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How to securely erase all of the data from your Windows based computer

Do you have an old Windows-based computer you would like to get rid of but want to make sure that all of your data is securely erased? Or maybe you would like to wipe all of the data from your hard drive and perform a clean Windows installation? Either way, you'll want to make the data is completely wiped out. Here's how to securely erase all of the data from your Windows-based computer.

Back-up all folder(s) and file(s) you want to save

This is the time to double and triple-check for any folder(s) and file(s) you may want to keep. If you plan on reinstalling Windows, make sure that you have all of the installation media available. If you need to create the recovery media stored on your computer, this is the time to do it. Once the hard drive is wiped clean, the recovery media images will be gone too.

Windows XP Backup

Windows 7 / Windows Vista Backup

Windows 8 Backup

Download and create bootable media with disk wiping software

The best way to completely wipe clean a hard drive is by booting the computer up on a CD/DVD or USB drive. This way, you can erase all of the space on the hard drive. There are several free utilities for doing this, including Darik's Boot And Nuke, CMRR - Secure Erase, and PC Disk Eraser. I recommend the Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD), which has all of these and more already built-in. Just download the image file (.ISO) and use your favorite disk burning software or Windows built-in disk burning to create the bootable media. You can even create a UBCD bootable USB drive.

Encrypt the contents of your hard drive

This step may seem unnecessary, but it makes data recovery virtually impossible on the drive you will wipe. Windows has a feature called Encrypting File System (EFS) built-in, but it's disabled by default. It allows files to be encrypted transparently with a File Encryption Key (FEK). For more on EFS, check out this Wikipedia article. So even if someone could recover the data on the drive after the wiping, it would be in deplorable condition. After that, the data would have to be unencrypted, and being in such a bad condition, would be hard, if not impossible.

  1. Open File Explorer / Windows Explorer (Windows logo key Windows logo key + E).
  2. Select the file(s) and/or folder(s) you want to encrypt.
  3. Right-click on the items selected and then left-click on Properties from the context menu that appears.
  4. On the General tab, left-click on Advanced.
  5. Left-click the check box for Encrypt contents to secure data.
  6. Left-click on OK. Be patient; encrypting the folders and files may take some time.

Insert bootable media and restart the system

When you restart your system, it should boot up on the media you created. Follow the on-screen instructions. If using the UBCD, navigate to HDD > Disk Wiping for the list of utilities. Each program will have similar data destruction settings. I always look for the latest Department of Defense standard (currently DOD 5220.22-M). If you really want to clean your hard drive, just run two or more of the disk wiping programs included on the UBCD.

If your system does not boot up on the media you just created, you may have to change the computer's boot order. Check the 'splash' screen that first appears when you start your computer. Sometimes there is an option for boot device or menu, usually an F key. If not, you will have to change it manually inside the BIOS (Basic Input Output System). The BIOS can generally be accessed by pressing the DEL or F2 key when the 'splash' screen appears. It's always recommended to check your motherboard documentation on which keys are used to access the BIOS and where in the BIOS to change the boot order.

Perform advanced disk defragmentation with Defraggler from Piriform

Have you ever opened a filing cabinet just to find the folders just scattered around? The files are all over the place, and you cannot find what you're looking for. The same thing can happen to the folders/files on your Windows based computer. Windows does come with a disk defrag program, but its options are minimal. If you're looking for something more in a disk defrag program, check out Defraggler by Piriform.

Drive view inside of Defraggler
Drive view inside of Defraggler

With Defraggler, you can do much more than just defragment your hard drive. You can do a quick or full defrag, defrag only free space, and my favorite, boot-time defrag. And it uses the same technology as Windows built-in defragmenter to read and write files. You can even have the option to replace the Windows built-in defrag program with Defraggler.

Block detail view inside of Defraggler
Block detail view inside of Defraggler

Defraggler also has something that has been missing from Windows built-in defragmenter for years, a drive map showing the status of files on your hard drive. And what is cool is that you can left-click on a block, and Defraggler will tell you what file(s) are located in it. And best of all, it's free. Here's a quote from the Piriform website:

Defragment exactly what you want
Most defrag tools only allow you to defrag an entire drive. Defraggler lets you specify one or more files, folders, or the whole drive to defragment.

Safe and Secure
When Defraggler reads or writes a file, it uses the exact same techniques that Windows uses. Using Defraggler is just as safe for your files as using Windows.

Compact and portable
Defraggler's tough on your files – and light on your system.

