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How to permanently delete data off an old hard drive

angle grinder
angle grinder

to Which! Computing
magazine if you are getting rid of an old computer,
you are best advised to remove the hard drive and smash it up
completely. Apparently this will stop criminals getting hold of your
data and using it to commit identity fraud. But just what are the best
ways of getting rid of data?

The trouble is that most people
tend not to bother with getting rid of files on an old computer when
they sell it or dispose of it down the local waste recycling facility.
And those that do either just delete it without emptying the computer’s
own recycle bin or if they do, don’t realise that criminals can use
software tools to piece together files users were sure were deleted
when they got rid of the computer.

"Even if you delete your
files, you’d be surprised how easy it is to recover your personal
data," said Sarah Kidner, Editor of Which? Computing. "PCs contain more
valuable personal information than ever as people
increasingly shop online, use social networking sites and take digital

So just what can be done to destroy files? Here are
some ways to make sure that you data doesn’t get in the wrong hands and
their pros and cons.

Click on the next page to find out….{mospagebreak}
Erasing data on a file-by-file basis

you decided to give your PC to a friend and while you may want to give
them the programs on the machine, you don’t necessarily want them to
find your tax returns or even your internet browsing history (we’re
talking left-handed websites). Just trashing the files doesn’t render
them unrecoverable, it just makes that space available for overwriting.

What is needed here is a data shredding program. Digital File Shredder Pro from StompSoft not only deletes the file it overwrites the space the file took up.

That said, some data recovery experts believe that with any data
shredding program, it is still possible to gain some data back by
looking at edges of the data track.

Wiping the whole drive

Of course, you can just wipe the entire drive if you think no-one
really wants your copy of Office 97 and Netscape 3.1. While
reformatting the drive erases the files, the data is still recoverable
with off-the-shelf software.

One product, System Suite 3.0
from Ontrack, contains a program called DataEraser which can overwrite
the drive completely. But it is sadly not a five minute job. Best to
start this in the evening and let it work its erasing magic overnight.

Using power tools

The only completely reliable method of destroying data is to take a
piece of heavy metal to the drive and smash it beyond recognition.

While hitting the drive with a hammer will make the drive harder to
power up, the platters inside the dirve which contain the data could
still be recoverable. You need to open up hte disc itself and take
these platters out.

Then smashing them with a hammer can damage the surface. Using a drill
to put holes inthe drive will also ensure that the platters cannot spin
within the drive also.

But we think the best and most sand method of permanently destroying
data is to break out an angle grinder and sand down the platter surface
from its normal shine to a dull colour. We reckon this will almost
certainly make the drive 100 percent data free.