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Issue #351: April 13, 2014

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Q: Just bought a new Dell window 7 computer. Would it be a good ideal to install a fixcleaer.

– Zorina F.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A: That would depend on whom you ask, Zorina.  Since you’ve decided to ask me, the answer is no. I think. That is to say, it’s “no” if I correctly understood what you asked.  Your question, while admirably concise, was also slightly misleading.  I’m unaware of any program or type of product that goes by the name you provided, so I’m assuming that by “a fixcleaer” you mean “Fix Cleaner”, which is one of those programs that claim to perform miracles with your PC’s Windows registry.  I’ve taken a pretty clear and firm stand against such products in previous columns. See I.G.T.M. Issue #317, Aug 18, 2013, and I.G.T.M. Issue #347, Mar 16, 2014 for examples.

If you meant something else, then please write-in and clarify, because you also said that your “Dell window 7 computer” is running “Windows 8/8.1” as an operating system, which is a pretty neat trick by itself.

Q: In your Feb 16th response to Bill M. (I.G.T.M. #343, Feb 16, 2014), you said to remove all personal identifying information from the hard drive before disposing of a personal Computer. However, you didn’t mention how to do that. Are there any Microsoft utilities or commercial software that scrubs a hard drive to effectively remove data from a hard drive? I’m in the process of transitioning from a PC to an IMac and will be disposing of my PC. Which leads me to another question. Is there a good forum for selling used PCs?

– Chuck K.
Niceville, Florida

A: I didn’t mention it because I’ve covered that topic in the column a couple of times before, Chuck.  But perhaps here is a new piece of information for you: did you know that our federal government actually publishes a standard for hard disk data destruction?  Well of course they do!  It is Department of Defense Standard 5220.22M (seriously – Google it if you don’t believe me).  This standard specifies that in order to reliably, verifiably, and unrecoverably erase data from a hard disk, you must use software that overwrites every byte of storage space occupied by the file being erased three times.  The first time with a zero, the second time with a one, and the third time with a random character, and verify every write operation along the way.  This three-step method will generally defeat all software-based methods of data recovery, and is more than adequate for a PC owner getting rid of an old machine.  Just in case you’re wondering, there are non-software based methods of data recovery that can be performed that can often get back at least parts of erased data even after it has been sanitized to DoD 5220.22M standards.  These are highly sophisticated forensic techniques the likes of which your typical data thief is certainly not going to waste time and effort.  They are more likely to be used by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in criminal investigations that involve computer data (such as child pornography cases).

As usual, I digress.  You can find many of these utilities online by simply searching for “drive scrub utility” and downloading from a reputable source.  As for where to sell a computer, why not start with Craigslist or eBay?

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