Wednesday, March 23. 2011
Be careful with used computers and hard drives, OK? The other night, some of my daughter's pictures got deleted from a computer. Some time back, I had been online at a hotspot where I have permission to use their connection. I was asked if I wanted the latest version of CClean (registry cleaning software). I did, and while at the site, was asked if I also wanted other free software. They offered a data recovery program, so I got it. As a note, I'm quite pleased with CClean, use it all the time.
So I decided to install the as yet unused software on the computer, and see if we could retrieve the lost pictures. We did, but what was shocking was how many other pictures were also pulled up...something like 12 thousand. A lot of them were repeats, so the real number was a third of that or less, but it was still amazing. Things I hadn't seen before, maybe from the previous owner of this computer.
I know a guy that's a lot more computer savvy than I am, I asked him about it. He said that if you've ever seen the abbreviation F.A.T., like in FAT32, what it means is file allocation table. There's a little place at the beginning of the hard drive that tells your computer where stuff is stored on the hard drive. So, when you format a drive, you THINK you're erasing it, but you're not. You're only erasing the info about WHERE it's stored on the HD. All the data is still there.
I get a kick out of taking old throw away computers, and seeing if I can make them work. Most are so locked up that they take 20 minutes to fully boot. the cursor will hardly move. So I install CClean, clean the registry, empty the temporary internet files, do the basic clean up stuff, the defrag the disk. The computer has new life. It's really dumb what people leave on their computers, they don't even try to delete files. The ones with bank names, names on accounts, etc, etc. I have no need for the stuff, but had it fallen into the wrong hands, watch out.
What you need to do is overwrite the disk. 'Google' "zero out" and you'll find info on how to overwrite you disk with new data, which will erase the old data. Hmmmm, I just thought of a new question for the tech guy: If I delete the data out of a certain folder, and load new data of equal or greater size into that folder, will the first data be overwritten? That way, you could give away or sell a working computer, and know that sensitive info is erased.
Always new stuff to learn, but for sure, be careful when disposing of computers and drives. Seriously. I'm only an intermediate tech guy, at best, and I can easily retrieve this stuff. Even if I couldn't boot the computer, because of password issues, or a virus, I can put the drive in an external HD enclosure, and take -anything- I want from the drive. I did it for a friend who couldn't get his computer to start. Recovered some pictures he wanted from it.
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