Old computer disks

yellowdog51June 18, 2008

You guys have inspired me and I'm doing some serious cleaning in my home office. I've also bought a new computer and I'm cleaning out/organizing lots of old computer stuff.

One thing I'd like some suggestions on please:

I have literally hundreds of old 3.5 inch floppy disks. Some have old software on them (that's probably so old I can't use it anyway). Some have old files (probably a lot of WordPerfect 5.1 files - what a great word processor that was!). I have the install disks for WordPerfect 5.1 and 6.1, Lotus, MapInfo, Windows 3.1 and others.

But the bulk of it is old sets of backups. Those concern me because they would have copies of old tax returns and other personal information. I know the backups may be compressed, but I fear it's possible that they could be read.

I guess I could just hit them with a hammer (but there are so many even that would get tedious), or maybe buy a bulk eraser - but I'd probably never need the bulk eraser again.

Any ideas about how to best safely dispose of these?


BTW, I'm giving up many boxes of books - many of them are like-new hardbacks. From checking out this forum, I plan to try to give them to the local library or find a church to take them. Any other/better ideas on those?

Thanks again.

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I have the same problem. After poking around a bit on the Internet for a solution, I found these possibilities:
1)Erase each one
Floppy Disk Erasing
There are two ways to erase a floppy disk: (1) degauss it and then reformat it, or (2) just reformat it. http://www.tpub.com/neets/book23/103.htm

2)Shred the floppies

3)Make it into a Starship Enterprise

1 is time consuming
2 requires expensive equipment
3 :) LOL
Let me know if you find a better answer!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 8:07AM
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Access to a gun and a firing range? That's what we've done with a lot of ours!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 10:10AM
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I bet you could simply throw them away.

Nobody who's going to dig them out of the garbage is going to be able to access whatever's on them.

Or crack the casing on them all, and then toss them. Then they'd have to jump through lots of hoops to get your info--your *out of date* info.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 4:05PM
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I have absolutely no idea if this would be effective or not, but someone might know. Could they be wrecked by drowning them before throwing them in the garbage. Does water erase information? Or heat? Thinking they could be kind of boiled up in a big pot till they were deformed, and then tossed? Probably crazy but maybe?

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 5:55PM
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Throw them away. Anyone who wants your old tax info is so unlikely to have an operating system that can actually read those files is way too feeble to use the information. Or crack the case first, if you're really worried.

Boiling would result in dreadful off-gassing in your kitchen.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 11:55PM
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I wouldn't worry about the install disks at all. Someone might want them. As far as the ones with personal info on them, do you have a good strong magnet around the house? Even refrigerator magnets can wipe out data on disks.

I remember one guy who came into the store with a bag full of software he bought at a fairground sale. He couldn't get the disks to load. I checked them out and they were partially erased. As I emptied the bag, there were three refrigerator magnets in there advertising the place he bought the software from!

I'd run a good strong magnet over the ones with data, then if you really want to be a bit more secure, format the disk and then copy something of no value onto it to overwrite anything that may be on there. Make it much more difficult to recover.

You can do this a few disks a night while you're watching tv or something or even while you're surfing.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 3:26AM
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Another vote for just tossing them. Most all of the records, including your tax records, are available to the public anyway.

Anything on them is old. Most people don't have computers that can even read those disks anymore, and it's probably the case that thieves don't keep ancient computers to read trashed disks.

Don't make chore clutter a part of your life - it just isn't necessary. If you are really paranoid enough to think you're a target for identity theft, then hit them with a hammer to break the case.

Personally, I think that's silly for disks that old. No one will want them, not even an identity thief. It's just too much work.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 9:38PM
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Just some more facts from my state.

In the year ending 2006, there were more than 80 identity thefts. This is not 80%, it is about 80 cases total.


The population of Texas is:

Since I couldn't hotlink, the Texas population then was 23507783.

These percentages of identity theft are microscopic. The news media often have nothing at all to report, and so report the one-in-a-million cases and make it sound like a fire alarm in your front yard!

Worry and fret if you wish, but normal precautions are all that anyone needs to take.

It's less than a quarter of 1% chance you will be targeted, given my research.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 11:02PM
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mary c, I'm afraid you have misread the report you linked to.

The "more than 80" figure refers to Texas being one of the 11 states with more than 80 victims per 100,000 residents. The table shows that Texas actually had approx. 110 victims per 100,000 residents for a total of just over 26,000 for the year 2006, giving it the fourth highest percentage of identity theft victims in the country.

It's still not a huge amount, but much higher than you read it to be.

That said, I agree with everyone who says just chuck 'em and don't sweat it.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 9:59PM
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the ones with software you can take to Goodwill or just toss. The ones with personal information on need to be destroyed. I had a ton of them. Just took a small screwdriver, opened the disk took out the floppy part and shredded it. real easy and quick - and safe!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 8:04AM
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Yesterday I noticed DH taking old floppies from an aging storage case.

"You know I heard that putting those in with even weak refrigerator magnets can destroy the data," I said.

He was nodding vigorously as he walked to the kitchen trash can and tossed them in!

"Now, this can go to Goodwill," he said with satisfaction as he put the old storage container into the giveaway box.

It just didn't seem worth the trouble to object! hehe ;)


    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 8:56AM
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I used to use them for kids craft projects at church. We managed to glue the disks and make cute bird houses. Others we just punched holes with a single paper punch, spray painted and made mobiles for kids in the hospital.

Don't know if you have the time . . . but it's another way to put them to good use.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 12:27AM
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