Depending on the previous user, a personal computer may contain a lot of sensitive information ("Old Laptops, New Life," Digital Manager, Spring 2005). Before handing it over to a new hire, this information must be carefully erased.

Deleting files, or even formatting the disk, is unlikely to remove this information. In essence, deleting a file (even after emptying the "recycle bin") is merely a bookkeeping exercise. The information is still in the computer. It is just not accessible through the Windows interface. Passwords, access codes, credit-card numbers, confidential data, etc., can still be retrieved with a piece of software that can be downloaded from the Internet and a fair amount of patience.

The disk should be totally scrubbed before handing over the laptop. A number of utilities that perform the above task are readily available.

VASSILIS PREVELAKIS, PhD

Assistant Professor, Computer Science

Drexel University

Philadelphia

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