Hard disk drive

How to Securely Wipe a Hard Drive on Your Mac

Thinking of giving an old hard drive to a friend, or taking it to be recycled? Be careful. When you delete a file on a mechanical drive, it’s not really gone—at least, not physically. Your file system marks the spot taken up by the file as “free space,” which is why you can sometimes recover deleted files.

With enough usage, new files will overwrite your deleted files, making them harder to recover. Until that happens, though, your files aren’t physically gone. As a result, it’s very important that you securely wipe a mechanical drive before giving it away or recycling it.

If you’re a Mac user, Disk Utility can write random information over any entire drive. A single pass with random data will foil most recovery software, but if you’re as paranoid as the US government, you can run multiple passes as well.

NOTE: it’s not really necessary to overwrite files on an SSD with TRiM enabled; your Mac is already deleting files completely to ensure fast write speeds later. This is much more important for mechanical drives with spinning platters.

To wipe your mechanical drive, open Disk Utility, which you’ll find in Applications > Utilities.

Connect the drive you want to securely delete, then click it in…

How Do You Disable a Computer’s Hard Drive LED Light?

When you are busy working on your laptop, the last thing you need is a constantly flickering hard drive activity light distracting you. Is there an easy way to disable it or should you go with a more round-about solution? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has some solutions to a frustrated reader’s problem.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

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The Question

SuperUser reader AnonymousPerson wants to know how to disable a computer’s hard drive LED light:

It is very bothersome to work with my Windows 10 laptop (a Dell…

How to Use All of Windows 10’s Backup and Recovery Tools

Windows 10 includes several different types of backup and recovery tools. And we’re going to take a look at all of them.

Sometimes, bad things happen to good computers. Fortunately, Windows includes a number of tools you can use to make sure your files are properly backed up and to recover your computer should you need to. On the backup side of things, File History is the primary backup tool in Windows 8 and 10. It offers not just full backups, but also a way to restore previous versions of files. Microsoft also includes the old Windows 7 Backup and Restore in both Windows 8 and 10 and it works the same way it always has, allowing you to perform selective or even full image-based backups. And while it’s not really a true backup solution, the inclusion of OneDrive does let you build a little redundancy into your file storage.

On the Recovery side of things, Windows offers a full recovery environment you can use for troubleshooting and recovery, as well as the ability to fully reset your PC to it’s default settings. Here’s how it all fits together.

Back Up and Protect Your Windows 10 PC the Easy Way

Windows 10 includes a number of backup and recovery tools for free, but the reality is that they aren’t anywhere near as good as commercial solutions. Carbonite automatically backs up all of your files, photos, and documents and stores them encrypted in the cloud.

Not only do you get cheap unlimited cloud backup, but you can also use Carbonite to backup your PC to a local hard drive. And you get versioning, deleted file protection, mobile apps so you can access your files from any device, and a whole lot more.

And for a limited time, How-To Geek readers get 2 free bonus months.

Built-In Backup Tools in Windows

You’ve heard the advice a million times, but it’s still surprising how many people don’t take the time to make sure their files are adequately backed up. We’ve covered all kinds of ways to make sure that your computer is backed up and we’ve even talked about what files you should be backing up. The good news is Windows itself provides some pretty solid tools to get the job done. Just remember, it’s not only about backing up to an external hard drive. You also should be creating offsite backups—or at the very least, storing a copy of your backups in a different location.

File History

File History was first introduced in Windows 8 and continues to be the primary built-in backup solution in Windows 10. File History doesn’t create a full backup of your entire PC. Rather, it focuses on making sure that your personal files are backed up. You set up File History to back up all your files to an external drive and then you really can just let it do its job. It not only regularly backs up files, it also retains previous versions of files that you can easily restore.

By default, File History backs up important folders in your user folder—stuff like Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos, and parts of the AppData folder. You can exclude folders you don’t want backed up and add folders from elsewhere on your PC that you do want backed up.

When you need to recover files, you can browse through the whole collection of backed up files and folders.

Or you can restore previous versions of files from right within File Explorer.

File History gives you a pretty reliable way to make sure your personal files are regularly backed up. Make sure you check out our full guide to using File History for instructions on setting it up and using it.

Backup and Restore (Windows 7)

Microsoft also kept the old Backup and Restore feature from Windows 7 around. It was available in Windows 8, removed in Windows 8.1, and is back in Windows 10. The Backup and Restore (Windows 7) tool allows you to restore any of your old Windows 7 backups onto your Windows 10 computer—likely why the tool is still around—but you can also use it to back up your Windows 10 PC in the exact same way you’d back up a Windows 7 PC.

Unlike the newer File History backup solution, you can use Backup and Restore to more easily create a backup of practically everything on your hard drive. However, it also does not feature File History’s ability to maintain older versions of your files.

You can find the tool by hitting Start, typing “backup,” and then selecting “Backup and Restore (Windows 7).”

Setting up the backup is pretty straightforward. You’ll choose an external drive (or network location), pick the folders you want to backup, and set a schedule. After that, everything’s automatic. Do be sure to check…

How to Change the Hard Drive Icons on Your Mac

If you connect a lot of drives to your Mac—or connect a particular external hard drive to a lot of different Macs—it can all be a lot to keep track of. Changing the icon for your drives is a quick way to visually tell them apart.

The process is similar to changing folder and application icons, but it’s different in a few key ways. For one thing, the change carries over from one Mac to another, which is great if there’s an external drive you regularly connect to different Macs. In fact, custom icons will even show up the bootloader. So if you’ve installed Windows with Boot Camp or created a USB installer for macOS, a custom icon can make it easier to spot which drive you want.

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Where to Find Hard Drive Icons for macOS

First, you’ll want to find a few custom icons to try out. Look for icons that are square, ideally 512 by 512 pixels (or higher), and in Apple’s .icns format. You might also find icons in PNG format you can convert to ICNS using an online converter like iConvert Icons. Here’s a quick roundup of icons I’ve found:

  • Some external hard drive manufacturers may offer icons to match the drives they sell. Both Lacie and Akitio offer icon packs, for example. Doing so certainly makes it easier to keep track of which drive is which.
  • This forum post has a collection of icons for various solid state drives, including the Intel icon I used in the images above. It’s…