It's not that it's difficult. I know how to burn an iso, set up my BIOS to boot off of CD, and run the manufacturer's drive re-initialization utility. It's kind of a no-brainer. The thing that truly frightens me is that when I was copying all of my own personal data off of that machine, it's entirely possible I missed a batch of photos, a program, a story, a piece of artwork, or a song. My fear is that I may have created something that will be lost forever. Some little piece of me will be irreparably overwritten by zeros.
I double and triple-check my backups, and then make extra backups. I make sure my stories are all there. I fish around for iTunes songs I won't be able to download again. I marvel about some of the things that were on that drive that I didn't realize were there. There are the photos from Portugal. This wasn't even the same laptop I had in Portugal. How did they end up here?
I make one last check before pulling the trigger. I skim a few lines of one of my stories, just to be sure that this was the copy that had ALL of the text in it, and not an earlier revision. The software warns me several times that I will lose everything -- as though I could possibly need to suffer more anxiety about this maneuver.
Finally, I do it. Gone, gone, gone.
At times like these, I sometimes think I should just start keeping everything in my Subversion repository. Why is my code the only intellectual endeavor worthy of this sort of care? Documents have revisions, too. Music notation is rarely perfect, the first time.
Life is dangerous: Save frequently.