How do I remove my personal information from a Mac at work?
July 7, 2010 8:29 PM   Subscribe

What key personal data should I remove from my employer's Mac? And how?

I'm about to leave my current employer for a new job and would like to get rid of as much personal data from the iMac I've been using here for a few years as possible.

I'm talking about things like saved passwords for websites, log-ins saved for various programs, logs of internet history etc.

I'll obviously look to kill off these files from the browsers I've used etc. but since I don't know the real inside and out of where some of that data is stored, I'm wondering what I might miss.
posted by puffl to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you have administrator access, this is simple. Set up a new admin account. Move all your old business-related documents to that account. Nuke your old account from your new account. Just before you leave for the weekend, run Disk Utility, click the Erase tab, and set it to erase all free space and write it over with at least 1 layer of alternating 0s.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:49 PM on July 7, 2010

If your employer has anything at all like a modern networked backup system, then there's no point in trying to do this because all the information you would remove is archived, and you can't access the archive.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:49 PM on July 7, 2010

if you don't have administrator access, you'll have things in the following folders in your user directory:

Applications (if you've downloaded Steam)

And in the ~/Library folder, there will be many things in many folders depending on which applications you use. AppZapper will help with 3rd party applications; I suggest opening the other Apple applications (Address Book, Mail, etc.) and deleting the other information manually. Safari Reset does not clear bookmarks.

In your Applications/Utilities folder there is an app labeled Keychain Access. This contains a bunch of other saved passwords. Delete the personal entries.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:56 PM on July 7, 2010

Response by poster: infinitewidow: Thanks, I'm not an admin but your second post gives some helpful tips on places to look for this stuff!

Chocolate Pickle: This is definitely the case in my office, but I guess I'm less concerned about someone deliberately snooping through my old files, and more concerned that my replacement will open a browser window and find themselves logged in to my MetaFilter! Or that they're just stumble across something else similarly problematic elsewhere on the hard drive.
posted by puffl at 9:02 PM on July 7, 2010

If you're just worried about people stumbling across stuff, contact your IT department and ask them if they wipe machines when an employee leaves, and if so, when you can bring yours by for wiping. If they don't, or they say they do and you don't trust them, then the advice here is good.
posted by davejay at 11:54 PM on July 7, 2010

For future reference, I would create an encrypted disk image using the Disk Tool, and store any personal data on there. Then all you have to do move the image, a single (large) file. Since it encrypted, it would be very difficult for someone else to recover the data.
posted by jimfl at 7:30 AM on July 8, 2010

Most modern browsers have a delete history/delete private data etc kind of functionality which could clear all the private data automatically.

For firefox: Tools menu -> Clear Recent History.
Perhaps Safari has something similar?
posted by bbyboi at 9:58 PM on July 8, 2010

MacCleanse is great for this sort of thing. I recently used it when I moved to a new job.

It will clear out all of your browser caches along with several other features. It's shareware, but it does have a 15 day trial.
posted by the biscuit man at 9:37 AM on July 11, 2010

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