House Call 2013 — Part 1: Sanitizing a drive

Fred Langa

The 2013 House Call series starts with a trip to Florida and a day spent helping Windows Secrets reader Pam Newberry with her PC problems.

Coming from the Northeast, I found Sarasota refreshingly warm and green; but fixing Pam’s PCs was a challenge — multiple systems running various versions of Windows, each with different issues.

The Windows Secrets House Call series is an occasional project in which I visit readers’ homes or businesses and work with them to diagnose and cure real-life hardware and software problems. I then share what we learned in the Windows Secrets newsletter.

For a fuller explanation of House Calls and how it works, see the first article in the 2012 series: the April 12, 2012, Top Story, “House Call 2012: Fixing a sluggish PC.”

The trouble: Both hardware and software

Pam had five PCs needing help, but because House Call is a one-day visit, we selected two systems to work on. Part One of this House Call tackles preparing an old system for donation. Part Two, to follow in next week’s issue, covers upgrading a cranky, Vista-installed Dell system to Windows 8.

This week’s troublesome system was an old, XP-era Toshiba notebook with a dead video system. When the machine was powered on, its screen showed no illumination or activity of any kind. Connecting an external monitor produced the same results. The obvious diagnosis (which Pam had reached on her own) was a failure of the notebook’s on-the-motherboard video subsystem — rendering the Toshiba completely useless.

Rather than spend the money to rehabilitate an old notebook with a new motherboard, Pam had already decided to donate it to a local tech school, where it could be used for parts and/or teaching purposes. But first she needed to wipe the system’s hard drive, ensuring that none of her personal information would go out the door with the notebook.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2013-02-14:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.