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BITS & BYTES: Destroying data on floppy disks or CDs

BITS & BYTES: Destroying data on floppy disks or CDs

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Q. I have many old 3.5-inch computer disks. I would like to dispose of them. Do I need to format them first to get rid of the data? I still have an old computer that can handle that task. Someone suggested running a magnet across the disk to eliminate the data. After the data is removed, where can I dispose of the disks?

A. If the data is confidential, then, yes, you’ll need to remove the data. The magnet trick is not foolproof, so I don’t recommend it. It would take time to format them all, and an industrious person could still get at the data. What I suggest is shredding them — literally. If you own a paper shredder, simply take apart the two halves of the diskette to reveal the inside “floppy” disk that looks like a magnetic medium. Throw that into your shredder. You’re all done! Dispose of the plastic outer casing the same way you’d discard any kind of plastic, recycling as appropriate.

Many shredders today can also shred compact discs (CD) and digital video discs (DVD). This is the absolute best way to ensure your data does not land in the wrong hands.

Q. My 6-year-old computer died. Should I buy another tower, or should I invest in a laptop this time around? I use my computer for word processing, email, Facebook, shopping, and my sons store photos, music, and games on it. I'm not sure what would be the best investment, what would have the best longevity and even what a proper price range is these days.

A. The only reason to buy a laptop would be because you need a laptop. Laptops occupy a definite niche in the computing world, but they do not offer the power, expandability, or features of a desktop computer. If you think you will be traveling with the laptop or need the convenience of a computer that is mobile, then a laptop is certainly a good decision. However, from your description, it does not sound as if you are very mobile with your computer. I would encourage you to buy a desktop and also invest in a tablet computer (a third-generation iPad would be great) for your rare travelling needs.

If you purchase a desktop computer, I recommend a Dell. Spending approximately $1,000 for the computer itself (no monitor in this price) should ensure you will have all that you need for your computing requirements. Beware of the ads for computer companies that give a fantastic price for a computer. They are skimping on features to get the price that low. You do get what you pay for in computers.

Should you decide on a laptop, in my opinion there is none better than a Lenovo ThinkPad T-series laptop (go to and look at the T-series of ThinkPads), which will cost roughly $1,000. Whether desktop or laptop, buy as much RAM and hard drive space as you can afford. Any processor installed in the newest machines will be fine for your needs.

Note: Be careful when purchasing a computer from a retail store. Some have been sitting on a shelf for months, so their components are already out of date. It is better to have the computer built to order from Dell or Lenovo and mailed to your home. When you call Dell (800-999-3355) or Lenovo (866-968-4465), be honest about how you will be using the computer and give them a price limit of what you want to spend. The salesperson will know how best to maximize the budget you have set, and you’ll receive a computer at your home in a week that has the latest components.


Opinions are solely the writer's. April Miller Cripliver, of Chesterton, has a doctorate in management information systems and is a computer hardware and software consultant. E-mail your computer questions to, and specify your operating system and other pertinent PC information.


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