Permanently Deleting History/Data/Files, etc?

Microsoft Windows 98

I'm considering getting a new computer since I've own this one for awhile
now. Is there anyway, or any program, to get rid of all history files,
personal data, personal files? I've heard some stories about people selling
their computer or other electronic devices, and they went through the proper
procedure of deleting personal data/history/files (i.e. with a computer, you
send your items to the recycle bin, then you must delete them again, from the
recycle bin), but somehow they're still able to be retreived?

So I'm looking for a way, or a program (preferably a free one) that will
completely wipe all of my personal data and/or files, along with any sort of
internet history, program history, data history, etc. off of my computer? I
don't know how soon I'll be getting rid of this computer, but once I delete
the files & data off of the computer, will I still be able to use certain
programs such as internet, photo editing programs, other programs that I've
downloaded from the internet that don't have any of my personal information
stored, to my knowledge?

Your help is appreciated. Thank you in advance!

If you're truly concerned about your personal data being retrieved, the
usual solution is a full hard disk wipe with multiple overwrites. Then,
only very expensive methods could get it back. If you wanted to really,
really be sure, you would need to pass the drive several times through a
very strong magnetic field. The first of these options wipes all files.
So you'd have to reinstall the OS. The second option, I believe, makes
the disk unusable. Not sure about that one.

If all you want to do is wipe certain files and currently unallocated
space, then I would recommend SDelete from SysInternals.

If you wanted to take SDelete a step farther, you could use BootIt NG to
shrink the existing partition as much as possible (after using SDelete
once on the entire disk.) Then create a new partition in the empty
space, restart, then run SDelete on the empty partition. Then use BootIt
NG, again, first deleting the now cleansed partition, then sliding the
"real" partition to the end of the HD, and creating a new partition at
the head, etc. If the occupied space on the disk is more than 50%, you
might even have to do some fancier footwork with a third step--splitting
the existing partition and creating free space in the middle. If you
really want those instructions, post back, <s>.

Gary S. Terhune
MS MVP Shell/User

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Yes, it makes it unusable for the PC. What it does is wipe the factory hard
drive's low-level formatting. Would only recommend this if the hard drive
was headed for the dump and the user truly had something to hide, along with
a physical mangling of the hard disk platter(s) with a sledge hammer.

Usually, a defense-level wipe is adequate alternating 1's and 0's, then
wiping again using 0's and 1's if the new user is using traditional software
to locate former files.

True hard drive forensics ("very expensive methods") does not rely on
partition boot records or the file allocation table for file locating and
decoding. So rewriting the MBR and moving and/or splitting partitions
around does nothing in this regard.
That "moving and/or splitting partitions" I'm suggesting is simply to
allow an overwrite-based app access to all of the disk space.