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How To Completely Erase a Hard Drive
Many of us know how to format a computer hard disk. You may wish to do this in order to perform a clean install of an operating system or completely erase all your files before giving your computer system away. However, formatting your hard drive alone does not necessarily erase all data. In fact, someone can always recover all or most of the data that was on the hard drive prior to the time you formatted it. They could do this the same way you would recover files that you mistakenly delete from the recycle bin. This article looks at some of the ways you can delete those files permanently before giving or throwing away your computer system.
The truth is, when you delete a file from the hard disk, only the address is deleted. In other words, the data of the file(s) is not deleted. So, formatting your disk removes the boot records but does not touch the data on the drive. Once the boot record is eliminated there is no way the operating system can identify and present the data on your computer. However, other third party applications can usually retrieve such data.
Zero Fill or Low Level Formatting
There are software programs that let you permanently delete data from your hard disk. All these software programs do is format the hard disk and fill each bit on the disk with zeros. Of course, you can manually do this yourself and save a few bucks. To do this yourself, you can check with your hard drive manufacturer for a utility to do this. It is important to note that some freeware or shareware that performs similar functions may not do a clean format. To find a tool, search google for "low level formatting" or "Zero fill utility" to find a good utility. We have tried and liked the utility from kill disk.
To elaborate, the best way to delete and format the hard disk of a pc is to format the disk and then zero fill the hard drive.
Encrypting your hard drive
Most government agencies that are involved in collecting secret intelligence simply store their data in encrypted mode on their computer systems. Storing your data in encrypted mode right from day one prevents anybody from accessing any data. You can check out our article on encrypting data in windows for more info. We should point out that this is a medium to advanced difficulty task. Also, encrypting your data may slow down your computer a bit.
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