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How to reuse a HDD or SSD

So you upgraded the drive in your computer and now have an extra drive that you do not know what to do with. There are a couple of things you can do with it. So here is what you can do with your old drive.

How to reuse a HDD or SSD

I have written several articles on how to clone the drive in your Windows-based computer. But I have never written an article on what to do with the drive that you replaced.

When it comes to the old drive, there are two options; reuse it or recycle it. Either way, you will need some additional hardware to utilize the old drive.

To reuse it inside of your computer, you will need a spare drive carriage, mounting screws, a 7-pin SATA data cable, and a spare 15-pin SATA power connection. If you want to connect it externally, you will need a drive enclosure (2.5" or 3.5").

To recycle it, you will need to erase all of the data on the drive. I like to encrypt the drive with BitLocker first, then perform a seven-pass DoD (Department of Defense) disk wipe. So even if someone were able to recover any data, it would still be encrypted.

Now, was the old drive bootable (contained the operating system)? If so, then there will be a boot record that needs to be deleted before you can reuse it.

If you plan on reusing the drive, simply erasing all of the data on the drive should work. If you plan on recycling it, then you will need to securely erase all of the data so no one can successfully recover anything from it.

If the drive was used only for storage, then erasing all of the data will work. If it was the boot drive in your computer, we have to erase all of the data and delete the boot record so that any computer that it is connected to does not accidentally boot up onto it.

Time to erase the drive

The first thing you have to do is attached the drive to your computer, either by turning the computer off and installing the drive inside of your computer. Or by connecting it externally using a drive case, docking station, or a USB adapter.

Remember that if the drive was originally a boot drive and you install it inside of your computer, your system may try and boot on that drive. It is recommended that you wipe the drive of any boot record and boot partition before installing it inside your computer.

Several drive manufacturers have software that can erase the data from one of their drives. Western Digital, Seagate, and Samsung are a few that have that type of software. In fact, Seagate's Seatools for Windows will work on any manufacturer's drive.

There is also third-party software that can perform DoD (Department of Defense) disk erasing. The UBCD (Ultimate Boot CD) has several programs that can perform a DoD disk wipe (I like using Darik's Boot and Nuke). If you are planning on recycling the drive, a DoD wipe is recommended.

There have been times when I have seen a manufacturer's software fail when it comes to erasing data from a drive. It usually happens when the drive in question was originally a boot drive.

As you can see from the following screen capture,
The properties of a hidden partition in Windows 10 Disk Management
the original boot/recovery partition can not be deleted in Windows 10 Disk Management application.

In cases like that, I have found using the Windows Diskpart application works great. It is a command-line-only program, but you can use it to delete any type of partition if you are very careful.

Using Diskpart to erase a drive

Note: Misusing Diskpart can erase a disk that you may not want to be wiped, so be extra careful and double-check the disk number before proceeding.

To ensure that you erase the correct drive, let's open Windows 10 Disk Management and verify the disk number.

  1. Open Disk Management by either:
    • Right-clicking on the Start Windows logo key button and select Disk Management from the context menu
    • or
    • Left-clicking on the Start Windows logo key button, scroll down the application list and expand the Windows Administrative Tools folder. Then left-click on Computer Management. Then under Storage, you will find Disk Management.
  2. Locate the disk in question. It will be labeled Disk #.
    The disk number of a drive in Windows 10 Disk Management
  3. Open a Command Prompt with Administrative permissions (click here for more details).
  4. Type diskpart and then press enter.
  5. Type list disk and press enter.
    The list disk command in diskpart
  6. Type select disk #, replacing the # with the disk number found in Disk Management.
    The select disk command in diskpart
  7. Type clean and press enter.
    The clean command in diskpart
    The list disk command in diskpart showing a the empty disk
  8. Type exit to close Disk Management.
  9. Type exit again to close the Command Prompt.

Time to format the drive

All partitions will now be gone, and the drive is ready to be reformatted. Let's go back into Disk Management and reformat the drive. When you open Disk Management, you should be prompted to initialize the disk.

The initialize disk dialog box in Windows 10 Disk Management

If the drive is smaller than 2 Terabytes, use the MBR (Master Boot Record) partition style. Any drive larger than 2 Terabytes will need to use the GPT (GUID Partition Table) partition style.

Once you initialize the disk, just right-click on the unallocated space and select New Simple Volume.
The create a new volume dialog box in Windows 10 Disk Management
You will be prompted for the volume size, assigning a drive letter or path, and what format you want the partition. Using the selected defaults is recommended.

Everything you wanted to know about Windows 10 shortcuts

When it comes to using a Windows-based computer, accessing programs, folders, and files quickly is essential for productivity. This is where shortcuts come in handy. Let's take a closer look at the different types of shortcuts you can have on your Windows 10 computer.

