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Did you know when you delete a file on your computer it's not really gone, even when you empty the recycle bin? If you going to sell/donate your computer, these files can be recovered simply, and even using free software (see pic below). In this instructable I intend to show you how to save your data from being recovered using free software, and the only thing you might have to buy is a blank cd.

Step 1: Before We Start...

There are three main ways you can erase your data:

1) Nuking the hard drive:
Is where you use a cd-rom to remove all traces of ANYTHING on your computer, including Windows. This means that you will not be able to boot into Windows after nuking, so you will have to reinstall windows (unless you specified when selling). This way is probably quickest.

2) Shredding your files:
Is where you haven't yet deleted the file, and you shred this one file instead of deleting it.

3) Erasing Free Space:
Is where you remove traces of things you may have previously deleted. This keeps your operating system.

Step 2: How Does It Work?

When you delete a file on your pc it isn't really gone, your computer has simply forgotten where it is stored, and thus cannot access it. The way you can remove the forgotten file is to overwrite where it is written on the hard drive. The way 'Erasing Free Space' works is it creates a random data file (or several) that is very large, to fill up the rest of the free space on your hard drive. Once there is no free space left, the large file is deleted normally, overwriting previously deleted files.

Step 3: Nuking Your Drive

First thing you will need to do is remember when you bought your computer. If you bought it before 2001 then skip to Step 6. If after 2001, then continue reading... If you aren't sure you can try either method, but make sure you have 2 cds incase one doesn't work (then you can try the other)

There are several tools you can use to 'nuke' your drive, but the best is called 'HDD Erase'. It is best because it is simple software, that triggers a feature built into the firmware of your hard drive (if built around 2001 and later) that destroys everything. You can read about it here http://cmrr.ucsd.edu/people/Hughes/SecureErase.shtml. I have tried to use the file they supply to make a cd, but it didn't work, so I'll show you another way.

Step 4: Getting Everything for a Nuke

If you want to nuke your hard drive, then you're going to need a few things. One, is a blank cd (or dvd if you have the correct drive), two is an .ISO burning software, and three is UBCD (Ultimate Boot CD).

1) Start off by downloading UCBD from here: http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/download.html, download the 'iso' file

2) If you haven't got any cd burning software, then download ImgBurn from here: http://download.imgburn.com/SetupImgBurn_2.4.4.0.exe

3) Run the installer, open the application, and burn the 'iso' by selecting 'Write Image File To Disc' in the imgburn menu, then choose where you stored the download of UBCD.

4) Wait for it to finish, eject and remove the cd from the drive, then shutdown your computer.

Step 5: Beginning the Nuke

Turn on your computer, and as soon as it's on press the open button on your cd drive, place your cd in, and insert the drive. Assuming everything goes correctly, you should be presented with the screen shown in the first picture. Follow the steps:

1) Press 'down' on the keyboard to highlight 'Hard Disk Tools', and then press Enter.
2) Press 'down' until you get to 'Wiping Tools', press Enter
3) Press 'down' until you get to 'HDD Erase Vx.x', press Enter
4) Lots of text will fly down the screen, and some boxes may popup every few seconds. You can either press 'Enter' or leave them, its your choice (they do the same thing)
5) After say a minute you should be presented with the main Secure Erase Menu. At the prompt ("Do You Want To Proceed"), consider if you really want everything gone, and then press 'Y' (I think it has to be capital)
6) Don't sit around as this process won't be very quick

Step 6: Nuking an Older Hard Drive

To nuke an older drive is quite a lot simpler, but can be quite alot slower. Luckily, drives before 2001 tend not to be very big, so they don't take awfully long to erase. Follow these steps:

1) Download a program called 'DBAN' (Dariks Boot And Nuke) from here:
http://kent.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/dban/dban-1.0.7_i386.iso

2) If you haven't got any cd burning software, then download ImgBurn from here: http://download.imgburn.com/SetupImgBurn_2.4.4.0.exe

3) Run the installer, open the application, and burn the 'iso' by selecting 'Write Image File To Disc' in the imgburn menu, then choose where you stored the download of DBAN.

