What should I Erase?


New Member
I have a desktop computer with Windows XP. I no longer use this device and I have moved all my data files to my newer computer. I am about to donate the desktop to a needy organization. While I trust the recipient I am concerned that some of their personnel may find something I would not want them to find. Before I give them the computer I would like to Erase it leaving only the operating system and any other programs I have loaded onto it. Not being familiar with computers at that level I would appreciate some advice on how and what to Erase.
Thanks for any and all help.
It is actually remarkably difficult to clean a computer in the way you (and many others) want; there is too much information lurking in odd places. I had a go at describing the issues in this FAQ post, but there is in fact far more to know about this complex task than can be written in a forum post.

If you are content with the second method described in that post (as I would not be), Eraser used in combination with CCleaner (with the overwrite option set) will remove a great deal; that may just be sufficient for an organisation that you really trust.

The only way to be 100% sure that the machine is safe is to format the hard drive, and, if you want to leave the machine with a working OS, reinstall the OS, then Eraser, and erase the free space on the drive. There are a number of ways to go about this, as described in my post.

If you think that, by now, Microsoft should have made it easier for users to dispose safely of unwanted Windows machines, I cannot but agree with you.