My mum's got an old Apple iMac from ca. 2009 which after 10 years is pretty much for it.

I'd like to wipe the computer to get rid of any personal data before we get rid of it. Just in case.

As an older machine, it's still running OS X Snow Leopard.

Unfortunately I don't have any of the install disks, because, well, I knew Mum was gonna get rid of the computer so I binned them when I was having a big sort out when I moved house. Call me stupid but I didn't exactly expect to need the install disk to uninstall it. But then I'd forgotten the old adage, if you want to lock yourself out of your house, make sure you keep your house keys with you at all times.


Erasing an old 'spinning rust' Hard Drive is not the safest or most secure way to totally prevent data recovery by a bad actor, even if you use the old 'secure erase' functions.

The simplest & most secure method is to destroy it.
Whether that's by drilling holes through it or taking a very large hammer to it is pretty much dependant on how much fun you may find either option ;)

The remains are recyclable no matter which way you do it.

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  • Nice way around the problem, thanks for the tip. All the same, I mean, I'm just looking to take a few sensible precautions, I'm not toooo worried about keeping myself safe from a sophisticated attacker determined to access my 10-year-old English homework, I just wanna make it hard for a casual scallywag to log right in and get at the whole lot. Kinda like locking my front door when I leave the house, rather than going for the trained snipers, bulletproof glass ... moat ... :P – Au101 Apr 26 '19 at 17:07
  • Honestly, if it's going to the recycle anyway, wreck it. It's going to be easier than finding a set of boot disks for it. It might boot to recovery with Cmd/R at the chimes, depending on what OS was last on it, but if it doesn't - it's the toolshed ;) – Tetsujin Apr 26 '19 at 17:10
  • Sadly it doesn't, cmd+r was my first attempt. Okey dokey, thanks for the tips – Au101 Apr 26 '19 at 17:11
  • Winth all due respect, reformatting the HD and installing a new OS over top the old one is a good way to discourage most casual users even hackers from getting anything valuable off a hard drive. No it's not hard to do but a 10 year old Mac is unlikely to have anything valuable on it, as you said. Unfortunately without bootable media of some sort you are kind of out of luck, unless there is a local Mac users group that has someone that could loan you the disks... – Steve Chambers Apr 26 '19 at 18:50
  • Destroying hardware is terrible for the planet (reuse >>>> recycle). Don't do that unless absolutely necessary. Five passes of zero-ing out the drive will be much more than enough even to the super paranoid. This can be done in Disk Utility. (You really only need to do two or three passes, if that.) – Wowfunhappy Apr 26 '19 at 23:28

Enough users have post a question regarding the free upgrade from Snow Leopard to El Capitan that this should not be a hard question to answer.

  1. If necessary, use a newer Mac to create a Apple ID that can be use at the Apps Store. Although, it appears you may not need to sign in to download El Capitan.
  2. If necessary, upgrade older iMac to version 10.6.8 of Snow Leopard. The Combo update can be found at https://support.apple.com/kb/DL1399?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US. Technically, you might be OK, if you have 10.6.6 or newer version of Snow Leopard.
  3. Enter this address: https://itunes.apple.com/app/os-x-el-capitan/id1147835434?mt=12 into Safari on the iMac. You should be able to download El Capitan.
  4. Follow the instructions at https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201372 to create a bootable USB El Capitan installer.
  5. Boot from the USB installer and use the Disk Utility to wipe the internal drive.
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