixed, she picked up the computer and found all her data gone and that is when she called me after being told by Best Buy that they were not able to help her, come to find out there quick fix to remove spyware was to reformat than re-imaged the drive, it seems that's the way they know how to fix it, the poor woman was working on 2 new books and had a years worth of work not backed up, plus the originals of a few other books. Imagine her surprise when she found out. I would think any tech worth a dime would ask if there is any needed data on the drive, that's kind of (computers 101). Avoid costly data recovery cost, Please remember to BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP! Pretty much all hard drives will eventually fail, only a matter of time. In today's world there are many forms of simple backup measures you can take that even the home office user can set up....How often do you backup?

The best way to protect yourself is to NEVER put sensitive information on your computer PERIOD. Thats why we have pen and paper for, and go buy a floor safe or get a safety deposit box. As for warranties, what good do they do anyway, after a month or two your computer is outdated by newer models and is worth about as much as a new hard drive. Its not that hard anymore for some average Joe to find information on the internet on how to do anything related to a computer software or hardware wise. The best protection any of us have against identity theft is ourselves. Even if you keep sensitive data on your PC, it is still vunerable to hackers, im not in defense of Best Buy, I've had my share of problems with them, but I believe hackers still outnumber idiots on the jerk squad.

If the drive was really that bad that it had to be replaced, then how did they (BB) copy the mans data to the new drive they installed? or did he just end up with a new operating system only? go figure

Just a couple small additions to this already long list.

Many years ago, Kodak lost a lawsuit with Fuji over Fuji's use of an identical photographic negative film formula (think KodakColor II). As the case went on, evidence showed that Fuji's "research department" consisted of going through the trash collected from the Kodak facility that developed the new formula. Oh, and the trash company was owned ultimately by Fuji, who clearly had devised that scenario. The US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Fuji, stating that Kodak had not protected their intellectual property, i.e. the new formula. Case closed, precedent set.
If Best Buy did anything wrong, they may have misrepresented that the data would be destroyed. Another remote possibility would be if they 'violated' their customer information privacy policy statement.

And to add another log on the fire of justifiable worry, I bought several hard drives from one of the monthly flea markets in Dallas and found data on them all.
One was clearly from a lawfirm that had gone bankrupt (a Limited Liability Parternership, LLP). From a quick browsing of the info, it had gone bankrupt when a client sued them over a loss in a child custody case, because they didn't present child abuse information (referencing several police reports) that could have swayed the verdict. Suffice to say, your information can be lost from hard drives that are never under your control...

And I can't resist one last thought. Remember the really old online service named Prodigy? Either due to inept programmers, or 'enterprising' programmers, large blocks of their user's information was gathered into files and sent up the wire to Prodigy. One of the parties that discovered this was a software development firm that found their entire new program (including the source code) in a temporary file that was uploaded...
Who's your internet provider?

Software will NOT erase data permanently. If someone wants the information off of an "erased" or "degaussed" hard drive - they can go to a reputable data recovery company and get data back that was deleted up to 7 years ago. That's what these companies are there for - and they're what computer forensics investigators go to for the final word. Also, a hard drive head crash doesn't make the data disappear from the platters. The crash may damage the platters - but in a head crash, or internal controller failure - the platters can be put into another drive housing and the data can be read off of them. This is done in practice. Those that your data is safe in any means shape or form, other than the complete destruction of the platters themselves - should keep this in mind. Recovery companies often say "no data - no charge". There is a reason for this, people.

CD's are cheap folks.......about 50cents a pop

Sounds like a class-action lawsuit needs to be filed.....

Computers are great places to keep sensitive data but you must take responsibility to protect it. You should protect your data not only from this situation, but also from the more commonly feared, theft.
If you are going to keep sensitive data, first keep it in a password protected account. Preferably use an NTFS 5 or other OS equivalent file format. Besides the general file security, NTFS 5 has the ability to encrypt files and folders through the first tab on the properties window of each file and folder. If you need extra protection or are on a FAT file format, the web is full of programs that will encrypt data, passwords, and entire files.
Drive erasers will not work on drives that fail because of bad electronics or motors. The motors and electronics can be replaced and the drive will retain the data from before the failure. Drive Erasers are definitely a good idea for voluntary drive disposal.

I think you should sue Best Buy. According to many of the comments above - this happens to a lot of people who trade in their old computers w/ Best Buy. I know I will never trade in any old computer at Best Buy now! Sue them - or at least press charges. With identity theft at an all time high, Best Buy should face some consequences for their actions (or lack of actions).

Best Buy should be ashamed of themselves. I have for myself "tested" this geek squad with very simple upgrade questions, which of course turned into another episode of "up-sell the dummy". Not only that they are often incorrect regarding their resolutions (which for the most part lacks structure/methodology, and is usually made by an untrained freak pulling answers out of the back of his pants. comp usa/circuit city all the way baby!!

When I dispose of hard drives I reformat them and then slam them down as hard as I can, 10 times on concrete. Touching the circuit board several times with 110 volt cord leads is a good idea too. I bought a laptop at BB and had additional memory installed by "the geek squad". I watched as he took the memory out of the package, walked around on a carpeted floor, and then plugged it in. Then he almost broke the case cover because he was putting it on wrong. Low and behold the memory didn't work! Wonder of wonders! The dude had no conception of static electricity and grounding. Geek squad = a bunch of bozos off the street who know squat about computers. I've also had friends tell me the geek squad said their hard rive was failing and their OS was corrupted when all it was was spyware. NEVER go to BB to have your computer looked at. And if they say the drive is bad, slam it down on their concrete floor several times. That should make it at least unsaleable, and only another bozo would waste time trying to get info from a truly crashed hard drive. And one note... the IRS wipes their drives and then crushes them. Good practice if you have a 20 ton press. If not, the drill is a great idea. The bigger the better.

ive seen a couple of people say that why be mad at the whole company if it was an individual in that company's fault..
he was
therefore he was representing best buy at that time,
improper employee hiring\training led to this or it is just laziness, either way, he and the company are at fault(based on how true the information is in the story)
the person who this happened to is entirely a victim
no if's, or's, and's or but's about it, this was entirely the company fault.
this could also be bad hiring practices. was the employee in question even A+ certified?

and also based on the story you see best buy had no intention at all of researching the problem i.e, whose fault it was etc.
after all no investigation started until this incident aired on (national) news...

anyone on here who is defending best buy most likely works for them, is a manager at one, or a legal representitive of them,
or just doesnt understand anything IT

im A+ certified and currently atending college
by my first quarter here i knew exactely what to do with decomishened\broken hard drives

there is no excuse at all for either the employee or the comany.

also him finding his hard drive at a flea market? wtf is that all about...omg it could have passed through so many peoples hands with the data being on it the whole time, and some people may be just storing the records for later use

this guy is living in fear, restitution in the form of identity theft insurance is NOT to much to ask for

he isnt asking for $100 million or anything just for best buy to pay cheap monthly insurance.

and omg thats asking for way way to much (sarcasm)

i personally would sue for $100million because always being scared someone has your information and is just waiting a year or two to use it...that hurts

and then the stress of that effecting family live

and then the stress of the strain in your family life effecting work

etc etc i could go on, the fact the HDD wasnt dealt with properly is only the begining there are also emotional damages(suffering part of the whole pain and suffering deal), and possible financial damages..

What we need to do is ensure that older folks know how to protect their data. Also, remember that in society years ago, store clerks were actually trustworthy and actually cared about doing a good job for their customers.


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