Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

What You Need To Know About "Delete"*

Folks, today is a busy day here at Tech–for Everyone Headquarters, and today’s article is a re-posting.

I don’t know how long it was that I worked and played on computers before I truly understood that when I deleted a Word document from my My Documents folder it was not gone forever.

chalkboard_eraser - CopyI believe it was only natural to think it was “deleted”. It was gone, as far as I could tell. It didn’t show up no matter how I searched for it nor how desperately I needed it back. And believe me, there was many a time that I wished I could get a deleted letter or homework assignment back. If I cannot see it…and my machine cannot see it…and my machine says that the space it took up is now ‘free’…it is gone, right? I certainly thought so.

I think it’s rather important that you understand, if you don’t already, that when you drag something into the Recycle Bin, it isn’t really erased. Instead, the name/path entry in the file allocation table (FAT. The directory used to locate and ‘find’ files) is altered in a way that tells Windows to no longer display the file and that this (memory) area is now available for future storage.

The same thing happens when you take the drastic step of formatting your hard drive — it isn’t “wiped” like taking an eraser to a chalkboard: the Master Boot Table and the file directory are similarly altered, and once that occurs the machine can neither find your files nor your operating system — the rest of the 1′s and 0′s are left in place.

It is because of this fact — that files aren’t erased, but their directories and names are altered — that undelete and unformat utilities can perform their miracles. Instead of ignoring or treating these altered entries as writable space, they (attempt to) deliberately seek them out and rename them back to a recognizable formula, which restores the operating system’s (Windows) ability to ‘see’, find, and display them.  (If you need to recover files, please see, How to recover your lost files)

Tip of the day: Never assume that your data has been erased.
In fact, I suggest thinking in an opposite manner: assume that no matter what proactive measures you’ve taken, your data is on that hard drive. Tell yourself that a knowledgeable person with the right tools, if they get their hands on your hard drive, can read it. (There are some people in this industry who insist that your files aren’t really gone until your hard drive has been melted in a blast furnace!) Particularly keep this in mind when the time comes to donate, or otherwise get rid of, your old computer.
[note:
this applies to any device with “memory”, such as a cell phone.]

If you are security-conscious, and you want to ensure that when you erase something it’s really and truly erased (or you are about to donate your old PC) I recommend that, if you don’t already have one, you download a free file shredder utility (I will put one as today’s free link) and to choose one that offers multiple methods of shredding.

What a “shredder” does is it writes new data, and it does it in multiple passes. Typically writing all 1′s on one pass, all zeros on the next pass, and then a completely random pattern of 1′s and 0′s, and so on. It is generally recognized that your shredder should make 6-12 passes.

If you do this, you can donate your old PC comfortable in the knowledge that only a several thousand-dollar restoration, performed in a sterile lab, might render your personal information readable again. (If you are a corporation, and it’s time to throw out your old hard drives, and there’s highly sensitive data on those drives, melt them.)

Today’s free download: Zilla Data Nuker 2 (Please note: this program is an exception to my rule of always having run and tested the programs I suggest. I have not ever needed to download a file shredder as I’ve always had one bundled into the Utility Suites I have on my machines. However, this application is 5-star rated by Cnet, and I was unable to locate it on any “blacklists”. It is the one I would try first.) From Cnet, “This powerful program helps you shred important files & folders so that they cannot be restored & prevent attempts to recover sensitive deleted files from your hard drive by data recovery or forensic software. Shredder allows you to purge, wipe & erase data with methods that far exceed US Department of Defence standards for file deletion (DOD 5220.22). Easily automate the cleaning process with batch files, shortcuts and scheduler. Supports complete folder deletions including subfolders.

*Original post: 6/22/07

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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October 12, 2010 Posted by | computers, file system, how to, PC, privacy, security | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reader Questions Deleting

I have posted a few articles on “shredding” the files on your hard drive to truly delete them, (and making it safe to donate/dispose of your computer) as well as articles on how to recover accidentally deleted files.

Just last week I posted How to REALLY delete – or recover – a file. And How to recover your lost files has proven rather popular over time too. (Just to name a couple.)

Last night I received a question posted as a comment on last week’s article from a reader that basically asked, “is it REALLY possible for people to see files that I’ve deleted?
skeptical-face

A: Yes. It’s true. I didn’t make it up. Download Recuva and try it for yourself. Also, I commend you for using your intelligence to question what you see on the Internet. Just because someone has posted something does not make it true. Even if they have included a graph. Or a picture (see, Photoshopping).

I have a leprechaun in my pocket.

See?

Folks, Going to cut it short as I’m still in “vacation mode”. Hope you all are getting the chance to enjoy some of the nice summer weather. Please click the links for the prior article if you need a file shredder.

Today’s free link: Windows 7, Server 2008, Released to Manufacturers

Today’s free download: Recuva file recovery program (install it before you need it).

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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July 23, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, file system | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to recover your lost files

You have deleted some old files and now you need them back.
Or, you disconnected your thumb drive by pulling it out of the machine without bothering with that “Safely Remove” thingy, and now your machine cannot “see” the thumb drive at all– it’s dead.

