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I have a really old computer that I need to get rid of, after removing all my personal information. It has Windows XP (SP2) on it. However I noticed that I am unable to even boot up Windows. It just shows the Windows XP logo and stays there forever. I tried to boot up in Safe Mode also, but in this case it shows a black screen with a cursor and just sits there.

Any ideas on how I could remove personal info from it?

I would like to mention that I do not want to destroy the HDD since I would like for someone else to be able to use the computer.

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I would like to mention that I do not want to destroy the HDD... You took the fun out of this. :( –  Bobby Apr 6 '11 at 13:12
    
Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. I think for now the DBAN idea seems most suitable for my situation. I will try that, and if that fails, I think I will just take out the HDD before giving away my computer. –  Andy Apr 6 '11 at 18:50
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4 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Sounds like the OS is hosed. You can try and run DBAN or something similiar on it. If those fail, consider the hard drive as failed. If that happens, remove it and toss it.

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wiping the hard drive isn't destroying it, tho, if it has a recovery partition, trying to run that, making restore disks, THEN dbanning it might be preferable. –  Journeyman Geek Apr 6 '11 at 3:08
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@TheJourneymanGeek The recovery partition wouldn't have anything to do with it. Wiping the full drive with DBAN would more than be sufficient for most intents and purposes. –  Hyppy Apr 6 '11 at 3:51
    
If he wanted to reinstall, he'd probably want to get the recovery/restore disks ;) –  Journeyman Geek Apr 6 '11 at 4:09
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You could try a live boot cd. A linux cd such as Knoppix would enable you to boot the machine onto the cd and view the contents of the drive. http://www.knoppix.net/.

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If you have an external enclosure (like this one, for example) , you can always just pull the old hard drive out of the computer and put it in the enclosure, get your data off, wipe it clean, and put the hard drive back in the old computer (or if you've got another desktop, hook it up to that desktop as a second hard drive).

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I know that you want to have someone else use the PC, but if the HD is already giving you issues, you're probably going to need a new one anyway.

It's far easier to just open the drive and physically destroy the platters. Also, this is the only fool proof way to destroy data - total physical destruction. The method goes beyond DoD standards for data deletion 5220-22.M. Read this excellent essay on the subject to learn more.

Barring all of that, you could just reinstall windows if you don't fear the person will attempt to recover your 'deleted' data from the drive.

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This is actually a great answer for $20-30 you can get a new HDD (not a huge one but more than enough for most ppl) and if it's already giving you problems why risk letting someone else lose their data? Just destroy the drive and buy a new one +1 –  Kyle Apr 6 '11 at 13:23
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