4) Wait for it to finish, eject and remove the cd from the drive, then shutdown your computer.

Step 7: Beginning the Old Nuke:

Turn on your computer, and as soon as it's on press the open button on your cd drive, place your cd in, and insert the drive. Assuming everything goes correctly, you should be presented with the screen shown in the first picture. Follow the steps:

1) Press Enter at the first screen (shown in image one)
2) Wait one minute for the next screen to load
3) The main DBAN screen should now be here (see image two)
4) Press 'M' on the keyboard to open the 'Method' menu
5) Choose 'Quick Erase' and press Enter. The menu will close
6) If you want to nuke the whole drive, then press Space next to the drive name
Space underneath is partitions, you can nuke just a partition if you like. 'wipe' should appear next the drive name
7) Press F10 to start, but don't wait around as it won't be quick

Step 8: Shredding Files:

Want to keep your operating system alive and only get rid of files you don't want? This is for you...
There are lots of ways to do this, but I'm going to show you using 'Privacy Guardian', some software made by PC Tools. This software is usually �29.95, but I can show you how to get it for free (and legally)...

1) Head towards http://www.pctools.com/privacy-guardian/offer/
2) Enter your details and a REAL email address
3) Check your email and download your software
4) Install the software, and enter your key
5) Open the program
6) Click on 'Shredder' on the left hand side
7) Add files to shred and press 'Shred'
8) Alternatively you can right click on your file and press 'Shred with Privacy Guardian' (or similar)

Step 9: Removing Your Previously Deleted Files:

What you'll need for this is Privacy Guardian, and if you don't have it, go back to the previous step to find out how to get it for free.

1) Open up Privacy Guardian
2) Select 'Clean Up' on the left side
3) Scroll down to the bottom and tick the 'Bleach Free Disk Space' option
4) Press 'Clean', and leave your computer. This process will not be quick, so don't hold your breath
Use <a href="http://www.goodlucksoft.com" rel="nofollow">WBD(Wipe Bad Disk) to erase data permanently on disks with fast speed, especially efficient for disks with bad sectors.</a>
The best way to destroy data from your harrdrive is to burn it
Your BIOS is not set to boot from cd. You can follow this guide:<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.hiren.info/pages/bios-boot-cdrom">http://www.hiren.info/pages/bios-boot-cdrom</a> and it should be similar on your pc<br/>
This is not working - I made the CD but when I turn my computer on it boots windows. Please help! Thanks
It may be worth noting that while all of these methods will work for the average Joe user, police and law enforcement officials may (or may not) be able to recover data after these or other techniques. (I'm not saying they can for sure, just that they might be able to.)
Shredding files and shredding free space doesn't always work 100%, but nuking a drive (even just doing a quick erase) makes it physically impossible
I was hoping your idea of nuking would include the literal definition - I know a few incredibly paranoid people who when it came time to upgrade to a new computer would take the old motherboard, hard drives, RAM (and any components with memory), and an old cruddy microwave. I'm sure you can imagine what that entails. Totaling an HDD is actually a rather reasonable idea if you want to upgrade to a higher capacity drive. Simply clone the old onto the new (or perform a file transfer if there are no system files on it), and take apart the old drive. The disks are great Instructables materials...Tesla turbines spring to mind immediately :-P
Heh I should have mentioned to only do either if you don't want to install the older drive into an enclosure...I brilliantly bought a nice SATA enclosure, installed a new HDD, and after a few distractions absentmindedly found myself opening the old drive while on the phone - I apparently had just grabbed the closest thing to me and decided to open it up after a service put me on hold. Needless to say, I was very, very glad I'd transferred the files to the new drive instead of my original plan of just installing the old into the enclosure first....
have you heard of wipe disk i dont think its free but people tell me its the best it rewrites the whole disk to 1's or 0's
Repartitioning is pretty effective. But I guess it depends upon how paranoid you are about people making a lot of effort to recover your data. L

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