Data Security, Computer Recycling, and The Lindsay Home Show

This past weekend Russel Hale and I attended the Fall Lindsay Home show as exhibitors for Around The Clock I. T. Solutions Ltd.
We wanted to complete some computer recycling I had fallen behind on. We wanted to show some Kawartha residents ways that technology could enrich their lives. We hope this will let the area know we are here to help them out with all of their technology needs.
We setup a 50 inch monitor with an i7 computer with dual video cards to show off 3d rendering on a PC. This computer was put together for flight simulation, but would work well for 3D CAD, or high resolution video gaming. I left some 3D benchmark programs running, to strike up conversations.
I also brought in another i7 computer, this one was hooked up to my Wahoo Kickr trainer. I showed how virtual training software would help make indoor training less dull.
We brought in a number of retired office workstations to securely erase their hard drives and reinstall usable operating systems. Normally I use CBL Data Recovery’s Data shredder utility. I figure since they do great work recovering data they would know what cannot be recovered. We used it for most of the data shredding that was done. Smaller hard drives that were not large enough to be worth the time that secure wiping takes, were dismantled and their platters destroyed physically. All of this recycling while worthwhile if we can keep data secure and landfills less full, is boring.
What was less boring about this recycling was exploring. I looked into Linux Mint, as well as some alternative ways to shred old data.
Two very interesting data wiping utilities are part of Windows.
One is the plain old format command.
There is now, in Windows 8, a command line switch that causes random characters to be written to each sector of the drive as many times as you wish it to. (Windows Vista and 7 would write zeros apparently.) It looks like this
“format d: /p:7”
d: is the drive letter
/p is the number of passes you want written.
Likely not as secure as CBL’s Data Shredder but certainly easier and impressive to be in Windows.
The second one is a utility that scrubs the free space of your hard drive. It has been around a while. I just found an article mentioning it in Windows 2000. I guess I don’t know it all.
Cipher /w:c
:c is the drive letter you want to scrub.
Microsoft claims it is quite secure. It writes 0x00 then 0xff then random characters to all of the free space on the drive. It should be pretty good.
Now, Linux Mint. I had not installed Linux in years. I recently had to sort out some problems with Linux for a customer. Her husband insists upon running Linux, but has had a stroke and can no longer manage the computer himself. It actually looked pretty good. I think it was Ubuntu Linux. With all of these old workstations with Windows XP stickers on them needing a current operating system I did some searches to see what are the pros and cons of the current Linux versions. Linux Mint was listed as user friendly and quite Windows like. I decided to go with that.
You download it. Then write it to a disk or USB Key. I used a USB Key. Then just boot off the key and run the install. Easy Peasy. It looks good as well. It includes the Office Libre office suite, Firefox for browsing the Internet, and Thunderbird for Email. The computers we installed with it seem quite zippy and work nicely. While I would not recommend it for an office, or someone who wishes to install commercial software, it looks great for someone who actually just accesses the Internet and Email, and maybe does the odd bit of word processing.
It seems like a nice answer for older computers since Windows XP support has been discontinued.