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How do I delete the OS on an old hard drive without deleting the data on it?


I have a somewhat oldish IDE drive that was in my old laptop before it died, the hard drive is fine, the power port went out on the computer and I recycled the computer, but I kept the hard drive. It still has XP installed on it and I want to get the files in it. If I just plugged it into a USB adapter can I just drag them off? Or is there something more complicated?

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orksecurity5 years ago
Yes, you can almost certainly just plug it into a USB-to-IDE adapter or external housing and copy the files from it, then erase and/or reformat and reuse it. Or just delete everything but the files you want to keep, and continue to use it as additional storage.

Another approach, if you have a desktop which has an available bay, would be to just plug it in as an additional internal drive and use it from there.

One tip: If you're planning to dispose of it after rescuing the files you care about, you may want to do a serious wipe of the disk -- normal delete or reformat aren't sufficient for security. There's a lot of freeware available for the task. (I actually usually do it via a kluge of a .bat file I cooked up, just because I can type that into any DOS/Windows-family machine at the drop of a hat -- it isn't fast, and it isn't sophisticated, but it's adequate for most purposes.)
(I say "almost" because of the Windows Registry and a few other unintuitive Windows behaviors -- depending on what you're trying to rescue, finding all the pieces may be a challenge.)
martzsam (author)  orksecurity5 years ago
Oh ok. I was worried that my computer might try and boot off of it or something.
Your computer has a specific boot order often settable in BIOS. If you're concerned, you can check how that's set.

At worst, it boots once or twice from the old disk (and probably isn't happy about the hardware configuration) until you figure out the right configuration. Probably harmless if so.
Schober5 years ago
It really depends on whether or not you want to keep the drive in your computer, what kind of computer the files are going to be transfered onto (desktop or laptop) and what kind of connectors the computer has inside (IDE or SATA) .

Laptop or Desktop External (Keep):
Buy a 2.5" IDE external hard drive case and transfer the desired files where they are needed, then format. Use the external drive to back up important files or secure important files on removeable storage.

Laptop or Desktop External (Eliminate):
Buy a 2.5" IDE to USB adapter and transfer files. Format and destroy hard drive. This is only necessary if you have put any data on the drive you may not want someone else to find. (Bank/ Credit Card Info, Addresses , phone numbers, etc.)

Desktop Internal (Keep):
Buy appropriate adapter either IDE to IDE or IDE to SATA and transfer then format. Then either use as secondary drive or buy a RAID and treat your current hard drive and the secondary as one.

Desktop Internal (Eliminate):
Buy appropriate adapter and transfer then format then destroy.

Destruction:
This can be done a number of ways.
ACID!
Soak in a mixture of Muratic acid and Hydrogen Peroxide, this should eat most metals. (1 Part Acid to 2 Parts Peroxide) This will take quite a while but given enough of the mixture it will eat all or most of the metal.
Disassembly
Just for the fun of it you could take it apart and cut the platters into pieces, try to melt them down, or turn them into something cool. This will also make acid destruction faster.
DRILL
Take a 1/2" drill bit or similarly sized bit and drill three or four large holes all the way through the drive (this was suggested in Popular Mechanics).
Call
If you can find one in your area contact your local "technology destroyer". You may get to throw your hard drive into an industrial shredder.
Magnetize
Probably the least secure but simplest to do. Will make it useless to you but in the hands of the right hacker it could cause you some trouble. Just get a strong magnet (there's one inside the drive) and give it a good run around both sides of the platters.

Ultimately whether or not you destroy it is up to you just be wary of whose hands the drive ends up in. 

This is probably more information than necessary but I like exploring all of the options.

martzsam (author)  Schober5 years ago
Entertaining! Thanks!
lemonie5 years ago

Plug it into another machine, but set it not to be the boot-drive, then you can copy what you like.
For a good "scrub" repartition the drive.

L
DIY Dave5 years ago
Yes, all you will have to do is drag the files off. If you want to delete the OS, you can usually find those files in a folder called "windows"