Computer Guide

Secure deleting?

by George Skarbek - 20th February 2007

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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: Periodically I like to view my JPG files (digital pictures) with Windows Picture and Fax Viewer.  I have many other viewing programs but occasionally I like to use this program.  However when I click on the EDIT at the bottom right hand I get the program PAINT as the editing program.  What I want to be able to do is to alter this default from Paint to some other program of my choice.  Certainly I can alter it for each individual photo but I would like to be able to change the default to one of my choice.  I am unable to find a solution that is simple and can be carried out by the average layman.

There is no easy solution as Windows allows only one program association for JPG and for all other programs for that matter.

You have a couple of options. You can associate some other program that is an editor or for occasional editing of JPG files by using right-click on your image, and select Open With..

The permanent re-association has to be done from Windows and the wording on the dialogues boxes will vary a bit depending on version of Windows.
To re-associate a file type, do the following:
    Highlight the wanted file with a mouse left click
    Right click on the selected file
    Select Open With then select Choose a Program
    Select the required program from the list and check the Always open with this program 

Dead BIOS?

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
 The light on the Floppy drive comes on but nothing happens. I have inserted a Set Up Disc, but still nothing happens. I have tried holding F8 and rebooting then it spins through some info and says press Delete enter Setup. But then it comes up with Password? That is the first I have ever seen of that, but after 3 goes, no matter what I type in it goes back to Wait...(as above).  I don’t know of any password. The PC came new with Windows installed. Any ideas?

This is probably due to a BIOS problem possibly caused by a flat battery. If you can get into setup then reset to factory defaults. If not, then the supplier who sold you the computer has set a password to prevent users from altering settings. You should contact them. If that dealer no longer exists then you must look in the motherboard manual on how to reset the BIOS. This is usually done by shorting out a set of jumpers.

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.

To look at the e-book in PDF format, Computer Guide, based on these columns click here