Q: I no longer use a Toshiba laptop that contains business information, including bank account numbers. In a recent column you wrote that data remains on the hard drive even though you have “erased” it, until that sector is overwritten. I have considered buying a software program to do just that and would appreciate your recommendation for one that would do the job.

I have also considered removing the hard drive (if I could get it apart) and damaging the disc, which I did a few years ago with a desktop. In the case of my laptop a friend suggested what seems like a simple solution. Drill a bunch of holes in it and then recycle it.

That sounds like a reasonable approach but I wonder how the battery would respond to a drill bit penetration.

— P. Heins

A: It is true that simple deletion of files still leaves the data those files contained on the drive.

All that happens when you “delete” a file is that the filename is removed from the operating systems “map” of files. That frees up the space on the drive for overwriting so that when you save new files, or install software, those sectors of the drive can be used. But until something overwrites those sectors, yes, a person with the right program can examine the drive and retrieve data.

Rather than physically assaulting the drive and making it unusable, my recommendation is to donate the laptop to a recycling service. Most if not all services use software to clear all sectors of the drive before moving the laptop to a new owner. If you don’t trust the recycling service to wipe the drive, yes, you can do it yourself.

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Since I haven’t reviewed disc wiping software lately I can’t recommend a specific program, but you’ll find a number to choose from as well as reviews comparing them by searching the web for “wipe hard drive.” And bear in mind that not all the programs work if your laptop has a solid-state drive (SSD).


Oh, and if you do still want to go at the drive with a power tool, you don’t need to worry about hitting a battery. Those drives are externally powered.

Q: I am having trouble finding a Wi-Fi router with a USB 3.0 port that supports SMB3. Most routers I have found, albeit ones that were one or two years old on Amazon, only support the 30-year-old SMB1 for NAS (Network Advanced Storage) use, which Microsoft has advised should be completely disabled due to security concerns, if it isn’t already uninstalled through an update on Windows 10.

I only found this out after buying several routers, which I returned. Windows 10 only supports SMB2 and SMB3.

Why don’t Wi-Fi router companies actually label the version of SMB they use? How can I find out this information for routers on Amazon, and why would a 2-year-old router advertising USB 3.0 use a 30-year-old protocol for NAS like SMB1?

— Albert

A: You’re right that router companies have generally not done a good job of informing consumers about updates to their support for newer SMB protocols.


Truth be told, not many consumers know what an SMB protocol is. For those who don’t know, SMB stands for “Server Message Blocks” – a network protocol used for offering shared access to files, printers and other communications on a network. And devices that only support SMB1 are extremely vulnerable to hacking. That’s why, as you say, Microsoft disabled SMB1 in Windows 10.

And it’s true that you can’t find routers that support higher versions of SMB by searching Amazon, since most companies don’t list SMB protocol support in their product spec sheets.

Instead, I suggest searching for “Windows 10 compatible router.” Most router companies do list operating system compatibility for their devices, and if it’s Windows 10 compatible it should support SMB2 and SMB3.

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