Tag Archives: hard drives

What to Do With An Old Computer

When I saw this astonishing video I realized that I should address this issue in my Techie Tips.   

Screenshot 2017-09-09 at 11.06.45 AM

When clients ask me what to do with their old computers, I recommend recycling them at Best Buy.  It’s quick and easy.  You just drop them off at the customer service desk.  

Many times, my people like to donate them to a charity or give them to a friend or relative.

In any case, you need to protect the data on your hard drive if you have any sensitive information on it that you would not want criminals to see.

How It Works

You cannot actually erase data on a drive.  When you delete something, the space on the drive gets marked as “vacant” or “writable” so new data can be written over it.  The original information is still there until it’s overwritten and can be found with specialized software.

Some people assume that they can reformat their hard drives, but that just erases the directory that the computer uses to find the files.  It doesn’t delete the files.  The physical bits and bytes still exist.  With regular use, the data  will get overwritten, but it’s a random process and you won’t know which files have been overwritten and which haven’’t.

A “full format” will overwrite the drive with zeros but it’s still possible to recover data with specialized software.

The Solution

DBAN is a free software that overwrites the drive multiple times.  I found a comment online by a Tech who said that after 20 passes, nothing can be recovered.  He swears by it 100%.  I looked up DBAN and it has a disclaimer that it’s not “certified safe.”  I imagine certification would be important in situations where there is legal liability — where you are responsible for someone else’s sensitive data.  If you are willing to install the software and do 20 passes this might be a good solution for your needs.

The most common recommendation is to remove the hard drive from the computer and smash the disks or memory chips with a hammer (wear safety glasses.)  I did that with my old PC laptop and I thought it was fun but you might not share my enthusiasm for taking things apart to see what’s inside.  

I told Angel Sanchez at NYPC Repair (on Hwy 111 in Palm Desert near the Red Barn) that a lot of my clients would probably not want to deal with removing the hard drive and he said you are welcome to bring your computer into the shop and they will take it out and smash it for you with no charge!  Isn’t that great!  Love NYCP Repair!

In Summary

Now you know the whys, the hows and simple solutions.  Your choice will depend on your level of comfort about the security of your files.  For most of us, it isn’t an issue but if it is, you know what to do.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or need help.  

Enjoy!

Mardi  

P.S. If you have found this information helpful, please support my mission to make technology simple, easy and fun for mature adults.  Share this post with others and encourage them to sign up to receive all my Techie Tips via email.   They can sign up here  Thanks!

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Important Reminders From “The Trenches” This Week

If anyone calls you and says they are from Microsoft and you have a problem on your computer, hang up.  It’s a scam!  Microsoft does not have the time or staff to monitor your computer.  Never let someone access your computer remotely unless you know them.  One of my clients was victimized this week so I wanted to remind you again.

 External hard drives are not the best solution for your back ups!  Hard drives can fail and, if your house were to burn down or be burglarized, you could lose your back up along with your computer.  It’s so sad when people lose valuable docs and precious photos.  There are many cloud-based back-up options available.  Many of them offer free storage.  Please be sure you have back-up systems in place. 

It is really dangerous to continue to use Windows XP!  Recently a local business was held hostage by a hacker who kidnapped their files and demanded a ransom of $500 within 30 minutes or $1000 if it took more than 30 minutes.  You must have an operating system that is supported by frequent updates and always allow the updates to install.