Prepare for total destruction

Windows XP reached its end of life on April 8, 2014. As a result, many of you had to purchase new computers in order to remain HIPAA compliant. This article is written for those who plan on donating their old computers.

Andrew Clarke

Before you drop that old computer off at the local Goodwill, you need to ensure that you’ve erased the hard drive in order to protect your personal data as well as any PHI that may have been on the unit. It’s not enough to just delete all the files. Deleted files can be easily recovered. It’s also not good enough to format the hard drive. Freely available software can retrieve information from a formatted hard drive. You must run a data destruction program to ensure that the information cannot be recovered.

Isn’t it funny that you can accidentally delete a file, and it’s gone, but it takes a lot of effort to permanently delete them all? The process is actually quite easy, and permanent. You will want to print out these instructions for reference. Please read them completely before you start.


Step 1: Back up any data you intend to keep.

Once the cleaning process had been completed, you will not be able to recover any data from your old hard drive / computer, so you need to either make a copy of any files you want to save or backup your old computer in some way. If you don’t already have a method for backing up your computer, I recommend a free product called DriveImage XML. Information about the product is available at, or you can download from


Step 2: Create the data destruction CD

The data destruction product I recommend is called Darik’s Boot And Nuke (DBAN). Additional information about DBAN is available at DBAN is designed to be run from a CD that you use to boot your computer. The steps I will outline here will make creating that CD very easy. If your old computer does not have a CD burner, follow these steps on your new computer.

  • Download the ISO file from Save it to a place where you know you can find it, like the Desktop.
  • Insert a blank CD.
  • Download and run Free ISO Burner. This program simplifies the CD creation process. Screen shots are available at If you’re using Internet explorer, you can simply run the program from
  • If you haven’t already done so, run FreeISOBurner.exe.
  • Click Open.
  • Open dban-2.2.8_i586.iso (downloaded above).
  • Click Burn. Wait for the burning process to complete.
  • Remove the CD and label it “Caution: Boot And Nuke”.
  • Close the Free ISO Burner program.


Step 3: Wipe your hard drive

Now all you have to do is insert the CD you just created into your Windows XP machine, boot it from the CD and follow the instructions that come up.

THE HARD DISK WIPING PROCESS IS PERMANENT, SO BE CAREFUL! Once the process is complete, you can safely donate your old computer.

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One Response to Prepare for total destruction

  1. Betsy Ertel says:

    Once again, excellent article, Andrew!We just had a speaker at the AHDI-FL state meeting on this very topic recommending the same destruction software. Very helpful information and well written. Thank you!

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