It’s a chilly March Saturday at the Pit, a concrete holding pen for abandoned computer parts at the Needham, Massachusetts, town dump. Nearby, three locals wait patiently in their idling cars.

An SUV pulls up. Driver James Curtin grabs an old PC from the back and puts it into the Pit alongside other CRT monitors and old computer chassis. Slowly the other men exit their cars and walk toward the discarded computer–one with a screwdriver in hand.

DumpFor these PC scavengers, the Pit is a gold mine for memory chips, processors, and other components that they use to build PCs on the cheap. But they also routinely find something else: business and personal data that prior owners have left on discarded hard drives.

“[On] almost every hard drive I pull, I’ll find a tax return or a resume,” says David Burns, who describes himself as a Needham regular.

The lesson for PC users? Old hard drives don’t always die–or fade away. Often they are salvaged and reused in other computers. And when that happens, the data and sometimes-grimy secrets of previous users go with them.

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