Interactive drive map
At a glance, you can see how fragmented your hard drive is. Defraggler's drive map shows you blocks that are empty, not fragmented, or needing defragmentation.

Quick Defrag
Give your hard drive a quick touch-up with Quick Defrag.

Defragment free space
Organizes empty disk space to further prevent fragmentation.

Scheduled defragmentation
Defragment while you sleep - and wake up with a faster PC. Set Defraggler to run daily, weekly or monthly.

Multi-lingual support
No matter what your native tongue is, Defraggler speaks your language. It currently supports 37 languages.

For more information on Defraggler, just follow the link below:

Defraggler - File and Disk Defragmentation

Sync data between your PC and smartphone with CompanionLink

Like a lot of people, I use Microsoft Outlook as a PIM (Personal Information Manager). And being in the computer repair industry, I need to keep all of my data (contacts, calendar, etc.) synchronized and up to date on both my PC and smartphone. I found I can do all of this quite easily with CompanionLink.

CompanionLink 5 for Outlook setup screen
CompanionLink 5 for Outlook setup screen

I wrote an article a while back about syncing Outlook with my Android phone using CompanionLink on my PC and DejaOffice on my Android. It works because you install CompanionLink on your PC or Mac and install DejaOffice on your Android, iPhone / iPad, Blackberry, etc. You then define what database (Outlook, ATC!, etc.) and what fields (contacts, calendar, etc.) you want to sync.

DejaOffice 2.2 main screen
DejaOffice 2.2 main screen

Recently they released a new version of both CompanionLink (V5) and DejaOffice (V2.2) with more capabilities and features. They have multiple versions for different applications (I use CompanionLink for Outlook). Here's a quote from their website on the products they offer:

Our products work with Android, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, HP webOS, Palm OS, and Windows devices. We also sync with Google, Gmail, Google Apps, and Windows Live (Hotmail) accounts

CompanionLink for Outlook
Sync Microsoft Outlook with Android, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, or any Google/Gmail account. Supports two-way sync of contacts, calendar, tasks and notes.

CompanionLink for Palm Desktop
Sync Palm Desktop or Pimlical with smartphones, tablets, or any Google/Gmail account. Supports two-way sync of contacts, calendar, tasks and memos.

CompanionLink Express
Sync ACT!, Lotus Notes, HighRise, or GroupWise with smartphones, tablets, or any Google/Gmail account. Supports two-way sync of contacts, calendar, tasks and notes.

CompanionLink Professional
Sync Salesforce CRM, Goldmine, or any other supported database with smartphones, tablets, or any Google/Gmail account. Includes all the features of CompanionLink Express, plus the ability to sync to from multiple databases, sync with up to 5 devices, and advanced sync options.

CompanionLink for Google
Sync Microsoft Outlook contacts and calendar to Google Contacts, Google Calendar, and Google Tasks. Works with any Google, Gmail, or Google Apps account. Two-way sync is fully supported so you can make changes to data in Outlook or in Google.

CompanionLink for Outlook.com / Windows Live
Sync Outlook with your Windows Live Hotmail account. Supports two-way sync of contacts, calendar, and tasks.

CompanionLink for Time & Chaos
Sync Time & Chaos with smartphones, tablets, or any Google/Gmail account. Supports two-way sync of contacts, calendar, tasks and notes.

CompanionLink FA
Sync Wise Agent, Infusionsoft, SalesJunction, or Respond with smartphones, tablets, Outlook, or any Google/Gmail account. Supports two-way sync of contacts, calendar, tasks and notes.

CompanionLink for Mac
Sync Mac's Address Book and iCal with any Android device. You can also keep Outlook for Mac in sync with Android. Requires OS X Lion (10.7) or Mountain Lion (10.8).

For more information on CompanionLink and DejaOffice, follow the links below:

CompanionLink

CompanionLink FAQ's

Mix static and dynamic video elements with Microsoft Research Cliplets

As many of you know, when I'm not working on computers, I like to work with photos and videos. And some of the coolest software I've found for doing panoramic images has come from Microsoft Research. I have written about Microsoft Research before, Microsoft Image Composite Editor, and HD View, and they have recently released a new project for video called Cliplets.

View of main screen inside of Microsoft Research Cliplets
View of the main screen inside of Microsoft Research Cliplets.

