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Q: Deleted files do not really disappear from the Hard Disk and can be easily retrieved by using easily available software. However, do I assume correctly that by manually emptying all files of their individual content - possibly a rather lengthy process - there would be no data to retrieve should the computer fall into the wrong hands?
No, it will make no difference if you manually delete files or delete folders from Windows Explorer as it will be just as easy for an experienced person to recover most of these files.
There are very many commercial, shareware and free program that can securely delete all data and these can be easily found on the Internet. However, if you do not wish to use third party software then below are steps that you can take to ensure almost certain security.
Firstly delete all files that you do not wish to remain and also delete all temporary Internet files and all files in the Temp folder. This can account for many thousands of files. Next empty the Recycle Bin. Then defragment the hard disk. This will move data around making recovery hard to impossible for some files.
The next step is to repeatedly copy a CD or a DVD onto the hard disk until it is nearly full. Then delete old LOG files or compact Outlook Express mailboxes from File, Compact … in order to create some deleted files in the older part of the hard disk. Now delete all the copied CDs or DVDs, empty the Recycle Bin and defragment again to move the data around and this will ensure that none of the original files can ever be retrieved.
If you wish to delete the contents of just one file then open that document, delete the contents and replace with at least an equal amount of random or junk text. Then save that file and then delete it.
I don’t want to Paint
Q: I hope you can assist with the following problem. 18 months ago I moved to the country to build a new house and put my PC in storage. It was working perfectly with Windows Millennium when I closed it down. I bought a new pc with XP and now I have the time to take some files from my old PC mainly photos. When I turned it on, rather than loading up Windows it went to a blue screen full of info such as time and date. Anyway I pressed "Enter" and ended up with a black screen with the following info: Main Processor, Processor Clock, VGA Mem, 98304KB OK
Once the computer starts then all your data should still be there. I suggest that you burn all important files such as the family photos onto a CD / DVD in case the hard disk dies.