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Last Updated: Friday, 18 February, 2005, 12:41 GMT
Click Tips
Rob Freeman
By Rob Freeman
Click tip-ster

Rob Freeman, Click Online's very own Mr Fixit, troubleshoots your PC problems.

Buying a secondhand computer can be great value for money, and if the person who had it before you has not deleted their data you may get a hard disk full of fascinating files into the bargain!

Bob Fromant doesn't want that to happen:

I have an old computer that I want to dispose of. Before I do, I would like to clean the hard disk. But how?

Bob is not talking about wiping down the casing with an oily rag here.

Making sure no one can recover any data from the disk is a tricky subject.

I know of a specialist file recoverer who will tell you that the only way to really ensure that files are unreadable is to incinerate the disk!

You only have to do a web search for keywords like "file recovery" to find pages of products claiming to retrieve data from disks even if they have been formatted.

But a simple format is not a foolproof way to get rid of data, and there are a number of programs which try to do this more effectively.

One I have found which is free is File Shredder.

However, if you have anything on your disk which absolutely must not get seen by others, my advice is to destroy the disk.

And if you are selling the computer second hand I would not have thought it would be too much hassle to sell it without a hard disk because prices for those are dropping all the time.

It also means you can keep the old disk to put in your new computer and expand the amount of storage.

Ashish Kumar, from India, asked:

On my keyboard there is an emboss line under the F and J keys. What is this?

I wonder how many people have looked at those marks and wondered what they are there for.

F and J are known as the "home keys". This is a typing term and it is the position that touch typists are first taught.

Your index fingers rest on the home keys and, from there, every key is a short reach away.

And, of course, a blind or partially sighted person finds the touch marking useful to find their way around the keyboard as well.

You will find them on almost every Qwerty keyboard, even tiny mobile phone keyboards - very useful in the dark, I can tell you!

Eko Junor, from Singapore, contacted us saying:

Almost every morning when I turn on my computer, there seems to be an "Automatic Windows Update" available from Microsoft. Although I do appreciate Microsoft's efforts to update us with fixes, I am beginning to wonder if any of these updates may in fact be worms or viruses disguised as Windows Updates. Since most of us would click OK and accept these without checking, millions of people could be affected very quickly.

Eko, it is good that you take the time to notice and think about what is going on inside your computer.

However, Microsoft's Windows Update mechanism is legitimate and it is generally a good idea to have turned it on.

I have not yet heard of an attack pretending to be a Microsoft patch.

The files you are getting are the special security patches which you will probably hear about regularly in the news.

The reason you see so many updates is - how can I put this politely - Microsoft find that they have to issue a lot of them.

Your suggestion that millions could be infected is valid, but there are many other routes for this kind of online disease.

So get your antivirus software updated and firewall up and running.

If you have any questions or queries, please visit our "Contact us" page to get in touch.

Click Online is broadcast on BBC News 24: Saturday at 0745, 2030, Sunday at 0430, 0645 and 1630, and on Monday at 0030. It is also shown on BBC Two: Saturday at 0745 and BBC One: Sunday at 0645. Also BBC World.


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