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Sold my Computer...How to fully delete it?
I'm about to ship my laptop...but how do i completely erase all MY files?
Sports Workout

 3:35 pm on Jun 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'm going through and deleting files I have transferred to my new machine...but is there a way to completely erase everything? Ideally i'd like to completely restore the computer to it's original state as if it's never been used. Is there a way to do this in one step?

as always thanks...



 3:47 pm on Jun 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

1 Easy step? Possible - depending on how you view your data.

Normally PCs come with set up discs which will restore the machine to a factory condition. If you have one of those, use it.

If you don't want someone else spying what was on your PC, then the easiest way to completely guarantee no data is left on your HDD is to take it out and replace it with a new one!

Failing that, there's some utilities that will wipe each sector on your hard drive with random information multiple times to remove whats on there.



 8:43 pm on Jun 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

Doing a "restore" simply overwrites current data, not really erasing it. You need to use a Hard Drive wiping utility. Active KillDisk works great and is free.


That utility, along with some great others for this type of thing are included on a free download of Ultimate Boot CD [ultimatebootcd.com...]

Make sure you get ALL of your information that you need off before running one of these utilities ;)


 4:45 pm on Jun 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

The only way to completely remove data is to replace the hard disk/s. Not even shredding programs will destroy your data beyond all recovery. Not even low level formatting will destroy your data beyond all recovery. Organisations like the police, for example, can extract data even in the above circumstances.

Once you replace the hard disk you'll have to install Windows + drivers etc manually. You may have a "recovery CD" which may work for this job.


 10:06 pm on Jun 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Yes, it is very hard to erase all info on a HDD. Another good HDD scrubber is called Window Washer. It's a program that will overwrite the old data as many times as you say in order to make it very difficult to recover. My buddy at the US DOD Computer Crimes lab told me a number of times to overwrite data to make it very hard to recover. After that point they'd have to deal with... um.. "other" agencies to recover the data. SO, if you get that software and have it "wash" the data, say, 10 times, you should be ok.

It all depends on your level of paranoia. :)


 4:59 pm on Jun 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

very very simple, all you have to do is get an oem windows disk(os) and insert the disk, when you go through set up delet the partition you once had and then create a new one, the format the disk and load the new windows os on the computer and it will be completely new...all information will be gone and future users will never know what was once on your computer


 12:39 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

It really just depends on your level of paranoia. If you're passing your comnputer on to your grandfather, then just re-format the disk and forget about it. If you're giving it to a fifteen year old kid--take the disk out and smash it with a sledge hammer.


 2:58 am on Jun 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

I just boot up in DOS mode, type in 'FORMAT C:' and go from there.


 3:04 am on Jun 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

> smash it with a sledge hammer

The HD or the 15 year old? :)


 8:24 pm on Jun 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

Try this :)



 11:13 pm on Jun 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

On the high end of the paranoia scale, I've always found that several minutes on a bulk (magnetic) eraser and followed by giving each platter a good scrubbing with 60-grit garnet sandpaper has been sufficient to deter anyone trying to retrieve my old data.

Given the price of (desktop) hard drives, this isn't that expensive a security measure. (How much is it worth to you, to keep that old data away from prying eyes?) But since we're discussing a laptop - which I highly suspect has a proprietary hard drive design (read: more expensive to replace) - one would seriously need to consider the cost-to-benefit ratio of my methods.

But it does work better than any software solution...


 11:33 pm on Jun 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

Balam: HDDs in laptops are, for the most part, with a few exceptions, a standard design.
I like your methodology as well. It fits within my realm of paranoia. ;)

I'd like to share a story with you all on an experiment I did, since I have a keen interest in this particular field (forensics, etc). A few months back I handed my brother a hard drive to use that I had 'dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/da0' (for non-unix people, that means rewrite each bit on the drive with a '0'). I told him to use it has though it was a regular hard drive. I got him to install XP on it and surf on it whenever he thought of it, and to set up his email on it and so on... Basically to get some mileage out of it and fill it up.

About 3 weeks later I came back and asked him for the drive back. I told him to format the hard drive (not using any scrubbing tools), and told him that there was an email that I'd sent to him a couple of weeks earlier that contained a bunch of pictures, and he said he remembered it. I asked him if he'd surfed with it at all, to which he said yes. He even typed up a couple of emails and saved them under drafts, had used photoshop to edit some pictures, etc etc. Normal Usage.

Almost everything that he had done on that box, I could see. Things he had deleted (and actually thought he had deleted), were still there on the drive, marked as "clear" by the filesystem, but not overwritten yet, and so on. I was able to find the images from the emails and so on.

A fun little experiment, and it helped him see how vulnerable you really are. I haven't tried it with any scrubbing, so I can't attest to one product's benefits versus another.