Everything you wanted to know about Windows 10 shortcuts

Before we proceed any further, let's take a look at the history of shortcuts in Windows. All three types of shortcuts I will be discussing in this article were introduced in 1995 with the release of Windows 95.

Windows 95 had a new graphical user interface called Windows Explorer (now named File Explorer). When you hear File Explorer, you probably think of the file manager program you navigate to find your documents, pictures, and music. And you would be right.

But File Explorer is also responsible for displaying the Start Menu, Taskbar, and Desktop. All of the shortcuts I will be discussing are directly related to File Explorer.

Geek Tip: If you ever start Windows 10 and get to a black screen with just a white cursor arrow, that is a sign that File Explorer did not start. You can manually start File Explorer and here is how to do it.

How to fix the Windows 10 black screen with a white mouse cursor

The different types of Windows 10 shortcuts

Now, there are three (3) kinds of shortcuts in Windows 10;

  • File - which contains a link to a program, file, or folder.
  • Internet - which contains a link to a file or website on the Internet.
  • Keyboard - which is when you press two (2) or more keys on the keyboard simultaneously.

The first two types of shortcuts (File and Internet) are small files that contain a link to a specific file, folder, or website. You can spot one of these types of shortcuts by the curled arrow overlay in the lower left-hand corner of the shortcut's icon on the Desktop or File Explorer. Shortcuts on the Start Menu do not have the curled arrow.

The third type of shortcut (Keyboard) is when you use a combination of keys on your keyboard to start a program or action. Usually, these are applications or actions that you use frequently. You can even add keyboard shortcuts to File shortcuts on your Desktop.

File and Internet shortcuts

As I said before, File and Internet shortcuts are just files with different extensions. File shortcuts have a .lnk extension, Internet shortcuts use .url extensions.

File and Internet shortcuts on the Desktop, Taskbar, and the Tiles section of the Start menu are relatively easy to create. To learn how to create File and Internet shortcuts quickly, check out the following article.

How to create a shortcut in Windows 10

Creating shortcuts in the Start menu's application list can be challenging only because the location where Start menu shortcuts is hidden by default. But if you want to learn more on how to customize the Start menu, check out the following article.

How to customize the Start menu in Windows 10

Keyboard shortcuts

When it comes right down to it, Keyboard shortcuts are the fastest way to open various programs and settings in Windows 10. You do not have to go hunting for a Desktop icon or open the Start menu.

Just by pressing two or more keys simultaneously on your keyboard, you can bring up File Explorer or the Run dialog box. Using the Clipboard, you can also copy, cut or paste text or images too.

There are so many Keyboard shortcuts in Windows 10 that I cannot list them all here. So the following articles cover almost all Keyboard shortcuts there are.

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10

General keyboard shortcuts

Accessibility keyboard shortcuts

Dialog box keyboard shortcuts

My favorite left hand Windows keyboard shortcuts

How to use all of the Clipboard features in Windows 10

Now the only Keyboard shortcut not covered in all of these articles are the ones you create yourself. Desktop shortcuts can also have Keyboard shortcuts associated with them too.

When it comes to shortcut keys in Desktop shortcuts, you have to remember that you can use a combination of keys and numbers on the keyboard or just numbers on the numeric keypad.

The Desktop keyboard shortcut keys use a combination of three (3) keys, with the first two keys having to be Ctrl + Alt. Desktop numeric keypad shortcut keys are a single digit.

  1. Right-click on the Desktop shortcut you want to modify and select Properties from the context menu that appears.
    The properties form of a Desktop shortcut
  2. Left-click on the Shortcut tab and left-click on the Shortcut key field.
    Keys that can be used for Desktop shortcuts
  3. Press the desired key you want to associate with the Desktop shortcut. Remember that any key you press on the keyboard will automatically add Ctrl + Alt to the key you pressed. Numeric keys have Num before the actual number key.

See the video below for more details.

How to fix the Windows 10 black screen with a white mouse cursor

Have you ever started Windows 10, and the only thing that appeared was a black screen with a white cursor? Here is how to get the Windows 10 Graphic User Interface (GUI) to appear.

How to fix the Windows 10 black screen with a white mouse cursor

Usually, when you log in to Windows 10, the Start menu, Taskbar, and the Desktop will appear with all of your favorite icons. But there may be a time when all that appears is a black screen with a white mouse cursor.

What has happened is the GUI has failed to load. And believe it or not, it is the File Explorer. But getting a GUI to appear is easy.

How to get the Graphic User Interface (GUI) to appear in Windows 10

  1. Press CTRL + ALT + DEL at the same time. This will bring up the Windows 10 lock screen.
    The Windows 10 lock screen
  2. On the Windows 10 lock screen, left-click on Task Manager.
    The Windows 10 Task Manager without running apps
  3. If when Task Manager appears, there is nothing showing but a message that says There are no running apps, left-click on the arrow next to More Details in the lower left-hand corner. Task Manager will now show all details.
    The Windows 10 Task Manager with running apps
  4. In the upper left-hand corner of Task Manager, left-click on File, then Run new task.
    The Windows 10 Task Manager Create new task dialog box
  5. In the Create new task form that appears, type in Explorer and left-click on OK.
  6. The Desktop, Start menu, and Taskbar will now appear.

