Stored Fax Information and Privacy Concerns

I have a doctor’s office whose fax machine recently died, and she was told by someone that it has a chip that has stored information about every fax that was sent or received; she wants to be sure that it is destroyed before the fax is recycled. First, is this possible? Second, if not, can you provide a reliable source(s) that I can refer to try to alleviate her concern? Third, if it is possible, how do I ensure the chip/drive is removed and destroyed?

It is true that many copy machines do have a hard drive or digital memory that stores digital copies of everything that is copied on it. This is also the case for some models of all-in-one printer-copier-scanner-fax machines. If the fax machine in question is a cheap, low-end model that only sends and receives faxes, I wouldn’t worry — it probably doesn’t store old faxes. But if it’s a higher-end model that includes a speedy copier, there’s a chance that it does retain old material on the hard drive. Saving digital copies of your copies improves the performance of the machine, and makes features such as two-sided coping much easier.

The procedure for erasing that data varies from model to model, so check the manual (or, if you can’t find, the manufacturer’s web site) to find out how to purge old copies and faxes. There’s no need to remove or destroy the drive — just following the manufacturer’s advice for wiping it should be fine unless you’re concerned about the NSA reviewing your old faxes and copies.

Do you have a question about faxing? Send me your fax question.