Seller Beware – Avoid Selling Home Movies on eBay

Before you create an auction on ebay for your hard disk camcorder, or post a camcorder for sale on Craigslist, you may want to verify your videos are no longer on the camcorder hard drive. If you don’t take this one crucial step, you might be sending something personal to someone you’ve never met.
I came to this sudden realization after one of my auctions closed last week on ebay. I had used the delete feature of the camcorder to manually delete all but two videos from a hard disk camcorder. I was connecting the camcorder to my PC to copy the last two files to my PC hard drive when Windows Explorer revealed 22 more videos than expected on the drive. Apparently delete marks files for deletion but doesn’t actually remove them immediately from the drive.
There wasn’t anything interesting on the camcorder. Some videos I’d shot for a tutorial and a couple of videos from China, but that’s not the point. I could have had video of my kid, which is not something I want a complete stranger to have. Considering the primary reason Sony’s Nightshot feature exists, it would be quite easy for someone like me to have their own Paris Hilton moment by failing to make sure the drive was clean.
Unlike MiniDV camcorders or even camcorders that record to flash memory, which require a quick check to see if there’s still media present, the media in a hard drive camcorder can’t be removed, which means you need to pay more attention to what exactly you’re shipping to the person on the other end of a sale.
To make sure you get rid of any potentially personal or embarrassing material from your hard drive camcorder, follow these simple steps:

  • Delete files by connecting the drive via USB and deleting them in Windows Explorer
  • Format the Drive using the Format tool on the camcorder
  • Record black to fill the hard drive with video and overwrite the potential for data recovery

That last step is probably not necessary, since most camcorder users aren’t likely to do drive forensics, but if you’re paranoid, it can’t hurt. I’m a big fan of hard drive camcorders because they do save time in processing video, but like any newer technology, there can be a slight learning curve to avoid airing your dirty laundry (in this case literally).