[K12OSN] OT: hard drives and magnets

Eric Brown ericbrow at gmail.com
Fri Mar 16 16:32:49 UTC 2007

Hello all,

A student has been using a school owned Acer laptop w/xp pro, less
than 6 months old.  It was brought to me today saying NTLDR could not
be found.  In my expirence, this means it's either booting from a
non-bootable disk, the hard drive is damaged, or at least a major
chunk of the hard drive has been erased.  Using some of the various
recovery Linux live cd's, I determined that the hard drive is healthy,
and is totally empty, save for an empty "Recycle Bin" folder.

The kid claims they may have put a magnet near the computer.  The
principal claims certain types of batteries could wipe a hard drive.
What reading I've done says a magnet may corrupt some files on a hard
drive, but it would take an industrial size magnet to wipe it and it
would also be rendered unusuable in the process.

Has anyone gone through this?  Is it possible to wipe an entire hard
drive with a magnet found at home, but still have it usable?

I'm currently running a recovery (unformatting) program on the disk so
I can see what the browser history and such were before the culling of
the drive.  The reason I want to make sure I'm on firm ground here is
that the student's mother is very difficult to deal with, and believes
anything her child tells her, unless there were 20 witnesses and a
video of any transgression.


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