Update: This article was written in 2008, and while much of it is still relevant, DBAN has had issues with some newer hardware and Operating Systems (i.e. Vista, Win7)
A 3 step process to save your data and clean your computer, once and for all (until the next time).
This tutorial is primarily for Microsoft Windows users, however the FREE software is cross-platform
There are times when all else fails. You’ve tried everything and none of it worked. Your computer is so messed up you can’t deal with it anymore and it’s time to do something drastic. The good news is you don’t have to lose everything to do it. I wipe my drives clean once a year minimum, sometimes more.
Why…? Because they get messed up.
No matter how careful you are (and I’m not); drivers, configuration files, shared resources and many of the hundreds of thousands of files needed to run your windows machine are going to get corrupted. It’s a fact of life. Seconds after you bought your computer it became a dinosaur. Technology is moving forward at a blistering pace and our computers are constantly updating themselves but sometimes with disastrous results. Or, you may have gotten infected with a virus that will not go away. Whatever the case, it becomes necessary from time to time to start all over again.
Thumb-drive or Flash-drive
An 8 Gigabyte Flash drive can be had at geeks.com for under $25. A 64 GB Flash Drive (largest they make as of this writing) will run about $150. I’m always looking for FREE or really cheap. If you think you’ll use a 64 GB Flash Drive often, go for it. If your Flash Drive is large enough to store all the data you need, you won’t need to back it up onto a CD/DVD, however, it’s still a good idea to backup your docs on a disk from time to time. If you store everything in My Documents, you can find out real quick how much you have.
- Right mouse-click on the My Documents folder and click on Properties.
CD or DVD Burner and blank discs
Burning your photos, music and other documents onto a CD or DVD is a great way to backup your data. I recommend doing it once or twice a year as an individual or monthly if you’re using your computer for business purposes. If you have a choice between CDs or DVDs, definitely go with DVDs. DVDs are sturdier in construction and hold up to 4.7 Gigs of data as opposed to 700 Mb on a CD. Double-sided DVDs can hold 8.5 Gigs. If you have a Blu-Ray burner, use that. Blu-Rays hold 25-50 Gigs of data and are built to last. CDs have about a five year life with moderate use. Blu-Ray Discs and DVDs can last 15-25 years with moderate use. If you’re using them solely for backup purposes, they’ll last much longer than that.
Darik Horn’s FREE software for wiping your hard drive clean. Download the software here. If you plan on selling or disposing of a computer, I recommend using DBAN to erase any data first. When you delete a file on your computer, it doesn’t actually go away. It’s simply moved to a different location and written over. If you haven’t deleted that many files, chances are you or whoever gets your computer, can retrieve almost every file ever deleted. Scary right.
No really, once this program gets started it’s too late. The download is an .iso file or disk image file. It requires a program like Nero Burning Rom, MagicISO or PowerISO to run. If you don’t have any of those and are digging this FREE thing, you can download ISO RECORDER for XP and Vista and install that first. Create a boot-able CD and you’re ready to roll.
Then, simply put the disk in the drive and do a restart. Your system should boot from the CD, but if not, do another restart but watch for a really quick message that tells you which key (f8 usually for Vista – f12 usually for xp) to push to get to the Boot From menu. Once there choose boot from CD. Once your computer boots from the CD you’ll see the Linux OS begin to load followed by a prompt asking you to type in one word: autonuke. Make sure you’re ready, because there’s no turning back after this step.
Depending on the size of your hard drive and speed of your processor this can take anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days.
Windows OS CD or DVD (win2k, XP, Vista)
Most computers you buy today DO NOT come with the operating system (OS) disks. The disks included are usually driver files for recovery purposes and junk software you don’t need. In many cases you can request the company to send you the OS disks, but they’ll often charge you for shipping or other fees. If you have the license, why should you have to pay for the software again? There are FREE options available, which I will not go into here, but contact me if you’re interested.
Finally the steps
1. Backup all your data onto a flash drive, CD or DVD. If possible, copy your entire My Documents folder over. If your computer is a Dell, HP, Gatway, Compaq or other well known brand go to the manufacturer’s website and download all the necessary drivers for your machine. If you are changing from Vista to XP or vice-versa, make sure you download the correct drivers. Make sure you have all the serial numbers for each program you want to reinstall. If you use Microsoft Office and have no idea what the serial number is, there are FREE programs to retrieve that information. Check out these: Belarc Advisor or Magic Jellybean Finder. If you use Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express you’ll need to export your Personal Folders or .pst files and copy that separately.
- Open Outlook, go to File then Import and Export
- Next click on Export to a File
- Click on Personal Folder File
- Make sure to choose the top folder – Personal Folders
- Finally, browse to a location to save the file and rename it to something that means something to you.
Include that .pst file in with all the other docs you’re saving.
Place the Darik’s Boot-n-Nuke Disk in your CD or DVD drive and restart your computer.
As mentioned above, it’s going to take a while. The program begins and after 5 or 10 minutes the window will display how much time is left to erase your hard drive.
Remove the Boot-n-Nuke disk, put your Windows OS disk in and restart your computer.
That’s basically it right? Sort of…
After Windows installs, each of your programs will need to be re-installed, along with all of the Windows updates and plugins.
Make sure to include all of these when updating your computer:
It’s a pain in the butt, I know…
But your newly refreshed computer will buzz along faster than ever and everything will work right, at least until you screw it up again.