Drive-cleaning program is free, but be cautious

The Baltimore Sun

I have a laptop that I need to get rid of. What is the best way to remove the hard drive or the information?

Getting the hard drive out would require surgery that, if done by a home user, might destroy the laptop. But most of us would be reluctant to pay a repair shop $75 to $100 to do it, just so we could safely give away the computer.

There are commercial programs that meet government standards for wiping a disk clean (unlike what happens when you reformat a disk or delete files). But most of them cost money.

One free program, Boot and Nuke, gets good reviews. I will cautiously recommend it, as I have no direct experience with it. I'm relying on what I hear from others when I mention it. You'd have to decide if you want to take that chance. The program can be downloaded at dban.source

Does upgrading the operating system of an existing Windows XP computer to Windows Vista require repartitioning the hard drive and loss of data if not backed up?

- Eric Jahnsen

Moving from some versions of XP to Vista Home can be done without destroying data. But that's not true in all cases. So read the information on the Vista box to find out what's true in your case. Even if you find that your data and programs should be safe, a backup is a smart move. I haven't had a bit of trouble myself - but I still back up before installing a new operating system.

Help from a reader: Charles Reichert wrote in reaction to a recent item about cleaning an LCD screen. My original tip involved spraying the cleaning solution onto the screen. Reichert worries about my method. Here's what he said:

"I cringed at the thought of spraying an LCD screen directly from the spray bottle containing the 50/50 alcohol/water mixture. This might only be feasible if you added 'making certain that no water is allowed to migrate beyond the exposed surface of the screen into the bottom and sides between the screen and cabinet.' The safest way is spray a cloth (preferably microfiber) and then lightly wipe the screen. Distilled water is also preferred over tap water."

Bill Husted writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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