As a programmer, I have a work PC. For some reason I make a lot of things that require my personal account (eg. Google, etc). On my PC there are also a lot of things that are useful for me, but may be rubbish to someone else (like job related personal notes and configurations). Should I clean my PC of this stuff before leaving?

Edit: There are no personal files, etc. Only ones connected with my tasks. Instructions, notes, REALY complex sql queries I rarely use but don't want to write again and again. Stuff that is useful for me, not for anyone else.

  • 18
    Yes, you should. Aug 25, 2014 at 8:11
  • Do you mean - before leaving permanently, or before leaving at the end of the day? Aug 25, 2014 at 9:43
  • Leaving work permamently :-) Aug 25, 2014 at 9:45
  • 3
    I misread the question. Early this morning I thought the OP had personal files on the machine. My bad. Aug 25, 2014 at 14:19
  • 1
    From a security point of view, please zero-out your hard disk. It is trivial to recover data from a hard disk which has only been soft-formatted. Aug 25, 2014 at 20:11

6 Answers 6


ASK YOUR MANAGER. Different companies have different polices on this. Some want you to leave the machine as it was (but give them the password) until they are certain that whoever will be taking over your job has everything they need. (I'm still annoyed one guy didn't do that when his task was passed to me upon his retirement.) Others trust you to do that explicitly as part of the exit process and suggest that machines should be wiped before being returned to the company reuse/recycling pool... though if you forget to do that, they'll do it for you.

  • 8
    I would change the password before handing it over so it has not connection to your usual pattern of choosing one
    – mmmmmm
    Aug 25, 2014 at 21:58
  • @Mark: Reasonable.
    – keshlam
    Aug 25, 2014 at 23:05

Personal things (files, images, etc) should not be stored on your computer so you should clean that part but you shouldn't have to bother to think about the other matters (the work-related items).

It's up to your employer then, afterwards, whether or not to wipe the computer's memory entirely, but that's nothing you should have to worry about. It's quite common though, at least in bigger companies, especially when the computers mainly consist of virtual memory.

You should, however, simply ask your company about how matters like these are handled.

  • I have no personal files. Only notes connected with my job and things I do. My instructions, comlex sql queries etc. Should I remove it or don't bother this? Aug 25, 2014 at 8:30
  • 4
    Don't bother, really. It's non of your business. Technically your work owns those items and should decide on their own whether it's relative to them or not.
    – Jonast92
    Aug 25, 2014 at 8:33
  • I wouldn't say it's "none of [OP's] business" in regards to files that are technically intellectual property (or the like) and it may not bode well if they are simply deleted. If there are important queries, for example, that the next employee might require it might reflect well on OP to make these files available to the company by notifying and discussing this with his manager/s before they are destroyed. But that just echoes your answer: ask your company.
    – filoxo
    Aug 25, 2014 at 21:46

As part of your leaving process, you presumably have already worked out what information transfer you need to do and have off-loaded all your in-progress work to others.

Most likely, the PC will be re-imaged and given to someone else, but...

It is safest to wipe anything that might be personal-- eg bookmarks, downloads, pdf's, photos, etc. These are just bait for a snoopy IT guy.

It is also good to delete any work files that you haven't explicitly transferred to others. A complex but half-baked query might be usable for you, but unless you prepare it for wider use, it is equivalent to a piece of "dangerous playground equipment" which could cause harm, confusion or annoyance.


Usually when given notice, there is some time available to clean up these types of things.

The goal should be to leave your job better than you found it:

  1. Remove what is no longer needed.
  2. Organize the information as much as you can.
  3. Document what you've left behind, why, where and how it can be used.

You'll only have so much time, so that should drive how much detail you can go into. Usually when I start a new job, I keep a small database or spreadsheet that includes things like voice mail usage, file locations, external web site accounts, and anything else to help me remember things.

Hopefully your current company will encourage you to do things like this to help with the transition instead of giving you a bunch of work to finish. Of course there will always be a few tasks.


There's no standard there. Big companies tend to wipe the disk and reinstall everything, but as always, it depends. Reinstalling everything is a lot of effort, and especially development environments take a lot of time to establish.

Even if there's some policy, you should always suspect that wiping hard disks after previous workers may not be considered crucial, and in end effect, the new employee may gain access to all data you have stored on the hard disk.

Personally, I recommend cleaning up. You don't want someone else to use your Google Account or anything similar. Generally, if application data is encrypted, they should be safe (read: useless for anybody else using the same computer), but you should clean them anyway. Someone could have the idea to require from you to change your password to some standard one just before leaving, which would compromise the protection given by the encryption.

As for job-related stuff like SQL queries, if you have good relations with your still-current employer, it would be a good idea to keep them, because they may be useful after you leave, and it would be nice to inform them where are they stored and what are they doing.

  • To your first paragraph: That's why any competent infrastructure team has team-specific preset images that contain all software needed to do the job and with all special things done via unattended scripts (= automatic). This rarely needs any human intervention to do. Sep 6, 2015 at 22:07

I would suggest you remove any personal information such as Google accounts etc. Organize and document work related things you left behind.

Highlight to your manager things like complex SQL queries or anything you created/developed that you think might be useful to the company. This might create a good rapport with your manager. You never know, after all it is a very small world.

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