Sanitizing your old computer? A hammer or drill will be handy

November 12, 2018

Q: I replaced an old laptop with a new one, and now the old one is sitting around collecting dust. I’d like to dispose of it by giving it to one of those computer recycling companies near me. Thing is, my old laptop was used to create tax returns and has lots of obsolete files still on it and other sensitive personal information. What should I do to sanitize the hard drive before taking the laptop to the recycle center?

A: When disposing of an unused or unwanted computer, scrub the hard drive so that all of your personal data is removed. You don’t want someone accessing any banking, tax or even personal data from the discarded computer.

There are a few options.

The simplest is to remove the hard drive and physically destroy it. And by that I mean drill holes in it with a power drill or smash it with a sledgehammer.

A less violent option is to erase the drive using a tool that is designed to wipe the data in such a way that it cannot be recovered.

Check out Darik’s Boot And Nuke, also known as DBAN. It will securely erase your hard drive you can dispose of your hardware with confidence. Learn more at tinyurl.com/helplinedban.

Q: I have a Microsoft Surface Pro, and lately I have been having trouble with the keyboard cover. If I move the computer, even slightly, it seems to disconnect and pushes the computer into tablet mode, which disables the mouse and the keyboard. I can’t get the mouse and keyboard to work again unless I reboot. How can I fix this?

A: The keyboard cover is an add-on for the Surface Pro and uses magnets to line up the connectors and keep them in place.

The first thing I would do is try cleaning the connectors on the keyboard cover and cleaning the ports where the case connects to the tablet. A little compressed air should do the trick. This is just to make sure you don’t have any dust or other particulate matter interfering with the connection.

Another thing to check is to make sure the Surface Pro is not set to switch to tablet mode automatically. If it is set this way, it will switch to tablet mode as soon as the keyboard is disconnected, which may be happening when you move the computer.

To change this setting, go to the Tablet Mode tab under Settings and System. Change the make Windows more touch friendly option on or off, and then select whether the device switches modes automatically, prompts you or never switches.

I would set it to prompt so it doesn’t just flip from computer to tablet mode without your consent.


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