Got a new fiancée with a job in I.T.—and a torrid romance with SurfGrl77 still pinging around your hard drive? According to PC Magazine’s Neil Rubenking, simply erasing files doesn’t actually make them disappear—they sit dormant, waiting to be overwritten by new data. For a full-throttle data sandblast, you’ll need to reformat your entire hard drive. Start up your computer with the Windows-installation disc in the CD slot. Select “Fresh Installation,” and then “Format Full.” This will overwrite all your data, and uncovering it would require “like, theoretical CIA stuff,” Rubenking says giddily.
Of course, you could always just “remove the old hard drive from the box, take it to the garage, and hit it with a hammer until it rattles,” continues Rubenking, who applied this technique last year. “If you pay anything for a product or service to clear the old drive, maybe it’s a waste.”