If you're just looking to protect yourself from the average user, a simple single-pass "dd" will do, but if you're worried about law enforcement or other 3-letter agencies, then first wiping data with zero bit data, multiple times (IIRC, 8x is the DOD minimum), then with random data ( BTW: random doesn't really help you in the sense of covering up the data, it slows everything down, but it MAY make whoever is looking at the data think that the drive is encrypted, and spend more time following a useless path of investigation). Then destroying the drive a la Balam would be good. Keep in mind that you don't really know what the person you're selling it to is going to do with it.

The only other best thing is to find a smelt where you can burn the thing. But that's just a LITTLE extreme. ;)



 12:02 am on Jun 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

Use a software called Blancco. I don't know if its available for free, but its what we use at a charity I work for which ships old computers from companies in the UK to the developing world. These pcs have to be totally wiped to ensure no confidential data remains.


 1:01 am on Jun 30, 2005 (gmt 0)

I could swear that GNU_GPG had a wipe utility that would totally wipe clean any file or directory you specified. I installed it on windows, but that was about 2 years ago. Its free.


 5:39 pm on Jul 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi there, you need a Microwave a sledge hammer a screwdriver and a car then you opened the harddisk with the screwdriver or the hammer then you put the opened disk in the microweave for 10min with a class of water then you put the hdd on the street and drive 20times with your car over it and brakes and so on , at least you take the sledge hammer and "use it" now the date are deleted :)


cu and have fun :)

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[edited by: tedster at 7:03 pm (utc) on July 3, 2005]


 3:13 pm on Jul 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

can't mention the name here, but I paid about $50 for one the real erasers. It erases files permanently, empty space, cache etc. And no, I'm not talking about Window's erasing or formatting, this overwrites the same file as many as 35 times, well beyond U.S. Department of Defense standards". Supposedly, nothing can recover them.

Also, if you search for "eraser", a totally free one should come up. Slow, but works great.


 7:11 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

question, simply reformatting your computer (not the quick reformat) doesnt erase all your information? I thought that completely destroys all the data on your hard drive. Can the goverment and people who really want to see your data find that deleted info after a reformat?


 7:41 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

question, simply reformatting your computer (not the quick reformat) doesnt erase all your information? I thought that completely destroys all the data on your hard drive. Can the goverment and people who really want to see your data find that deleted info after a reformat?

I am sure a high tech forensics lab with skilled employees being paid $120,000/year salaries could, within a few hours on equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars could recover all your old data. Then of course they would have to spend a few hours sorting through the old data. The cost to taxpayers is only five or six thousand dollars per hard drive. Sad thing is, they do this everytime someone sells an old computer.


 7:49 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure how the technology has changed over the years, but when I worked in the hard disks industry back in the early 80s we knew that the track saturation "bled over" so the data could be read again (with luck) even after a 1 pass format just by moving the head slightly out of alignment and ignoring checksums on the data.

We modified our format code to made multiple passes writing patterns designed to obliterate data instead of single passes which pretty much zapped everything.

If you want to make sure it's GONE GONE, use a data killer program mentioned above and the restore disk AND run defrag just to make sure nothing points where it did before.

However, nothing works better than a bulk eraser and a sledgehammer :)


 7:55 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

I am sure a high tech forensics lab with skilled employees being paid $120,000/year salaries could, within a few hours on equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars could recover all your old data.

Or some sysadmin, or anyone else that's slightly knowledgeable, or would like to learn and experiment, and has a few hours of time, using their old P-400 and a large hard drive to store images of "formatted and cleaned" hard drives. It's not hard to use either freely available or commercial products to tear apart what was once on a formatted hard drive. I have with ease restored partitions from an fdisk, and read hard drives that were formatted with windows' format or any other "format". And we all know deleted files are not deleted immediately. This is all using free/Opensource software, time and a little knowledge.

Then of course they would have to spend a few hours sorting through the old data. The cost to taxpayers is only five or six thousand dollars per hard drive.

Taxpayers? Why do you think it's only the government that's interested in your data? Have any competitors that would like to look at your code/accounting spreadsheets/policies/passwords/recipes? I would be more paranoid about that than a government coming after me. There are lots more interesting people out in the world than poor little me.


 9:53 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

The most common answer I recieve from the average computer user (aka most people) when I ask them what operating system their comptuer uses is, "what now?" I had one guy that called it you-knee-stalling programs for the longest time before soemone else overheard him and corrected him. Most people have NEVER defragged their hard drive. Unless your selling your laptop to an teenager with coke-bottled glasses living in his parents basement that talks about the uprising of linux, I think a standerd full format will be more than enough. Also, I suggest not selling your laptop to a company that is trying to overthrow your business.

