(405) 919-9901

In my free, one-night-only class called “Fight the Internet Bad Guys & Win,” I will show you how to play with the fire that is the Internet and not get burned. We also discuss how to completely erase files from a computer so they can never be seen again.

Come to the Norman Public Library’s Downtown location, Wednesday, November 8th, 7pm, and I will show you how to stay safe on the Internet. Everyone of all ages who uses an Internet-connected device needs to be there. Come early, seating is limited. Call (405) 701-2600 or visit pioneer.libnet.info/event/275796 to register.

One way to permanently get rid of computer files you don’t want anyone to ever see is to physically destroy the computer’s hard drive. You’ll want to make sure you destroy your hard drive on purpose, though, and not accidentally, like I once did. There I was, merrily copying some files from my desktop computer to an external hard drive, when the unthinkable happened: I accidentally murdered my external hard drive.

It was a really nice external hard drive, too, a three terabyte drive made by Seagate. One minute, it was working great; the next minute, it was dead.

I had placed it on top of the desktop tower, which was a mistake. I should have laid it down flat on the table top. That way, when I stood up to walk to another room, and my foot caught on the drive’s power cord, it would not have come crashing down from the top of the computer to the top of the table, a fall of about eighteen inches. Instead, it tumbled down and hit the table with a sickening thud, and stopped working.

After that, all the drive could do was make a distinct clicking sound, about every two seconds. This sound is all too familiar to computer repair folks, and has for years been dubbed “the click of death.”

My hard drive died because most of the hard drives used in modern computers do not like to be bumped, banged, dropped or otherwise jostled about. There are moving parts inside the hard drive, most importantly, the read/write head and the platters.

The read/write heads are small but powerful electromagnets that read information from and write information to the platters by changing the polarity of the magnetic particles with which the platters are coated. The platters, which resemble DVDs, spin at thousands of revolutions per minute, with the heads hovering above them at a distance of around three nanometers. Three nanometers is not much distance at all, about the length of 40 atoms.

The popular website Tom’s Hardware (tomshardware.com) compares the insides of a hard drive to an aircraft. If the read/write head were a Boeing 747 and the hard drive platter were the surface of the Earth, the head would fly at 608,800 miles per hour at less than one centimeter from the ground and count every blade of grass, making fewer than 10 unrecoverable counting errors in an area equivalent to all of Ireland.

The hard drive’s head is never supposed to touch the platters while they are spinning; if they do, the platters will be ruined. All it takes is one disastrous bump to jar the head across the three nanometers to the platters, which is how my drive died.

This type of accident can be a real problem with laptop computers. People bring me laptops all the time with bad hard drives, wondering what happened. Often, the laptops have been abused, dropped, tossed around, had things stacked on top of them, and otherwise mistreated. The moral of this story: be nice to your hard drives and they will be nice to you.