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Community Newsletter: Q&A forum: 7/7/06 Strategies for wiping out file footprints without reformatting PC

by: Lee Koo (ADMIN) July 5, 2006 12:05 PM PDT

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7/7/06 Strategies for wiping out file footprints without reformatting PC

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) ModeratorCNET staff - 7/5/06 12:05 PM


Hi CNETers, I am changing jobs soon and want to leave my computer as clean as possible. Since I have been periodically deleting my cookies and temp files, I have found that Windows stores things in multiple and confusing locations. I don't know how many different folders I have found just TMP files in; it is time consuming to sift through them all.

So I want to know: after I delete all my personal fluff, what is the best strategy for deleting the redundant backup files that Windows saves, Internet cookies, and so on without massive destruction? It is not my computer, so reformatting is not an option. I have nothing illegal, incriminating, or even embarrassing, and my replacement will need most of the files that are on my computer, including most of my Internet bookmarks. What they will not need are things like confidential work I have done for the HR department, my babbling notes to self, or Internet search history when I check my personal e-mail. When I started data mining on this PC, I found the person I replaced left a lot of non-work related fodder to sift though, so I don't want to do the same. Thanks!

Submitted by: Lorraine W. of Lafayette, California



Before you perform any of the steps listed below, open My Computer or Control Panel and make sure that your View options are set to show you hidden and system files and folders and to not hide extensions of known file types.

1. Select Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disc Cleanup. Select the drive that you want to clean up. After the tool scans your drive, accept the default selections. This will get rid of at least most of the TMP and temporary Internet files. If you have more than one drive or partition, repeat this for all of them.

Note: Do not delete the Office Setup Files. Uncheck this option if it is selected. If you delete them, your successor will have trouble installing updates to Office.

2. If you use the Automatic Backup feature in programs such as Microsoft Word, use the Search tool to find all instances of Microsoft Word backup files. Select "All files and folders," then Local Hard Drives, and enter the following: *.wbk

Place your cursor in the Results window and press CTRL-A to highlight each file, then press Shift-DEL. This will delete the files entirely instead of simply moving them to the Recycle Bin. (Be sure that Word is not open when you do this, otherwise you won't be able to delete files that are currently in use.)

Repeat for any other program that creates backup files, using the appropriate extension. Also repeat this for TMP files, but be aware that most of them will be in use and not able to be deleted.

3--Open Start > Control Panel > Internet Options. (The assumes that you are using the Windows Classic interface. If not, drill down in the Control Panel options until you find this applet.) On the first page, under Temporary Internet files, delete the files and cookies. Under History, clear the History files and optionally change the number of days to 0.

One the Content page, under Personal Information, select Auto Complete and clear the forms and passwords.

On the Advanced page, under Security, select the option to clear the Temporary Internet Files cache when the browser is closed.

Select Apply to save your changes, then click OK.

4--Using Windows Explorer, open the folder "c:\documents and settings\<your_user_name>" and look through the various folders for things that you might to clean up. For example, you can clear out any cookies that might remain or remove shortcuts from your desktop that the new person would not need. You can also clear your Recent Documents list.

Be sure to open the Local Settings folder as well and check out the History, Temp, and Temporary Internet Files folders for things that the steps taken above did not catch.

5--I am assuming that you know the folders where your working files are stored and don't need any help finding them. The defaults are My Documents, My Pictures, and so forth. If you have a CD or DVD burner, you might want to archive these files to one or more blank discs.

6--As for your personal e-mail messages, if any, the best thing to do would be to delete them. You can forward any important ones to your personal e-mail address. Be aware that when you delete a message, however, your e-mail software may simply move it to a Trash or Deleted Items folder.

You'll have to find the option to empty these folders. Afterward, you should also compact your mailboxes to completely get rid of the deleted records in them.

7--Empty the Recycle Bin to catch anything that might have been moved to it instead of being deleted altogether.

8--Run Defrag. This will help to overwrite any traces of the files that you've deleted.

This may not cover everything but it should give you a good start.

Submitted by: Robert S. of Sterling, Virginia

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