Saturday, September 16, 2017

Brigid Computer Advice - A Guest Post

You know me, safety forced. 
 - Red Green

Borepatch is your guy for computer stuff.  I'm just the forensic scientist that has a homemade computer made out of a 1940's Analytical Balance.  That is the total extent of my computer knowledge - what the basic components are (and yes, the big button is on/off).
I'm lucky that I have an admin assistant at work that was administrative in the Army or I'd not be able to get anything done without him.

So sometimes even the basic stuff is a challenge

Like when I tried to upload Windows 10. The last laptop I got had Windows 8. To say I hated Windows 8 was an understatement.  Using it as I did to capture and sort photos for the blog was about as user-friendly as the U.S. Tax Code.

The intent I guess, was to meld together the desktop and mobile platforms to try for a single operating system that would work on the desktop, notebooks, and tablets.  What I got was a system that just screamed for flaming torches and pitchforks.  The tutorial was no help at all, simply telling me to move my mouse to any corner. . and then. . WHAT?   What is it supposed to do, to be?   And all I could think of was SNL's The Church Lady with "could it be. . . SATAN?"

It just leaves off right there and apparently, I was supposed to just cognitively know that although most scroll wheels go up and down, Windows 8 wants you to scroll sideways.

So I muddled through, scrolling through screen after screen of run on photos, only to find the one I wanted to add to the blog, only to have something go "zap" like Samantha of Bewitched was in the room and the next thing you know my picture was missing and there was a pony in the room.

See, that's my computer skill.  So tasks that are basic for everyone under the age of 50 are more a challenge for me. Like, what do you do if you have a hard drive you want to get rid of.

Sure you can take out all your data, compress and encrypt using a strong encryption and then format the hard disk drive. Even if the bad guys recover the encrypted file, trying to decrypt the recovered file would be a difficult task (think the average politician and a really hard level of Angry Birds).

But you can't just delete a file from the hard drive, it doesn't go away.  When files are erased  (and that's a pretty loose definition of the word) from a hard drive, they don't really disappear, only the file location information is removed. In other words, the file(s) are invisible to the operating system (like Windows or Linux) but not impossible to recover (especially for geeky folks that have nothing else to do)
"Me, mess with my colleagues?"

So what do you do when you've replaced a hard drive, to make sure someone doesn't get the info off of the old one and you're really not a computer whiz.

I'll offer some Brigid ideas from the past few years.  Then you all can come up with one of your own. 
No, not going to cut it.
There's an assortment of shop tools and stuff out in the garage.

You can bury it. With enough old computers around, you can have your own "Hard Drive Body Farm".

There's blunt force trauma.

You might want to check with your homeowners association first. 
 Ve haf vays of making you talk.
There's heat (but there's that whole harmful volatiles issue).

What's this?  

"Product warranty void if drive experiences shock in excess of 350 G's."

350 G's?! What on earth would have that kind of destructive force?


No, with Barkley gone, the current "mandibles of death"- Abby Normal the Labrador  -couldn't do any significant damage, and she might injure herself.

I could use an extra coaster.


Divemedic said...

What did Hillary do?

Jerry said...

I run an occasional business; Holey Hard Drives. For $10 or $20, your hard drive goes to the shooting range with me. Only one returns.

Brigid said...

Jerry - Holey Hard Drives - LOVE IT!

Borepatch said...


The Grommet toy is awesome, too. I

Arthur said...

Open them up and scavenge the platters and magnets out of them.

The magnets are super strong and very useful. The platters make excellent mirrors for seeing behind obstructions when working on equipment or under the hood of a car. MUCH tougher than glass mirrors.

I'll miss the old hard drives once SSDs take over.

Rich P said...

What Arthur said, get some of those odd driver bits and have at. Loctite Cleanup Solvent will probably unstick the magnets from their mounting plates, but look for a friend who has some, it's expen$$$ive. The platters are aluminum, if you grind them to powder there's more entertainment to be had. In the Olden Days, platter substrates were thick, optically flat glass. Much easier to deal with.

Randall said...

I once heard the best destruction is essentially 'rust'. Drill a few extra holes in the various corners of the case, then drop it in a bucket of very salty water. Time and oxidation (rust) will do a more thorough job than Hillary.

LindaG said...

Loved the post and all the comments!
Hubby always takes them apart for the magnets.

Old NFO said...

Yep, take it to the range! :-)

Rich in NC said...

Let's go 'old school'. Hard Drives are Magnetic, right? Lets travel back to the 30's to the 70's when there was still magnetic tape (sometimes known as reel to reel). Those old geezers sometimes wanted to reuse those reels of tape, so they would get the degausser and buzz the tape clean. If you can find one at the flea market or a hamfest, it does such a good number on the hard drive that it has TOTAL amnesia, and then can be used for any of the aforementioned uses without residual magnetism. So there then.
Rich in NC

LindaG said...

Ah yes. I remember degaussers. And I remember hubby would do just that at work.
Don't think I've ever seen one in a flea market, but it would definitely do the job!

Unknown said...

In a pinch for degaussing analog tape, I'd hold it up to the screen of a TV and go through a dozen hard off/on cycles. But don't modern hard-drives have a coercivity of like 5000 Oersteds? I'd be afraid that neither a TV nor a degausser for analog tapes would have enough field-strength to be effective on a hard-drive.

Kurt said...

For Windows, and presuming you've not encrypted the drive (using either MSFT's BitLocker, or the open source VeraCrypt), there are three basic methods, of which two are in the same genus:

SDELETE, a MSFT utility


or a 2lb sledge hammer.

SDELETE - allows you to overwrite free space formerly occupied by files that have since been deleted, while still booted into your OS.

DBAN - boot from CD/DVD/USB stick, and overwrite all files on the disk

2lb sledge - emotionally satisfying, but the disk is dead.


Tom in NC said...

WAY late to this post - sorry. But since you are a forensic scientist, do you know anyone with a superconducting NMR ?? you wouldn't want to get so close that your quench the magnet (that would be bad juju for sure), but bet you could still get close enough to degauss the drive platter. But taking it to the range would be much more fun!!