Your files are gone and you need them back.. what a nightmare! How do you get them back?

I cannot count the number of times I have advised my readers to make regular backup copies of their files (in fact, Automate your backup and get some peace of mind was one of the very first articles I wrote). Having copies of your files on some place other than your hard drive (such as a CD/DVD) is the surest way to make sure that some unfortunate mouse click, mechanical failure, or glitch doesn’t permanently rob you of important documents, irreplaceable photographs, or costly music downloads. (There. I’ve nagged you again. Now, will you please run a Backup program and burn some discs?)

But you don’t have backup copies of these files… you didn’t think you’d ever need them.. but now you do. OK.
As I mentioned in Delete does not erase your data–preventing recovery, if the reason you no longer have access to the file you want is because you emptied your Recycle Bin (Trash) or right-clicked+delete, you may recover your file with an undelete tool.. just so long as too much time has not elapsed.
* It is a very good idea to install an undelete tool on your computer before you need it. If you haven’t done so and you don’t already have an undelete tool installed, use an online scanner/recovery tool such as Softperfect File Recovery to try to effect your recovery.

Other reasons for missing (“inaccessible”) files are varied and numerous.. and I could fill a book book with detailed steps for each variant. (If you’ve had to reformat your hard drive, for example {try an “unformat” tool}. Data recovery is a large– and costly –business.) Fortunately, I don’t have to write it, it’s already been written.

Tip of the day+Today’s free link: Visit and bookmark the following Webpage.
PC World Magazine and MSN Tech have teamed up to bring us Kirk Steers’ How To Recover Almost Anything, a three page primer on data recovery steps, and advice for which tools to use.
This information is first place to look when you run into a file recovery situation.. having it bookmarked ahead of time is a good idea, because timeliness is a factor in your success or failure.

*** Disclaimer: you may have noticed that I used the words “may” and “can try”; this is because recovering damaged/corrupted, deleted, or “lost” files is as much luck as it is science. Certain things improve your chances of success.. but the only sure method is making copies of your stuff, and keeping them somewhere else.. like in a safe-deposit box.

* Bonus free link of the day: Folks, my friend and fellow Internationally Renown Tech Blogger, Bill Mullins, has posted what I consider to be a very important article regarding the current state of security on the Internet. You, your loved ones, and your friends should (IMHO) take a look at Script Kiddie Bonaza–Do-It-Yourself Phishing Kits

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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June 23, 2008 Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, Digital Images, file system, how to, missing files, PC, tech, thumb drives, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Delete does NOT erase your data*– preventing recovery

I don’t know how long it was that I worked and played on computers before I truly understood that when I erased a Word document from my My Documents folder it was not gone forever.
It was only natural to think it was “deleted”. It was gone, as far as I could tell. It didn’t show up no matter how I searched for it nor how desperately I needed it back. And believe me, there was many a time that I wished I could get a deleted letter or homework assignment back. (I am, in particular, thinking back to my Windows 95 days, and my hard drive was 4.3 Gigabytes. I was a fanatic about “disk doubling” and emptying my Recycle Bin!) If I cannot see it…and my machine cannot see it…and my machine says that the space it took up is now ‘free’…it is gone, right? I certainly thought so.

I think it’s rather important that you understand, if you don’t already, that when you right-click+delete, or drag something into the Recycle Bin, it isn’t really erased. Instead, the name/path entry in the file allocation table (the directory used to locate and ‘find’ files) is altered in a way that tells Windows to no longer display the file and that this (physical) area is now available for future storage. The same thing happens when you take the drastic step of formatting your hard drive — it isn’t “wiped” like taking an eraser to a chalkboard: the Master Boot Table and the file directory are similarly altered, and once that occurs the machine can neither find your files nor your operating system — the rest of the 1’s and 0’s are left in place.

It is because of this fact — that files aren’t erased, but their directories and names are altered — that undelete and unformat utilities can perform their miracles. Instead of ignoring or treating these altered entries as writable space, they (attempt to) deliberately seek them out and rename them back to a recognizable formula, which restores Windows’ ability to ‘see’, find, and display them. So, why couldn’t my undelete restore my file? The most likely reason is: because Windows sees the deleted file as usable space, it has written something new in that location — and now that new 1’s and 0’s are there, your file really and truly is gone. (The more time that elapses since you deleted the file, the more likely it is that it has been written over.)

[ A quick aside: I look at a lot of systems’ hard drives, and I’ve found that today people tend to be the opposite of me and my space-paranoia, born out of small HDs. It strikes me that they don’t “recycle” anything. ]

Tip of the day: Never assume that your data has been erased. In fact, I suggest thinking in an opposite manner: assume that no matter what proactive measures you’ve taken, your data is on that hard drive. Tell yourself that a knowledgeable person with the right tools, if they get their hands on your hard drive, can read it. (There are some people in this industry who insist that your files aren’t really gone until your hard drive has been melted in a blast furnace!) Particularly keep this in mind when the time comes to donate (or otherwise get rid of) your old computer.

