Returning a company laptop
If you've worked in a company that uses laptops/portables rather than towers, thin-clients or workstations, then you probably understand the travails and advantages of having a company-issued machine, whether it's running MacOSX, Linux or Windows.
Yes, IT admins will wipe or reimage the hard drive once the device is returned but no, not all companies require a rigid purge or debugging of the hard drive. In most cases, they don't have time to perform those tasks or the department heads need the laptop out on the field as soon as possible. Here are some thoughts from an IT admin regarding what to do before you return your laptop/portable:
1. If you had administrator access or installed applications on the portable, uninstall all your personal applications as a courtesy to your friendly neighborhood IT guy. Again, they will wipe the drive but it's nice if VLC, uTorrent, Portableapps or any open-source software is off the drive when he performs a routine checkup.
2. Back up necessary files your coworkers might need. Most companies have a really good back up process, but this actually depends on the level of importance of your data. Rank and file employees that don't really touch confidential data generally aren't required to follow the daily, weekly and monthly backup cycle. However, when you're leaving a company and need to return a company laptop, you might have that odd document that your replacement or team might need when you're gone.
Backing up files isn't as difficult as the morons at PCMag and CNET would have you believe. You more likely have access to a shared network drive or your company is subscribed to an online storage service like Box or Amazon S3. As always, avoid using your personal cloud service like OneDrive or Dropbox - unless of course your company approved them. And for IT's sake, please avoid iCloud.
3. If you have a Linux-powered laptop, it goes without saying that your IT admin probably has a strict Force choke-hold on your data and applications access. However, anyone who has worked with a Linux workstation knows there's always a workaround and you've probably tinkered with quite a bit of configuration files during your time with the machine.
The smb.conf file in Debian 8 Jessie
Undo whatever changes you made to the system, be it scripts or automated scheduled tasks. It's no longer your machine so let it go and buy yourself a System76 or Dell XPS 13 instead.
4. Emails are important even when you're gone. Depending on how your IT team set up access to Outlook or whatever enterprise email client your company uses, you probably have control over your email regardless if you have administrative privileges or not.
If tech news regarding privacy and hacks have taught you anything, it's that emails are extremely dangerous. That funny office photo you sent to the attractive intern? That one impulsive and offensive email you angrily shot at that bastard one-balled Russian? Those reprimands and demeaning Lync messages from your boss? All of them are stored on some remote server farm. In this era of social media and apps, people tend to forget deleting an email doesn't mean it's gone, and they also forget you have control over your email if you really want to - it's a digital right.
5. Your browser stores a lot of information about you. It doesn't matter if your company restricts you to Internet Explorer 8/Safari or you surreptitiously installed Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or Chromium on your company laptop.
Chromium Privacy Settings
Make sure you logged off whatever sites you logged into and clear all your temporary files if you have access to browser settings. Browsers have evolved but very few things have changed regarding how they store your habits or your information.