Questions often come in about what to do with an old computer, how to transfer old programs to the new machine, how to erase the hard drive completely before you give the computer away, and how to get to programs and data if the computer won’t start?blacx

If the old computer has sensitive data, just erasing the drive is seldom enough, but you can get programs like Eraser, a free program from that will shred your files. But you may want to keep those files, and the programs that go with them.

For recovering stuff from an old computer, you should have a backup drive, like Rebit or the Seagate Replica. If it was always plugged in, it will have everything that was on your disk drive. If you didn’t do that, there are programs you can buy for transferring the old drive’s contents to a new computer. But that does take time and sometimes they don’t work perfectly. Of course the old computer has to be able to turn on, and you still have the problem of what to do with the old drive.

The simplest solution is to pull the drive out of the computer and keep it. It’s pretty easy to do; if opening your computer to take out the disk drive scares you, find a teenage kid to do it. Once the drive is out, the problem is solved. No one can hack into your old computer’s information if the drive isn’t there. And you can keep everything on that drive by plugging it into what’s called a drive enclosure. They cost around $15 to $40 and you can get a nice overview of choices and prices at

We change computers like everyone else, and every time we do it, Bob pulls the old drive. He uses drive enclosures from ADS Technologies – one of the more popular makers, and now has a new one from Thermaltake: the “BlacX” box.

Drive enclosures are basically of two types: You put the drive in a case and it stays there, or you get a swappable box. The BlacX is swappable. It takes either 2.5 or 3.5 inch SATA disk drives (the most common sizes), but not the older IDE drives. You push the drive into the top of the BlacX and you’re ready. The box plugs into a USB port on any relatively recent PC or Mac and the computer reads the drive as just another disk drive on the system. It’s also what’s called “hot swappable.” The means you can pull a drive out of its slot and plug in a different drive. Once again the computer reads it as its own and you can browse and use it.

Gamers and some business users tend to like full enclosures, where the drive is fully enclosed in a hard case. This way they can just pick it up and take it to a friend, and to shows, conventions, contest meets and so forth. They have the game and all their acquired goods, weapons and characters all on the drive and can just plug it in to any available computer. Business users like these enclosures for security. Unplug the case and no one can hack into it.

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