Monday, December 22, 2008

Wipe Your Hard-Drive Clean and Start Over

A 3 step process to save your data and clean your computer, once and for all (until the next time).

Microsoft Windows

This tutorial is primarily for Microsoft Windows users, however the FREE software is cross-platform

There are times when all else fails. You've tried everything and none of it worked. Your computer is so messed up you can't deal with it anymore and it's time to do something drastic. The good news is you don't have to lose everything to do it. I wipe my drives clean once a year minimum, sometimes more.

Why...? Because they get messed up.

No matter how careful you are (and I'm not); drivers, configuration files, shared resources and many of the hundreds of thousands of files needed to run your windows machine are going to get corrupted. It's a fact of life. Seconds after you bought your computer it became a dinosaur. Technology is moving forward at a blistering pace and our computers are constantly updating themselves but sometimes with disastrous results. Or, you may have gotten infected with a virus that will not go away. Whatever the case, it becomes necessary from time to time to start all over again.


Thumb-drive or Flash-drive

An 8 Gigabyte Flash drive can be had at for under $25. If you have less than 8 gigs of docs, photos, music, etc., than backing up your data on a CD or DVD may not be necessary. However, it's still a good idea to backup your docs on a disk from time to time. If you store everything in My Documents, you can find out real quick how much you have.

Great Deals @!

  • Right mouse-click on the My Documents folder and click on Properties.

Right-click on My Documents and go to Properties

CD or DVD Burner and blank discs

Burning your photos, music and other documents onto a CD or DVD is a great way to backup your data. I recommend doing it once or twice a year as an individual or monthly if you're using your computer for business purposes. If you have a choice between CDs or DVDs, definitely go with DVDs. DVDs are much sturdier in construction and hold up to 4.7 Gigs of data as opposed to 700 Mb on a CD. Double-sided DVDs can hold 8.5 Gigs. If you have a Blu-Ray burner, use that. Blu-Rays hold 25-50 Gigs of data and are built to last. CDs have about a five year life with moderate use. Blu-Ray Discs and DVDs can last 15-25 years with moderate use. If you're using them solely for backup purposes, they'll last much longer than that.

Darik's Boot-n-Nuke

Darik Horn's FREE software for wiping your hard drive clean. Download the software here. If you plan on selling or disposing of a computer, it is recommended that you use DBAN to erase any data first. When you delete a file on your computer, it doesn't actually go away. It's simply moved to a different location and written over. If you haven't deleted that many files, chances are you or whoever gets your computer, can retrieve almost every file ever deleted. Scary right.


No really, once this program gets started it's too late. The download is an .iso file or disk image file. It requires a program like Nero Burning Rom, MagicISO or PowerISO to run. If you don't have any of those and are digging this FREE thing, you can download ISO RECORDER for XP and Vista and install that first. Create a boot-able CD and you're ready to roll.

Then, simply put the disk in the drive and do a restart. Your system should boot from the CD, but if not, do another restart but watch for a really quick message that tells you which key (f8 usually for Vista - f12 usually for xp) to push to get to the Boot From menu. Once there choose boot from CD. Once your computer boots from the CD you'll see the Linux OS begin to load followed by a prompt asking you to type in one word: autonuke. Make sure you're ready, because there's no turning back after this step.

Depending on the size of your hard drive and speed of your processor this can take anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days.

Windows OS CD or DVD (win2k, XP, Vista)

Most computers you buy today DO NOT come with the operating system (OS) disks. The disks included are usually driver files for recovery purposes and junk software you don't need. In many cases you can request the company to send you the OS disks, but they'll often charge you for shipping or other fees. If you have the license, why should you have to pay for the software again? There are FREE options available, which I will not go into here, but contact me if you're interested.

Finally the steps


1. Backup all your data onto a flash drive, CD or DVD. If possible, copy your entire My Documents folder over. Make sure you have all the serial numbers for each program you want to reinstall. If you use Microsoft Office and have no idea what the serial number is, there are FREE programs to retrieve that information. Check out these: Belarc Advisor or Magic Jellybean Finder. If you use Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express you'll need to export your Personal Folders or .pst files and copy that separately.

Outlook Steps:

  • Open Outlook, go to File then Import and Export

Outlook Import Export

  • Next click on Export to a File

Export to a File

  • Click on Personal Folder File

Personal Folder File

  • Make sure to choose the top folder - Personal Folders

Choose Personal Folders

  • Finally, browse to a location to save the file and rename it to something that means something to you.

Browse to location to save to and rename

Include that .pst file in with all the other docs you're saving.


Place the Darik's Boot-n-Nuke Disk in your CD or DVD drive and restart your computer.

As mentioned above, it's going to take a while. The program begins and after 5 or 10 minutes the window will display how much time is left.


Remove the Boot-n-Nuke disk, put your Windows OS disk in and restart your computer.

That's basically it right? Sort of...

After Windows installs, each of your programs will need to be re-installed, along with all of the Windows updates and plugins.

Make sure to include all of these when updating your computer:




Adobe Acrobat

Windows Media Player

It's a pain in the butt, I know...

But your newly refreshed computer will buzz along faster than ever and everything will work right, at least until you screw it up again.

peace out.

Beyond Vista

Windows VistaVista is on it's way out. Windows beta testers are being summoned to try out the new and improved OS offering from Microsoft. In an email that went out recently to a select few (myself NOT included) Microsoft stated that the latest version is not available yet, but the Windows squad is assembling a "great team" of beta testers.

If interested you check out what's going on here:

Windows7 - windows 7 beta info

Windows Server 2008R2 - a sneak peak at Windows Server 2008 R2

Beta tester perks:

· Early access to downloadable beta copies of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2

· Access to private newsgroups to discuss the beta with other testers and with Microsoft staff

· Access to various online events that will highlight new features and allow you to interact with the development team

· The ability to report bugs and track their status

· An opportunity to help us build a better Windows by assisting us in finding and fixing issues

Beta testing will not start until early 2009, but in an effort to better understand their audience, Microsoft is requesting that prospective testers complete 3 "Participant Surveys" prior to being accepted. Here are the links to the surveys:

Note: You must be an approved participant for these links to work (sorry)

Participant Survey Part 1 -

Participant Survey Part 2 -

Participant Survey Part 3 -

It's well known that Vista was plagued from the beginning. Dave Puckett, a former Senior Director at Sage Software, one of the largest microsoft affiliate software companies in the world, told me in January of 2007, when Vista was released, that Sage was not even going to consider upgrading to Vista for 6-8 months.

Common opinion was that Vista was not necessarily considered an "Up"-grade. I converted many Vista machines back to XP for friends who just could'nt deal with the issues anymore or business owners who were afraid that their current programs wouldn't work properly and their data could be endangered.

Historically, every other release from Microsoft is good. We can't really count 3.1 or anything prior to that release since only uber-geeks were into computers in that era. Personal computing for the masses didn't really take off until Windows 95 was released.

  • Windows 95 was great and came packed with FREE features.

  • Windows 98 was okay but used FAT32 formatting which is less secure and crashed all the time.

  • Windows 2000 was great. Secure, intelligently and used the NTFS format.

  • Windows Millennium was a nightmare.

  • Windows XP got off to a rocky start but ended up working out really well.

  • Windows Vista was nightmare II

  • Windows7? Well if my assessment is accurate it should be okay. Keep your fingers crossed.

Peace, out