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Originally published Friday, May 23, 2014 at 6:02 PM

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Safe ways to wipe your disk; dealing with a printer problem

Readers get answers to their questions about a variety of issues with personal technology, including the disposing of a hard drive, printer problems and trouble with a tablet.


Special to The Seattle Times

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Q: My old laptop is dying, so I removed all the documents I care about to a thumb drive. What would be the best way to dispose of the laptop and its hard drive without a security risk?

— Gerri Tyler

A: I urge you to take your laptop to a recycler. Many of them guarantee that they will erase all your data from the device. That’s a promise made by Interconnection.org, a Seattle nonprofit that refurbishes computer equipment.

If you don’t trust promises, you can always wipe the drive yourself. Don’t just format the drive, however, since formatting actually leaves the data on the drive.

What you need is a program that actually writes over every sector of the drive. A number are free. Just search for “wipe disk.”

Q: I recently bought a new Dell Inspiron computer. I already have an HP LaserJet 1012 printer.

However, when I try to print something it does not work. When I hit “Print,” I am prompted to check devices including adding a printer. When I click on that, it takes me to a screen listing devices that are installed and one of them is the HP LaserJet 1012 printer. When I click on the printer listed, it asks if I want to remove the device. Any ideas?

— Roy James, Edmonds

A: Try uninstalling the printer and then reinstalling it. This is different from simply reinstalling drivers. It will make sure the printer is registered in all the right places in the Windows registry.

And make sure you’re installing the most recent drivers for the printer.

Q: I have an HP 6767, 64-bit desktop running Windows 7. Recently the hard disk began to fail and I took it to Best Buy Geek Squad. They were unable to retrieve data from the hard drive and sent it to the squad’s data-recovery place in Tennessee.

That site, in turn, recovered almost all the data and sent it back to me on a new external hard drive. The computer itself had already had a new hard drive installed by Best Buy, and it used the system recovery disks I made after I bought the computer four years ago.

Today, twice now, in the bottom right hand corner of the screen there is the following message: “Windows 7, Build 7601, This copy of Windows is not genuine.”

What do you think?

— Lee Libby, Mukilteo

A: Windows — especially PC makers’ versions of Windows — records certain data about the computer when it is installed, and if that data is changed, you may see that message. If Windows was an “OEM version” that was installed on the machine when you bought it, the license may or may not cover it when you change certain hardware.

If you have a full retail version of Windows, you should be able to get rid of that message by calling Microsoft for reactivation. You can find details about how to do that at: http://seati.ms/1pksjV6

Q: I recently found an ASUS Transformer (T100) tablet that appeared to be perfect for a specific use I had in mind that involves software that monitors a diesel engine. The tablet, minus the keyboard that comes with it, mounts perfectly and works with the software just fine.

To my disappointment and surprise, however, I now find that the tablet has just one micro USB port it uses for both charging and data input and that it will not do both at the same time, even if the port is connected to a splitter with the charger as one input and the data connect to the other.

This seriously degrades the usefulness of the computer to whatever the battery life will handle. I have discovered this issue also exists with other brands of tablet. Others have separate charging ports, but they are more than twice as expensive.

The keyboard that comes with the ASUS has a full-size USB port so when connected that solves the problem. However, having the keyboard attached ruins the computer for the application because of the way the monitor needs to be mounted. That is the beauty of the tablet configuration.

Are you aware of any workaround for using this single micro USB port for both charging and data at the same time?

— Walt Dews

A: What you need is a powered micro USB hub.

The bad news is that I’m not aware of any currently on the market.

The good news is that someone just got fully funded at Kickstarter to develop one. You can check it out at: http://seati.ms/1kxX7RO

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111.



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