It happens two or three times a year. I get this question: I am about to get rid of my old computer, how can I safely erase the hard drive to protect my information? Today that question came from my Sister in Law Christine. Here was my answer:
This is an age old question. Short of taking the hard drive apart and shredding the magnetic disks inside, there is nothing you can do to prevent someone with the right tools and knowledge from recovering your files.
That said, there are a few things you can do to at least slow them down. #1 format the disk using a windows CD. This is enough to prevent the average person from recovering any info off the hard drive. #2 If you want more protection you can use an “eraser” program. Here is a free one. This should be enough to keep everyone out with the exception of maybe the CIA.
Besides safely erasing a whole hard drive, eraser can also safely erase selected files. Like those 150 porn images you “accidentally” downloaded. >wink wink<
Christine also reminded me, Knoxville has a computer recycling program. Certainly worth the little extra effort.
I have talked before what a fan I am of open source software. Here’s a list nice list: 21 Awesome (But Lesser Known) Open-Source Applications For Windows. Fairly surprised Filezilla is on this list, I would call that one of the better known open-sourch apps.
Not on the list, but one I have started using again: Pidgin a GTK+ instant messaging application for Windows and Unix. It supports AIM, ICQ, Jabber/XMPP, MSN, Yahoo!, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, IRC, QQ, SILC, SIMPLE and more. Basically one instant message client for all your needs. Also comes with an optional spell checker. Great for people like… you know, me.
Another fine article from the folks at Pcmag.com. The Ultimate USB Key:
The best things on your USB key are free. The open-source PortableApps Suite is a free 89MB download that installs Firefox, the Thunderbird e-mail client, the Gaim instant messenger, the Sunbird calendar app, and the OpenOffice.org office suite—basically all you need to get work done on the road. If you are using a smaller USB key, a 30MB “Lite” version uses the more compact AbiWord word processor instead of the full OpenOffice.org. A “Base” edition that is less than 1MB includes only the basic menu and a backup utility, so you can add your own portable applications from the PortableApps.com site. Any USB key with 512MB or more can use the full version, and it’s an obvious first choice when you’re outfitting a USB key. From the same site you can add a few dozen other applications, including the superbly capable VLC media player. (Free, www.portableapps.com,
PC Magazine offers 72 Tips for Safer Computing. A good piece of common sense advice:
If you have broadband service but don’t have a router, get one. Wired or wireless, they’re cheap.
Build a Home Entertainment Center. Looks interesting, I have the Windows Home server. However, the other pieces aren’t exactly cheap. I may need to look into some lower cost alternatives.
SageTV HD Media Extender
$199.95 list, www.sagetv.com
SageTV Media Center 6.3
with Placeshifter License Combo $99.95 list, www.sagetv.com
1 Monster HDMI cable (6.6 feet)
$99.99 street, www.monstercable.com
2 10′ Ethernet Cat 5e patch cables
I am a huge fan of Open Source Software. Why pay for software when you can get equal or often better software for free. Although for job reasons I have yet to get around to switching to Linux, every day I use at least one Open Source program and usually more than one. A few of my favorites are: FileZilla FTP client, NVU html editor, and of course my favorite of all FireFox. Here is a roundup of many other Open Source alternatives.
BusinessWeek posted a good story about the rapidly growing home server category, led by Windows Home Server and the HP MediaSmart Server.
The goal of Home Server products is to keep things simple. The devices come with two cables—one for power and the other to connect to the home computer system. Consumers need to slip a disc into their PC, answer five questions, then they’re up and running, with their files backed up automatically every day. “We’ve stripped away the complexity,” says VanRoekel.
Or, you can do what I did and build your own.
Lifehacker.com and Web Worker Daily offer several tips to update and improve your wireless home network. Here’s one I like:
Consider adding access points. In response to a long post I did on Wi-Fi a few months ago, many readers said that they use only a router to send their Wi-Fi signal around their home—no access points. Wi-Fi is radio technology, which means your router’s signal decays with distance. Often, adding just one access point (use the same brand as your router) at a cost well under $100, will radically increase the roaming performance you get. This is especially true if you live in a large home.
With all the talk I’ve been doing about Windows Home Server, I neglected to mention my recent birthday and the awesome birthday present I picked up for myself.. hey… someone has to do it, right? I am the proud new owner of this beautiful 22″ wide flat screen monitor from HP. I highly recommend it, if you are in the market for a new monitor
I just noticed a search for “best motherboard for Windows Home Server” had led to this site. I would say from my experience: one that supports SATA 300 (sometimes called SATA II). Makes life easier when installing the big new hard drive(s) you are going to want.
On another WHS note: installing the connection software on a network computer automatically creates a shortcut to the shared drives on the server. However, does not automatically map those drives. Mapping must be done manually. Once a drive is mapped, I recommend a program like Microsoft SyncToy 2.0 beta or Replicator from Karen’s Power Tools. Both free tools do an excellent job of keeping files synced between local computer and mapped drive on the home server.