No Data Left Behind: How to Scrub Personal Data From Your Gaming Console

No Data Left Behind: How to Scrub Personal Data From Your Gaming Console

July 30, 2015

/ by Tin Salamunic

Video games have come a long way in the quality of their graphics and sound as well as in the amount of personal information needed if you want the full experience. In the early days of arcade gaming, the most personal information you entered was your initials, and that was only if you were good enough to earn a high score. And if the machine lost power, then your initials went with it. If you’ve ever seen the “Frogger” episode of Seinfeld, then you know how far some people are willing to go to preserve their high scores.

But that was before the modern age of hard drive-equipped, Internet-connected video game systems. With the ever-rising popularity of online gaming and pay-to-play downloadable content, modern consoles have become veritable storehouses for your personal data. The good news is that you don’t have to re-enter your credit card number every time you want the latest Mortal Kombat 5 DLC. The bad news is that it can be hard to make that data go away. By following a few easy steps, you can be sure your personal data doesn’t stick around once you’ve moved on to the next generation.

Know Where Your Data Is Stored
In the age of cloud-based data storage, it can be difficult to know exactly where Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are storing your personal information. Is it on the system? Or is it on a server in a secret bunker in the middle of the Nevada desert? Ultimately, it’s best to assume that the information is stored in both places. This means you need to format your console's hard drive and find a way to guarantee that your online information stays secure. You don’t want to delete your online account if you’re going to purchase a newer system, but you definitely want to change your password. Do this through a device other than your console to help cut the cord between your account and the device. Your console can’t remember something you never told it.

Perform a Full Format With Overwrite
The Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii all have settings devoted to data management and options for completely erasing the hard drive. Before you do this, make sure you back up all of your data with a memory card or external hard drive. Once that’s complete, be sure to select the option for a full overwrite. A less stringent format is only going to mark your data to be overwritten by new data in the future. A full overwrite takes a lot longer, but it immediately replaces your data with random gibberish so that a savvy data-stealer can’t make any sense of it.

Have a Fail-Safe
Even if you take every precaution, there is always the chance that someone can access your personal information through an old gaming console. If you plan on selling consoles on a regular basis, it can’t hurt to have a basic LifeLock account to help protect your identity. It’s only 10 bucks a month to be protected from any kind of identity theft — even if your gaming console isn’t to blame. A little peace of mind can go a long way, and it might just help you stay focused when you’re going for a new high score.

Article by: Cherie Nelson

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