| Sometimes you want to permanently erase data from your systems, and other times you want to recover data. |
This week, I bring you more information about what does and doesn’t work when erasing data from your systems. I’ll also discuss your options when your hard drive fails and you need to recover data.
Erase your disk before selling your computer
In the Feb. 1 edition of this newsletter, I wrote about how to erase data to make it unrecoverable. Ian Riddle writes to ask for more information on his specific situation:
- "My wife just got a new laptop. Her old one is quite serviceable, running XP, wireless, etc., so she wants to sell it. I would like to clean the hard drive before it goes, but I want to leave the base XP system installed.
"What steps can I take after erasing all the nonsystem data files to clean up any personal data as much as possible before it goes to a new home?"
To erase your disk and do a clean install, tell the Windows XP installation routine to format your hard disk before installing the operating system. Then when the installation is complete, install a disk eraser program and run it to ensure that all sectors on the disk are reasonably well-erased.
Scandisk doesn’t clear material from sectors
Scandisk is a Microsoft utility that shipped with versions of Windows prior to Windows XP. Scandisk is used to check the integrity of disks to ensure their format remains in proper working order. Samuel Campbell wonders if it clears data from unused sectors:
- "I’ve been running Scandisk with the option ‘scan for bad sectors.’ I have no idea if this helps to keep the empty area of the hard disk clear of any leftover data. Sure, one pass with Scan Disk won’t help much, but over the course of several months, depending on how the scanning works, might it not work well?"
Copying files might not delete unwanted data
In another response to my article in the Feb. 1 issue on erasing unwanted data, Chuck Muhleman writes to tell us about his friend’s suggestion for erasing data:
- "My best friend suggests deleting the data on a partition via the usual method of deleting folders and files, then filling the partition with music files, then deleting the music files."
Another issue to keep in mind is that it takes quite a while to copy a lot of data, so you’re better off spending that same time running a genuine disk-erasing tool — especially since they do work and they can be obtained without cost.
Online data-recovery services to the rescue
If you don’t have a backup of your data and your drive crashes, then you’ll find yourself in a difficult situation. Data-recovery services are costly. Douglas Thompson has this problem:
- "To be as brief as possible, I had a hard drive problem, the drive had family photos, tax files, etc. I sent it off to Seagate Recovery Services and was told it would be $2,150. I am poor, struggling, and can’t afford that (now I know why they don’t quote prices on data-recovery Web sites).
"Did I just read about a service that can recover your hard drive remotely and only charges for time spent connected to their server? I searched archives and reread Windows Secrets newsletters but can’t seem to find it. Did I dream it when I was so distraught over the cost?"