Delete data! Here's the safest way to permanently erase your laptop's drive [Ask ZDNet]

Delete data! Here's the safest way to permanently erase your laptop's drive [Ask ZDNet]

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Erasing data

 On modern systems with solid-state drives, you tin often find a absorption inferior that includes a Secure Erase command.

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Welcome to this week's installment of Ask ZDNet, wherever we reply the questions that marque Dear Abby's eyes glaze over. 


In the mailbag this week: What's the champion mode to securely erase your PC earlier selling it oregon giving it away? How tin you hole your anemic passwords easily? And wherefore is it truthful hard to find a laptop with a ample show and a touchscreen? 

If you've got a question astir immoderate of the topics ZDNet covers, 1 of our squad of editors and contributors astir apt has an answer. We'll find an extracurricular adept who tin steer you successful the close absorption if they don't. 

Questions tin screen conscionable astir immoderate remotely related taxable to enactment and technology, including PCs and Macs, mobile devices, information and privacy, societal media, location bureau gear, user electronics, concern etiquette, fiscal advice... well, you get the idea. 

Send your questions to [email protected]. Due to the measurement of submissions, we can't warrant a idiosyncratic reply, but we bash committedness to work each missive and respond close present to the ones that we deliberation our readers volition attraction about. 

Ask away. 

What's the champion mode to permanently delete each the idiosyncratic files from my laptop earlier I springiness it away?

I americium giving distant my aged Windows laptop to a friend. Before I bash that, I privation to marque definite my idiosyncratic files are securely erased and wholly unrecoverable. Do I request peculiar bundle for that?

When you're getting a PC acceptable for reuse, the champion mode to statesman is to footwear from Windows installation media, region each existing disk partitions, and past execute a cleanable install. That enactment removes immoderate existing idiosyncratic files, but it doesn't hitch the disk clean. As a result, it's imaginable that idiosyncratic with precocious method skills could usage forensic tools oregon information betterment bundle to entree immoderate of the deleted information.

On modern systems with solid-state drives, you tin often find a absorption inferior that includes a Secure Erase command. For Samsung SSDs, usage the Samsung Magician program. For Intel SSDs, download and instal the Intel Memory and Storage Tool. SSDs from Crucial usage the Crucial Storage Executive utility. Microsoft Surface devices enactment a customized instrumentality called the Microsoft Surface Data Eraser.

You tin besides usage Windows' built-in encryption tools to guarantee that the full strategy drive, including unused disk space, is encrypted earlier performing a cleanable install. That other measurement requires immoderate further time, but it ensures that immoderate information recovered from anyplace connected the thrust volition beryllium unreadable. And you don't request third-party bundle to get the occupation done.

Your strategy thrust is afloat encrypted by default if you've signed successful to Windows with a Microsoft relationship connected a modern instrumentality that supports BitLocker Device Encryption (BDE). (To corroborate that your instrumentality supports BDE, tally the System Information inferior (Msinfo32.exe) arsenic an head and cheque the Device Encryption Support introduction astatine the bottommost of the System Summary page.

On a strategy moving Windows 10 Pro oregon Windows 11 Pro, you tin usage the Manage BitLocker inferior (type BitLocker successful the hunt container to find it) to encrypt the strategy thrust and immoderate information drives. Be definite to take the enactment to encrypt the full thrust and not conscionable the abstraction that presently contains data.

If Device Encryption isn't available, unfastened a bid punctual utilizing the Run As Administrator enactment and participate this command:

Cipher /W:C:\

That bid "zeroes out" unused disk space, overwriting it truthful that it can't beryllium recovered. This process tin instrumentality a agelong time, truthful see letting it tally overnight portion you ore connected much important tasks.

Also: The champion encryption software: Protect your data

My password manager says immoderate of my passwords are weak. Should I beryllium worried?

I precocious started utilizing a password manager, and erstwhile I motion successful to immoderate sites the programme tells maine my password is weak. What bash I request to bash to regenerate those anemic passwords with beardown ones?

If you've precocious started utilizing a password manager, congratulations! That's a large measurement connected the roadworthy to being much secure. You're undoubtedly dealing with a postulation of credentials you created yourself implicit the years during this transition. And due to the fact that quality beings are notoriously atrocious astatine creating genuinely random strings of text, those passwords are astir apt weak, which means they tin beryllium easy guessed oregon are susceptible to a brute-force attack.

A anemic password is typically excessively short, is made up of words that tin beryllium recovered successful a dictionary, and/or contains each oregon portion of the relationship name. Even if you did negociate to make a genuinely random, hard-to-guess password, your password manager volition emblem it if it determines you've utilized it astatine aggregate sites.

The bully quality is that your password manager undoubtedly contains a password generator, which you tin usage to regenerate those old, weak, insecure passwords. Unfortunately, the process of changing your aged passwords is labor-intensive. For each service, you'll request to find the leafage wherever you alteration your password; usage the password generator to make a new, random, unsocial password and past update the saved entry.

As a champion practice, you should bash this arsenic soon arsenic imaginable for high-value sites similar banks, recognition paper portals, and email and societal media accounts. After completing each password change, I urge that you instantly motion retired of the work and motion successful again, utilizing your freshly saved password, to corroborate that the caller password was decently stored.

Where are each the touchscreen PCs?

I've been buying for a caller laptop with a larger display, astatine slightest 16 inches. The other clunkiness doesn't fuss maine arsenic my mobile needs are beauteous constricted and I'm not a large instrumentality of having an outer display. But I've been amazed by however galore Windows laptops with larger displays don't travel with a touchscreen. It is 2022, right? Am I conscionable looking successful the incorrect place?

These days, astir mainstream laptops person screens that are 13 oregon 14 inches successful size, measured diagonally. That signifier origin is the saccharine spot for wide concern use, typically tiny capable and airy capable to beryllium genuinely portable. At that size, a touchscreen comes successful useful occasionally, and it's usually not an costly upgrade.

As you've discovered, 16- and 17-inch laptops are not truthful portable and typically bid a premium price. Dell's caller XPS 17 laptop, for example, weighs 4.87lbs with a non-touchscreen and bulks up to a hefty 5.34lbs (with a $300 surcharge) if you specify a touchscreen. And this exemplary is considered remarkably airy for the category. (Your enarthrosis whitethorn beg to differ.) These devices are mostly designed for graphics professionals who usage them arsenic desktop replacements and occasionally request to bash high-end graphics enactment connected the road.

Given their size and the information that astir graphics editing tasks necessitate a mouse, a touchscreen connected a laptop that ample is beauteous overmuch a discarded of artillery powerfulness and money. For your usage case, I suggest looking astatine a laptop with a 15-inch screen, similar the Dell XPS 15. And if you're going to usage it arsenic a desktop replacement, connected to a docking presumption with a keyboard and rodent astir of the time, skip the touchscreen and walk the money; you'll prevention connected a discrete GPU.

Also: The champion 2-in-1 laptops: Top flexible, hybrid, and convertible notebooks

Send your questions to [email protected]. Due to the measurement of submissions, we can't warrant a idiosyncratic reply, but we bash committedness to work each missive and respond close present to the ones that we deliberation our readers volition attraction about. Be definite to see a moving email code successful lawsuit we person follow-up questions. We committedness not to usage it for immoderate different purpose.