Erasing drive ensures data removal
Erasing drive ensures data removal
Tuesday, December 3, 2002
Q. I’d like to erase the files on a four-year-old PC before I give it away. Does erasing a hard drive also erase the operating system?
A. If you want to make sure that none of your personal information remains on a computer that you are giving to a person or organization, you should erase the hard drive. That process erases all files on the computer, including the operating system.
If you once had sensitive data on the computer, like online banking passwords or credit card information, you might want to get a special disk-erasing utility. These programs not only erase the hard drive but also thoroughly “scrub” it to remove any trace of personal information that could be recovered by someone who knows how to search a hard drive for once-deleted information. Most utility suites have a program that can do an in-depth erasure.
Symantec’s Norton Utilities, for example, which is now part of the company’s Norton SystemWorks 2003 software suite, includes an option called Norton WipeInfo. It allows you to do a quick basic erasure called a Fast Wipe or choose a slower, more thorough process called Government Wipe that erases the disk and also writes over it as many times as you would like to make it nearly impossible to recover old data.
Freeware like the Eraser program for Windows, www.heidi.ie/ eraser, can also delete data meticulously from a hard drive. There are links to dozens of other similar freeware and shareware programs at dmoz.org/Computers/Software/File Management/Deletion.
After cleaning the hard drive, if you want to prepare the computer for its new owner, reformat the drive and reinstall the operating system from the original discs that came with the PC when you bought it and include them with the computer when you send it on its way to its new owner.
Q. Is there a way to connect my PC inexpensively to my home stereo so I can play my MP3 files through my sound system’s speakers? What kind of cable would I need?
A. Manufacturers have come up with all kinds of devices and special cables that will let you play the MP3 files on your computer through your stereo system. You should consider factors like how far your computer is from your stereo, the quality of your PC’s sound card and the size of your budget, but here are a few options.
Electronics stores like Radio Shack sell a Y-shaped cable with a 3.5-millimeter stereo mini-plug at one end to plug into the PC’s speaker jack and two RCA connectors on the other end to plug into the line-in jacks on your stereo.
Depending on your stereo setup, you may need some additional adapters and patch cords, but you should be able to get all the cables needed to make a very basic connection between the two machines for $25 or so.
A few companies also make inexpensive customized cables for connecting a PC to a stereo system. MP3 Adapters (mp3adapters.
site.yahoo.com) makes such cables in five lengths (from 12 to 100 feet, with prices ranging from $18 to $35), and the cable can hook up to the PC without your having to disconnect the computer’s speakers.
If your sound card is a basic model intended for basic system sounds and computer alert noises, you may find the audio quality lacking when amplified through your stereo. If you want to avoid running a cable through that sound card and your stereo system is less than 30 feet from the computer, you can use the PC’s USB port instead.
The Hi-Fi-Link ($49.95) and the Pro Hi-Fi-Link ($99.95) kits by Xitel (www.xitel.com) provide a slim converter box and cables to connect the two devices, and both versions work with Windows and Macintosh computers.
Skipping cables entirely is an option with products like the Entertainment Anywhere kit from X10 (www.x10.com/products), which costs $69.99 and uses a wireless receiver to play MP3 files through the stereo, among other functions.
If you want to spend more than $100, makers of high-end audio products also have devices that can tie the PC to the stereo, like the DAL 150 EzLink from Harman/Kardon ($149.99 at www.harmankardon.com) and the Model 1200 from Stereo-Link ($149 at www.stereo-link.com).
J.D. Biersdorfer invites questions about computer-based technology by e-mail to QandA@nytimes.com.
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