So you have decided to spend part of your income tax refund on a new computer.  Windows 7 is playing its siren song to you, and you can grab a quad-core, 8G Windows 7 box for $500.  You take the jump.

The new PC comes in, and you’re all thrilled with it.  You have used LapLink’s forty dollar PC Mover Home to simplify the transition to the new box, and now you’re ripping through spreadsheets and pictures with wild abandon.

Then there comes that thought in the quiet moment: what do I do with the old computer?

There’s the church that could use a computer for the info center.  The Cub Scouts for learning how to do web pages.  See if the local Crisis Pregnancy Center needs it.  There’s your brother-in-law Harvey who needs one for applying for a job (again).  And you could always drop it onto Ebay or Craig’s List for a bit more pocket cash.

Each of those is a worthwhile choice (I’m making an assumption about Harvey), but you still have records you want to keep private.  They’re over on your nifty new PC and working fine, but they still exist on the old one as well.  What to do about wiping them out and protecting your information?

Glad you asked!  DBAN is Darik’s Boot And Nuke, and it does exactly what it says.  It boots your hardware to a slimmed-down Linux operating system, and its sole purpose is to wipe out hard drives.  It does it very well – I have used it before, and I’ll use it again when I need it.  The program will create a bootable image.  A CD, a floppy (if you still have those), or a thumb drive.  Boot it up and it will allow you to wipe out the hard drive using any of several wiping methods.  You can both clear out the data and overwrite random data, and you can do multiple passes.

Please be aware that this is a power tool.  Don’t try it on a computer that you still need to use.  When it wipes out things, they stay wiped out.  This thing works.

Unlike Harvey.

(Do note that DBAN wipes the whole entire complete hard drive, including the operating system.  Make sure you have the original install disks or restore disks before telling it to do the nuke portion.  Or that you’re ready for your recipient to try Linux.)