Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Best way to completely erase a hard drive

It's easy to believe that choosing a file on your computer, selecting Delete and emptying the Recycle Bin will forever remove its presence from your life.  Not so!  Sometimes traces will remain even after a reformat or blanking procedure (writing zeroes to all sectors).

This came up in a recent question I was asked:

"I have the HP Pavilion Media Center 2005 Edition.  I would like detailed but easy to follow directions on how to remove the hard drive and destroy it before I donate or discard of it."

There are two options to effectively remove data from the drive -- software and hardware. I recommend you do both, just to be safe.

First, run a program like DBAN (http://www.dban.org). It's free software and the best for eliminating nearly all traces of data on the drive. Many universities (including Stanford) use this program for their machines.

Next step would be to remove the drive. Take off the side and front panels first, then unscrew the two screws from the front of the drive bay. After the screws are out, pull back and hold the bay release and slide the bay out of the case. Finally, remove all four screws from the drive itself.

Finally, If you're really serious about data removal, a hardware solution is in order. Degaussing often requires expensive equipment, but drive destruction is also an option. Drilling multiple holes in the drive is fairly quick and effortless, but if you're up for it, disassemble it and and then destroy the platters.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Windows 8 Upgrade

Luke from Corpus Christi, TX recently asked:

"How do I know if I need the Windows 8 upgrade or the full retail version?"

If you already have Windows Vista or Windows 7 installed then the Upgrade version is fine.  If you have no operating system or a non-Windows operating system installed, you will need the Full version (also called System Builder version).  In addition, upgrading from Windows XP requires a whole new set of gymnastics to get things going, which is something beyond the scope of this post.

Also, there are some additional limitations, depending on which Windows edition you already have installed (i.e. Windows 7 Home, Professional, etc.) and to which edition you'll be upgrading.  Microsoft has been kind enough to provide specific info on that here:


Finally, keep in mind that if you have a 32-bit version of a previous Windows operating system installed, you can only directly upgrade to another 32-bit version.  If you want to upgrade to a 64-bit version, you'll need a System Builder/Full install.

Whew!  I know!  It's all so very confusing, but if this hasn't made things clear for you, please feel free to get in touch and I'll be happy to walk you through!