With Cliplets, you can combine static and dynamic elements from a single video to create some pretty cool effects. It works by isolating different elements on individual layers. Each layer has it's own action (still, loop, mirror, or play) and timeline. Just open a compatible video, and Cliplets will ask what segment you would like to use. The maximum amount of time that Cliplets can work with is only ten (10) seconds.

This video is a sample of what Microsoft Research Cliplets can do. The palm tree on the left has been frozen, while the palm tree on the right sways is the wind. Also, look for the bird is flying through.

When you are all done editing, you can export your final Cliplet in three different formats, animated GIF (*.GIF), MPEG-4 video (*.MP4), or Windows Media Video (*.WMA). Cliplets works with 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7. Here's a quote from their site:

Cliplets: Juxtaposing Still and Dynamic Imagery

What Are Cliplets?

Microsoft Research Cliplets is an interactive app that gives users the power to create "Cliplets" -- a type of imagery that sits between stills and video, including imagery such as video textures and "cinemagraphs". The app provides a simple, yet expressive way to mix static and dynamic elements from a video clip.

About Cliplets

Cliplets is a research project from Microsoft Research. This project explores a form of visual media that juxtaposes still image and video segments, both spatially and temporally, to expressively abstract a moment. The tension between static and dynamic elements in a cliplet reinforces both aspects, strongly focusing the viewer's attention or conveying a narrative. We develop a set of idioms, essentially spatiotemporal mappings, that characterize these cliplet elements, and use these idioms in an interactive system to quickly compose a cliplet from ordinary handheld video. A key challenge is to avoid seam artifacts by maintaining spatiotemporal continuity in the cliplet composition. We address this using several algorithms from computer graphics and vision.

For more information on Microsoft Research Cliplets, follow the links below:

Microsoft Research Cliplets

Clean up and optimize your computer for free with CCleaner

Do you want to clean up and optimize your computer but don't know where to start? Maybe you want to clean out all of the temporary Internet files for security purposes. Or clean up all of the temporary files from other applications to free up some space on your hard drive. You can do all of this and more for free with CCleaner.

The Cleaner tab inside of CCleaner
The Cleaner tab inside of CCleaner

CCleaner from Piriform is a complete system optimization tool for Windows. It cleans out temporary Internet files from most browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, etc.) and cleans out various Windows files (recent documents, temporary files, search autocomplete, etc.). It can also repair multiple areas of the registry.

The Registry tab inside of CCleaner
The Registry tab inside of CCleaner

CCleaner can also rename, delete, or uninstall programs listed in the 'Uninstall a program' or 'Add/Remove Programs' section in the Control Panel. It can even manage the system restore points. Here's a quote from Piriform's website:

CCleaner is our system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system - allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally it contains a fully featured registry cleaner. But the best part is that it's fast (normally taking less than a second to run) and contains NO Spyware or Adware! Cleans the following:

Internet Explorer
Temporary files, history, cookies, super cookies, Autocomplete form history, index.dat files.

Firefox
Temporary files, history, cookies, super cookies, download history, form history.

Google Chrome
Temporary files, history, cookies, super cookies, download history, form history.

Opera
Temporary files, history, cookies, super cookies, download history.

Safari
Temporary files, history, cookies, super cookies, form history.

Other Supported Browsers
K-Meleon, Rockmelt, Flock, Google Chrome Canary, Chromium, SeaMonkey, Chrome Plus, SRWare Iron, Pale Moon, Phoenix, Netscape Navigator, Avant and Maxthon.

Windows
Recycle Bin, Recent Documents, Temporary files, Log files, Clipboard, DNS Cache, Error Reporting, Memory Dumps, Jump Lists.

Registry Cleaner
Advanced features to remove unused and old entries, including File Extensions, ActiveX Controls, ClassIDs, ProgIDs, Uninstallers, Shared DLLs, Fonts, Help Files, Application Paths, Icons, Invalid Shortcuts and more...

Third-party applications
Removes temp files and recent file lists (MRUs) from many apps including Windows Media Player, eMule, Google Toolbar, Microsoft Office, Nero, Adobe Acrobat, WinRAR, WinAce, WinZip and many more...

100% Spyware FREE
This software does NOT contain any Spyware, Adware or Viruses.

CCleaner is available in three editions: Free (no support), Professional (priority support), and Business (premium support). For more information on CCleaner, follow the links below:

CCleaner - Optimization and Cleaning

CCleaner - Features

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!

Contact us

Geeks in Phoenix
Professional service at an affordable price!
4722 East Monte Vista Road
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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