|MICRO CENTER: COMPUTERS AND ELECTRONICS|
Hard Drive Wiping
Whether you're selling, recycling, or donating your old computer, don't let it go without wiping all of your files from the hard drive. I'm not talking about simply dragging your files into the trash and emptying it. Deleting files doesn't permanently remove them from your system; it only removes the link to the file and hides the file from the operating system while it waits to be over-written by new data. Deleted files can be recovered by various unerase and recovery utilities. Wiping your hard drive clean is the only way to keep someone from getting to your old files.
There are a number of disk-wipe programs that can put your mind at ease. These programs will include a boot disk or CD or guide you in making one so you're not using your internal hard drive to boot from. This is important because you can't erase programs that are running (i.e. the operating system).
To wipe a hard drive of data, disk-wipe programs overwrite all the data with new data. The simplest technique is to write zeros over the entire disk (because data is stored as ones and zeros by computers). More complex methods may write ones and zeros randomly throughout the hard drive. An even more thorough method is to make multiple passes, writing random data to the drive.
One program to do the trick for your Windows XP system is WinCleaner Drive Zapper Pro by Enteractive. It includes both a bootable CD and a floppy for older computers. You can completely erase specific files, folders, partitions or an entire drive (which is what we're after).
A similar program is SOS Network's Disk Purge 3.0 which also includes a bootable CD. This program will work on various systems including DOS, Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP and Vista as well as Linux.
For Mac OS X folks, there is Drive Genius that will securely erase data from your hard drive (among other hard drive-related tasks).
Equipped with this information you can let go of your old computers, confident that you won't be sharing anything you don't want to.
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