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Clean Your Hard Drive on the Cheap

Updated on July 12, 2010

Video of How to Clean a hard drive

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How to Clean Your Hard Drive

My hard drives contain financial and personal information. Yours may or may not, but please do not assume that a deleted file cannot be reconstructed by someone that knows how and where to look for all of the pieces.

The data in each file is actually broken into pieces and is distributed throughout the hard drive. When the file name is removed (deleted) from the file index (the way the hard drive keeps track of the pieces) the user is fooled into thinking that the data is gone. In reality, the delete command just gives the hard drive permission to write new data into the spaces that once held the original data. Sometimes the original data is overwritten and sometimes it is not.

What if you just want to clear your hard drive of file fragments, lost files and out dated files and programs?

Clean your hard drive for performance.

  • 1. Backup all important files on a CD or other removable media
  • 2. Delete files that are not needed any longer. If you are not sure whether to delete a file- don't.
  • 3. Temporary or (temp) files, Cache files, Filecheck files can be deleted.
  • 4. Data files that are no longer needed such as old word documents, PowerPoint files, excel can be deleted.
  • 5. Uninstall any program that you longer need or use.
  • 6. For the time being, leave all deleted files in the recycle bin
  • 7. Open your programs - make sure there are no problems
  • 8. Open remaining data files - make sure there are no problems
  • 9. Once you are sure that all is working properly - empty the recycle bin.
  • 10. Defrag your hard drive

If you have no intention to sell, donate or give away your computer you will have little concern that your data will be available to the wrong people. But if you are going to allow strangers access to your data without being under your watchful eye then you need to be concerned enough to attempt overwriting your data.

Wiping a hard drive clean can clear up many issues that interfere with daily computing such as corrupted files. Before you take this drastic step however, be aware that an original OS (operating system) disk will be required to reinstall the OS. If a copy of the OS is used you still must have the install key. Also be aware that reinstalling the OS will not guarantee that the previous data cannot be found.

Clean your hard drive to prevent identity theft.

So, if you are on a search and destroy mission, short of physically removing the hard drive and destroying its platter (a hammer comes to my mind), you might want to try some type of wiping or shredding software. These software programs typically overwrite the residual data (not always the OS) with zeros. The key is to overwrite and overwrite and overwrite...again and again...

This procedure does not have to be expensive. Free software can be downloaded from multiple sites that are very effective. I have listed a few below. This process is very time consuming due to the multiple passes required to adequately overwrite all data.

Mac computers do not require software to wipe a hard drive. You can overwrite them by simply clicking on - secure Erase Trash - from the file menu.

A PC will not automatically overwrite files unless the hard drive is full. Chances are your hard drive will never be completely full so specific wiping software is required to overwrite files.

Before using any of these procedures it is of utmost importance to have a backup copy of all important files!

Last but not least you could remove your hard drive and either install it into a portable hard drive enclosure or into a different computer.


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    • profile image

      Edvin 10 years ago

      Hard drive clean method which you suggested is really best. I am using it for me.

    • profile image

      joniki 10 years ago from manassas

      wow, great information that ALL of us can use.

      very nice hub

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 10 years ago from Toronto

      Excellent and comprehensive article. Keep up the good work.