Easily create, edit, and burn CD, DVD, and BD disks with AnyBurn

Are you looking for a program that can create, edit and burn Compact Disk (CD), Digital Video Disc (DVD), and Blu-ray (BD) disks? One that has a simple to use interface but has a ton of features? If so, then look no further than AnyBurn by Power Software.

The main screen inside of AnyBurn

Now I have been working with different disk formats for over twenty (20) years and have never found a more straightforward program than AnyBurn. Its simple user interface so easy to navigate that it is hard to go back to some of the disk programs I have used in the past.

With AnyBurn, you can create, edit, and burn various types of disk formats, including data and audio. It can even erase rewritable disks too. If it has to do with CDs, DVDs, or BDs, AnyBurn can handle it. AnyBurn can work with over 25 image file formats. Some of the formats include DMG, ISO, IMG, and VCD formats.

The settings screen inside of AnyBurn

There are a couple of cool features that make AnyBurn stand out. The first one is to create a bootable USB drive from image files. With more computers not having optical drives, making a bootable USB drive from an image file, like an ISO, is essential.

The second outstanding feature is being able to rip music from audio CDs and burn audio CDs from your existing music library. If your car stereo has a CD drive, this can be a fantastic feature.

AnyBurn runs on several different Windows versions, from Windows XP to Windows 10, and is available in both 32 and 64-bit versions. There is even a portable version that requires no installation. Just extract the files to a folder, and you are ready to go. It is great for having on a flash drive.

Now the best thing about AnyBurn is that it is free to use for personal or business use. For more information on AnyBurn, follow the link below.

AnyBurn

Synchronize folders and files on your Windows computer with Allway Sync

Are you looking for an easy way to synchronize your files to another computer on your network? Or maybe you want to sync to an external drive or the cloud. If so, then take a look at Allway Sync by Botkind.

Synchronize folders and files on your Windows computer with Allway Sync

For years now, I have been using synchronization programs to make an exact copy of my files on network drives and external devices. Over ten years ago, Microsoft released a straightforward file synchronization program called SyncToy.

But Microsoft dropped support for SyncToy a few years ago, and eventually, it stopped working correctly. That is when I started looking for another synchronization application and found Allway Sync.

Windows 10 does have a built-in file sync program called File History, but it is pretty basic. With File History, you can sync to a network folder or external drive, but not to the cloud.

On the other hand, Allway Sync can sync to a local or network folder, FTP / SFTP server, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and several different cloud storage types. You can even sync to a single archive file.

The user interface inside of Allway Sync
The user interface inside of Allway Sync

The user interface is simple to use and easy to understand. The sync options are quite extensive and include data compression and encryption. You can set up multiple sync jobs and customize each job to meet your needs.

The sync job options menu inside of Allway Sync
The sync job options menu inside of Allway Sync

The options for sync jobs include synchronization rules, automatic synchronization, inclusion and exclusion filters, file versioning, error handling, and custom actions.

I have several clients that use synchronization software for backing up files. The primary reason is that files can be recovered quickly, as they do not have to be decrypted. Just copy the file you want to be recovered back to the original folder.

Allway Sync is free for personal use, with a limit of 40,000 files per 30 day period. But for unlimited file synchronization, purchasing a Pro license is recommended. FYI - A pro license is not that expensive (under $30).

There are a couple of different editions of Allway Sync, a desktop edition for installing on desktops, laptops, and servers. There is also an edition, Allway Sync 'n' Go, a portable version for installing on external drives.

Allway Sync comes in 32-bit and 64-bit versions compatible with Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2016, and Windows Server 2019. They even have versions that will run on Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

For more information on Allway Sync by Botkind, click on the link below.

Allway Sync by Botkind

Customer service is #1

Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. We aim to give the highest quality of service  from computer repair, virus removal, and data recovery.

Bring your computer to us and save

Diagnosing PC problems can be time-consuming. From running memory checking software to scanning for viruses, these are processes can take some time. We base our in-shop service on the actual time we work on your computer, not the time it takes your computer to work!

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Phoenix, Arizona 85008
(602) 795-1111

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in servicing laptop and desktop computers. Since 2008, our expert and knowledgeable technicians have provided excellent computer repair, virus removal, data recovery, photo manipulation, and website support to the greater Phoenix metro area.

At Geeks in Phoenix, we have the most outstanding computer consultants that provide the highest exceptional service in Phoenix, Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, and Tempe, Arizona. We offer in-shop, on-site, and remote (with stable Internet connection) computer support and services.

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