PERMANENTLY delete Data files from Windows 98

I have a Windows 98 Laptop that I want to donate.  It contains SENSITIVE files that I want to make PERMANENTLY impossible to recover, without wiping the OS and Office.

I do not have the installation CDs.

I tried using ERASE, but I wont run on Win98!

Any ideas?

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Matt MinorTechnical Systems AnalystCommented:
I wouldn't recommend donating that laptop with even the same physical drive if that data is truly sensitive. The drive can be popped and analyzed with data-recovery utilities and since it hasn't been zeroed using secure-data-disposal, the likelihood of recovery is pretty good.
Zac HarrisSystems Administrator Commented:
The only true way to ensure your files cannot be recovered is to replace the hard drive.
Since you are donating it I suppose you don't want to add the extra expense. If you don't reload the O/S and first run a disk wiping program, there is no way to guarantee your files cannot be recovered. (however, depending on who you are donating the computer to, they most likely aren't interested in recovering files. Most likely they won't even know they were even there.)
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
You cannot permanently delete some files and not others and be certain sensitive data cannot be recovered. No way for this.

You can use DBAN or equivalent to clean off the drive entirely but then you must reinstall Windows 98 and other software. Windows 98 is long dead so this may be problematic.

Keep your drive, put a new blank drive in (as others have suggested above), donate the computer and let the recipient do what they want. Linux may be a solution here.
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Brian MurphySenior Information Technology ConsultantCommented:
You would need something like sdelete.exe from Microsoft SysInternals.  Not sure how well it works on earlier versions of Windows.  Basically not sure how it would work on FAT versus NTFS.

It allows you to modify the # of times.

Secure delete applications overwrite a deleted file's on-disk data using techiques that are shown to make disk data unrecoverable, even using recovery technology that can read patterns in magnetic media that reveal weakly deleted files. SDelete (Secure Delete) is such an application. You can use SDelete both to securely delete existing files, as well as to securely erase any file data that exists in the unallocated portions of a disk (including files that you have already deleted or encrypted). SDelete implements the Department of Defense clearing and sanitizing standard DOD 5220.22-M, to give you confidence that once deleted with SDelete, your file data is gone forever. Note that SDelete securely deletes file data, but not file names located in free disk space.

Also, Ccleaner from Piriform. (

Allows this plus you can defrag "free space" after the sdelete.

Piriform has another tool called  Recuva

It also has a secure delete with multiple pass.

And you can use it to attempt recovery to validate your deletion.
Spike99On-Site IT TechnicianCommented:
A Windows 98 computer would be of little use to any charity you'd like to give it to, I would think.  Would browsing the internet even work very well now with the browsers available for that OS?

There are drive-wiping utilities out there, but I don't know if any would work on Win98.

CCleaner is a free utility that I've used which includes a security feature to overwrite free spaces and 0s and 1s. You can download that at:, but it requires Windows XP or later.  So, you could pull the hard drive, install it as a second drive in a newer system and then use CCleaner or some other utility to overwrite the empty space.

This page lists some other free utilities that might help:
Destroy the drive, upgrade a PC (non-sensitive drive) you use with an SSD.  Wipe the drive donated with DBAN, or better yet format the drive and install Linux Ubuntu or Deepin 15.  Record the username and password for them label it under the lid by the palm rest.  An old PC will run Linux better and the cost of Windows may not be worth the old hardware. John is right, Linux would be the way to go or it would likely be retired by the next user.

Plus I always like a reason to buy myself an SSD.
Zac HarrisSystems Administrator Commented:
I work with several non-profits and you could just wipe the disk with a utility and put Ubuntu on it. There is a free Open Office that is very similar to Microsoft Office that can be downloaded on the PC.

Download Ubuntu 32-bit (Make sure to pick 32-bit)

The problem with donating an O/S that old is that it is definitely no longer supported so anything done on it is done at risk for Viruses/Malware. Microsoft also killed support for all Internet Explorer versions under 11 and 11 for sure won't run on WIN-98.
harold mcmullennetwork techCommented:
try active killdisk at we are a library and used that many years ago for same reason. (we could not surplus our pc's until we wiped the hd's). it worked w/nt, 95 and evan xp so it would probably work with 98. (the site even has a bootable floppy creator, which is what we always used)
As others pointed out, the laptop is likely at least 15 years old.  you might salvage the laptop for sone reasonable use by running/installing Linux on it.
The main difficulty is that it likely has 1Gb or less and there is no replacement/.........

keep the thing as an antiquity (for a time in 20-25 years)....
harold mcmullennetwork techCommented:
hey, dang it, I still have a sony vaio desktop w/ ready for it....ready..."windows 95!!!," (I aint lyin!) and here is why. When I purchased it in 97, it came with a 16 track recording studio software, a tv tuner, and came with Second Life among a host of other really cool software (music and video software) that I cannot bear to part with and still use. (sure I can't use it to get on inet, but I still utilize 2/3rds of the software.)
ps. Second Life kinda sucked back then because inet speeds just weren't suited for it at that time. It was sloooow!
Just sayin!
Brian MurphySenior Information Technology ConsultantCommented:
P2V.  Physical to virtual instance.  The tool is Disk2vhd from Microsoft.


Run it on Hyper-V, Oracle Box, VMWare Workstation.
harold mcmullennetwork techCommented:
that is true, tho' I do not know if the tv tuner would still function. as many as I have done here at work, I never thought about it at home.
Biggles1Author Commented:
Thanks for all your answers.

I am wondering if FDisk or Format /S would make a disk unrecoverable.

FYI I found a program called "Eraser" which says it uses some DOD spec with 7 passes to delete SPECIFIC files without affecting the OS.  It works with WinXP (but not Win98).  I am wondering if any of you know anything about it.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Simple Format can be recovered fairly simply. FDISK removes partitions but does not delete data.

Eraser has no version for Windows 98 and I would be inclined not to trust it for very sensitive data.

Really, keep the disk and let the machine go (put a new blank one in it if necessary). The machine is so old it is only worth pocket change.
they all do the same thing, for windows 98 you have to look for an older PGP 2.6 I think it was and if you can find the version, it includes the shreder that does what you want, i.e. "wipes/shreds" empty space
fdisk/format will not eliminate the possibility. also the age of your HD hardware might not prevent recovery of data if one was so inclined.  If you have spare IDE laptop drives, I'd suggest deleting the files, and using the new drive onto which you would clone.
harold mcmullennetwork techCommented:
i'm tellin' ya killdisk.
Biggles1Author Commented:
FYI, the data is not THAT sensitive.  No Credit Cards, no Social Security #'s etc... just personal correspondence etc.... (no I don't have a girl friend)  : )
As John pointed out, what value do you place on your donation and what benefit do you believe those to whom you are considering donating it would be.
The performance might be a torment.... Insalling A linux varite damn small linux, linux mint, Ubuntu might improve the performance/perception of the user ........

It is one thing if it was a 5, 7, 10 year old laptop with a "semi functional" OS, your OS I think went off support some 7 years ago and is highly vulnerable to compromise, virus, etc.
i suggest to use BCWIPE :
it does just what you want

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Biggles1Author Commented:
I used Eraser on a WinXP.  Looks pretty good and uses a variety of data erasing methods including DoD 5220.22-M, Gutman etc....

I have yet try to recover deleted data.

I also looked at BCWipe but its not free.  Maybe some other time.

Another interesting one is Freeraser which is free.  I will try it on W98 and let you know.

Thanks for all the help.

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