Musings on Resiliancy

This weekend, I’ve had the opportunity to revisit some old computers. These computers had been sitting in our storage area. As our friend otaku_tetsuko and her daughter kuni_izumi are getting ready to move to Pennsylvania (sob, we’ll miss them), they are sharing our storage area, and thus brought us back the computers. The goal is to suitably wipe the disks so we can donate or “Electronics Hazmat” them. Ideally, we would have cleaned the disks with Darik’s Boot and Nuke, a self-contained Linux boot floppy to cleanse disks.

The first computer was my first “luggable”, a Toshiba T1600 running DOS 5.0, with a 286/12 processor, a whopping 40MB disk. It actually was running WordPerfect 6.0 quite reasonably. After a year and a half in storage, it booted up just fine, eager to work. Alas, DBAN didn’t work here, as a 286 just wasn’t up to running an i386 executable. Luckily, I had trusty old Norton Utilities installed, which gave me Wipeinfo. So using Wipeinfo, I erased all the appropriate directories (much easier with DOS than with Windows since Win-95), using DoD-level mutiple passes, and the machine is ready to go. Still, for a machine dating back to the late 1980s/early 1990s, still being up and running is damn good.

The second computer cleaned was more modern: A Sager 8200 laptop. This was a more modern laptop that saw me through many a business trip. It had a 486DX2-50 processor, ran Windows 3.11 with Quarterdeck Sidebar, was using dblspace to give a compressed volume. It too booted up just fine, and up came the old Sidebar layout. I had hopes it would run DBAN, but although Linux started up, it hung with the drivers. Not surprising for a laptop. Luckily, Wipeinfo came to the rescue again. I deleted the compressed drive, and reformatted the physical partition it was on. I then did a government level Wipeinfo of the free space on that drive (which nuked Windows 3.11 completely, and all the data). I then cleaned up what little remained on the C: drive, leaving just some utilities and DOS 6.0. I then did a government-level Wipeinfo of the freespace there. Still, for a 1992 computer, it was remarkably sturdy. I should note that both the Sager and the Toshiba were on their original disk drives.

The third computer cleaned was my trusty old Cybermax Pentium II-350. This was the Windows 98 installation. It had been my workhorse for many many years (1998 until 2004), until I got my present computer. I had passed it on to my daughter, who was beginning to get disk sector problems on the original disk. This one also booted up into Windows 98 just fine. It also booted up DBAN just fine. It is now sitting with wiped disks, which are being wiped a second time. This one has no operating system on it anymore.

The last computer to be done is my wife’s old computer, a 486-33 with three compressed drives. It is also a Windows 3.1 system. We just need to make sure that any necessary data came off of it before I wipe it. That will likely be tomorrow’s job. Update: This one had a bad sector, so we’re just trusting that I got the data off (I’m 99.5% sure I did). It is wiping with DBAN right now (8:24 PM).

There may be one more system: I seem to recall a Pentium-I tower given me by Michael Clifford. I’m betting that’s still in the storage area; I’ll keep one monitor around until I confirm it is gone. otaku_tetsuko, the next time you are in the storage area, can you see if there is one more tower lying around?

I still find it amazing how sturdy and reliable these systems were. I contrast that with Windows XP. Last night, I tried to install software for a portable digital picture viewer. It broke my USB hub, so I unstalled the software and left the hub disconnected and powered off for 3 hours. I think the hub is back.