Steps to Maintain Privacy Before Returning Work Laptop
June 12, 2020 2:21 PM   Subscribe

What else do I need to do to my work laptop and accounts to protect my privacy before I return it?

I am very lucky in that when my MBP laptop was given to me, it had just been purchased by a fellow employee and wasn't passed along to an IT department because my company didn't and still doesn't have one. I am therefore the master and commander of it in its entirety.

So, now that I am leaving, I want to nuke my laptop and accounts as much as possible.

Currently I intend to:

Transfer all my personal data to my main computer
Completely reformat the drive and set it up with factory settings

However, all my account settings and data in my work Chrome, Slack, and Skype profiles have me at a loss. I want to completely obliterate all the data (to whatever degree possible) in those apps to protect my privacy. I do not have control over my work email in the sense that I can't delete it. I can (I think) remove all the Google stuff associated with it, but I am not sure.

What do you recommend? Is there anything I am missing? What else should I make sure I do?
posted by Kitchen Witch to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are you planning on putting an Operating System back on it? If so, what OS is it running currently? Or is your company OK with no OS?

Darik's Boot and Nuke is a thing.
posted by dgeiser13 at 2:45 PM on June 12, 2020 [4 favorites]

account settings and data in my work Chrome, Slack, and Skype profiles

Are they company-provisioned accounts, or accounts you signed up for using your work email as contact/username? If the former, they're not really your accounts, and your company theoretically already owns them and has access to them, like the email account. They may already be able to access backups of the data whether you delete it or not. (This may depend on your jurisdiction but it's how I've always approached it-- nothing personal or sensitive through a work account.) If the latter, just change the contact email. Everything else should be taken care of by formatting the drive.
posted by supercres at 2:54 PM on June 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yes, MBP currently runs Catalina. I will return it to that.

My Slack and Skype accounts are ones I created, but I am pretty sure only an admin can delete my Slack account. I can ask a coworker to do that.

My Chrome stuff is all linked to my work G-Suite stuff.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 2:55 PM on June 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Probably overkill but you may want to encrypt the entire hard drive, presumably with built-in FileVault, and then reinstall MacOS. Not only does most "formatting" not actually erase anything, but operating systems often assume that you want to recover your old data.
posted by meowzilla at 4:15 PM on June 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

When I was in this situation I opted to create a new Mac OS user and delete the user account I had been using.

But +1 to Darik's Boot and Nuke as an effective nuclear solution.
posted by jaden at 5:02 PM on June 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

FileVault and a fresh macOS install (usually using the OS installer's own cresteinstallmedia to make a USB stick) will put a fresh layer of drive encryption on the solid-state storage. (Multiple overwrites matter if you're paranoid about recovery from spinning rust, but solid-state drives spread the writes around to evenly distribute the wear of writing to SSD so more than one overwrite isn't needed.)

Those online services contain data you can't erase -- it was your output that the company paid to have and you have the friendships and work relationships arising from it, but not way to cut out those interactions. Always remember it's their IT environment and you're doing work for hire. It's a bit murky about keeping a personal portfolio of your work, but backups for safety are a responsible thing to do.
posted by k3ninho at 2:03 AM on June 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you have registered this computer for "Find My..." in iCloud, go to and remove this computer from your account.

If you have been using iTunes/Music or the App Store, sign out of those accounts. More details here.
posted by blob at 3:38 PM on June 13, 2020

There's a page on Apple Support about What to do before you sell, give away, or trade in your Mac. In summary:

1. backup
2. sign out of iTunes
3. sign out of iCloud
4. sign out of iMessage
5. reset NVRAM
6. unpair Bluetooth devices
7. erase and reinstall macOS

I thought "disable Find My ___" was on the list, but I might be misremembering.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:46 PM on June 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

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