If you are security-conscious, and you want to ensure that when you erase something it’s really and truly erased (or you are about to donate your old PC) I recommend that, if you don’t already have one, you download a free file shredder utility (I will put one as today’s free link) and to choose one that offers multiple methods of shredding. What a “shredder” does is it writes new data, and it does it in multiple passes. Typically writing all 1’s on one pass, all zeros on the next pass, and then a completely random pattern of 1’s and 0’s, and so on. It is generally recognized that your shredder should make 6-12 passes.
* If you do this, you can donate your old PC comfortable in the knowledge that only a several thousand-dollar restoration, performed in a sterile lab, might render your personal information readable again. (If you are a corporation, and it’s time to throw out your old hard drives, and there’s highly sensitive data on those drives…melt them.)

Today’s free link: Zilla Data Nuker 2 (Please note: this program is an exception to my rule of always having run and tested the links I suggest. I have not ever needed to download a file shredder as I’ve always had one bundled into the Utility Suites I have on my machines. However, this application is 5-star rated by Cnet, and I was unable to locate it on any “blacklists”. It is the one I would try first.) From Cnet, “This powerful program helps you shred important files & folders so that they cannot be restored & prevent attempts to recover sensitive deleted files from your hard drive by data recovery or forensic software. Shredder allows you to purge, wipe & erase data with methods that far exceed US Department of Defence standards for file deletion (DOD 5220.22). Easily automate the cleaning process with batch files, shortcuts and scheduler. Supports complete folder deletions including subfolders.”

*Original post: 6/22/07

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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May 6, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, security, tech, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Reader questions

I am struggling this morning to combine my mood — which is celebratory (it is the holiday season), and definitely affected with a dose of TGIF — and the studious and serious subject matter of bringing tech tips and computer security advice to you. Part of me wants to play hookie this morning. But I won’t. I’ll straighten-up-and-fly-right, and answer some reader questions today.

Q: I erased my browser History, can I get it back?
A: You should be aware that all Web browsers keep track of which URL’s (Website addresses) you have visited, and stores them in its History. This is handy if you would like to return to a Website you recently discovered, and you can’t quite remember the URL. This is also a good way to keep an eye on where your child (or spouse) goes on the Internet.. and if you think about it, and realize that someone else could do the same to you, you can understand how this raises some privacy concerns. Click here to read an article that covers this topic, and the steps you can take to protect yourself.
In IE 7, your History can be found as a subset of your Favorites.   
history.jpg
It has been my experience that if you have erased your browser History using a special privacy program, then no, you will not be able to recover your recently visited URLs. If you used IE to erase the History (as described in the article link above), you may, possibly, recovery the History with an undelete program (for more on undelete and file recovery, type “undelete” in my Search box). But I would say the odds aren’t terrific, and I would also say that’s a good thing as I’m a fan of privacy. (If anyone knows differently, please leave a Comment.)
Instead of trying to recover your History, it might be a better idea to use a search engine to try to “re-discover” your website.

Q: What should I look for when buying a new motherboard?
A: There is a short answer, and I could write a series of articles on this topic! Today, I will try to give a short answer– and that is: it sorta depends. If you are “upgrading” your system — that is, if you intend to also get newer/faster CPU+RAM — then you want to think about the MB’s “chipset” and try to get the latest edition. The faster the front-side bus, the better.
If you are looking at motherboard replacement, the keyword is “compatibility”: you must identify the make/model of your CPU, and RAM type, and find a board with the right “socket” (where the CPU plugs in). You may need to find a board whose graphics slot is AGP…

In terms of “general advice”:
1) Be aware that there is a difference between motherboards for Intel and AMD CPUs. Your CPU is the main consideration. Considering going quad-core? Make sure the chipset supports it.
2) “Onboard” is not as good as seperate expansion cards, especially when it comes to graphics. You can save money (and CPU cycles and RAM) by avoiding MBs that have “onboard” sound and graphics chipsets.. which leads me to #3 and #4…
3) Expansion: make sure the board you’re considering has not only enough “slots” (technically, “PCI expansion slots”) for any cards you currently have, but that there are ‘extras’ to allow for future cards. You just never know when you might need an open slot. Also, gamers will want the “SLI” (or quad, even) ability of dual graphics slots.
4) Ports: don’t forget to factor in USB and Firewire (and other plugs) ports. Are there plenty? Are there ports in the front, as well as the back? Again, more is better.

Well, that’s a good starting point.. and I did want to give the shorter answer. But I will conclude by saying that there’s no shame in asking for advice.. and doing research when it comes to motherboards. And thus.. today’s link:

Today’s free link: One of the “must visit” resources when shopping for computer parts and hardware is Tom’s Hardware. You will find product comparisons, compatibility guides, and more.. and the friendly folks who work there have been known to answer a question or two.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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December 14, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, privacy, security, shopping for, tech, Windows | , , | Leave a comment