If that doesn't work then a few minutes in liquid nitrogen and a hammer should do it.


 5:16 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

I agree with you, for the most part, but there is a certain level of paranoia that some people *should* have. A freelance accountant, for example, who doesn't necesarily know much about computers, should have a level of paranoia and mindfulness for their data than most users that don't know what OS they are using.

You may not sell your laptop to a teenager with coke-bottled glasses living in his parents' basement, but you would probably sell it to me, someone wearing every day business attire, and not really think anything of it. Just because I *look* trustworthy and sound like a nice guy who wants to buy a used laptop to fix up for his aged grandmother, doesn't mean I'm not out to get you. ;)

I know a couple of people that have purchased dozens hard drives at auctions from defunct companies, or 3-year-cycle throw-aways that contained some very interesting data. Nothing too serious, but interesting to see internal emails from companies, even if we've never even heard of them before. We have all entertained the idea of buying lots of used hard drives from auctions and so on, and scouring them for any useful information. Then once that is done, what could we do with that data?
1) Apply for a job at that company as a security consultant,
2) Blackmail them, depending on how juicy the data is,
3) Blackmail an individual in the company (see above),
4) Sell that information to a competitor,
5) Sell that information to a significant other

All very brutal propositions, and nothing that I'm actually interested in, but I'm sure there are people out there that would pay a few hundred bucks for a bunch of 10 GB hard drives, and hope to make some money at it.

Anyway, I'm sort of expanding a little too much on what the possibilities are, but if I've thought of it, I'm sure someone else has, and is actually doing it right now. ;)



 5:28 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

>> Supposedly, nothing can recover them.

They can still be recovered if you have the right gear ...odd though that may sound.


 6:32 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Off-topic a little, but I was told a story by a lawyer where once the memory from a printer was used in court and won the case.

A company under investigation, or something, shredded some documents but the police or forensics or whoever deals with such things, searched the memory on the printers and found the documents.

So, maybe a little paranoia isn't such a bad thing.


 7:03 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

I totally agree. A little paranoia goes a long way. :)

too much information

 7:42 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Speaking of paranoia, I used a screw driver to pull the top off of a hard drive before donating a machine. Then completely by accident I erased all of the copies of an extremely important file for one of my sites. (The file took me 3 months to put together)

I plugged in the old machine, then crossed my fingers and tried to read the drive (with the disks spinning in open air) and was able to copy every file I needed off of the drive with no problems.

If you are going to try to destroy a drive, be sure to finish it off. Pulling the lid off didn't destroy it like I was told it would do. In fact it might even make a cool fish tank decoration...


 8:05 am on Aug 30, 2005 (gmt 0)

Eraser is a free open source program (sourceforge) that has a few presets (including 35 pass Gutmann technique). you can also create custom presets by deciding the number of passes and what your data should be over written with.

Encase is a piece of forensic software that is widely used by police forces. Test your drive with this and if you cant retrieve anything you're probably safe


 8:47 am on Aug 30, 2005 (gmt 0)

However, nothing works better than a bulk eraser and a sledgehammer :)

I am laughing so much it's hard to type. This thread reminds me of how we use to joke years ago about how to get rid of data on a hard drive. This has brought back all those happy memories.

The best advice I remember getting back then was to hit the hard drive at least 100 time with a sledgehammer, then what's left of it throw in front of a moving freight train, then take what's left and meltdown with a cutting torch, then that the raw metal and drop it in the deepest part of the ocean. If you do all that you can sleep well at night knowing that your deleted information is safe.

I'm sorry, this data removal talk is very funny to me. I look forward to reading this thread until it finally plays out!


 1:46 pm on Sep 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

Use a bootable disk and come to a:> and then run this script it is the debug script....Just type debug at a:> and press enter

-F 200 L1000 0
-A CS:100
#*$!x:0100 MOV AX,301
xxxx:0103 MOV BX,200
xxxx:0106 MOV CX,1
xxxx:0109 MOV DX,80

NOTE: Type 80 for the primary hard drive - HD 0, or type 81 for the secondary hard drive - HD 1.
In most cases, the primary hard drive is required 80.

xxxx:010C INT 13
xxxx:010E INT 20
xxxx:0110 (Leave this line blank. Press the <Enter> key to continue.)


The message Program terminated normally appears.

Follow this link also



 3:38 pm on Sep 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

I know it's been mentioned a few times already in here, but people don't listen / don't want to listen:

you can't destroy data on your drive with any software. Any software at all. Not a single piece of software at all. Nope. It really doesn't matter if you pay £20,000 for the software, nor if you write over your data 94 times; if someone really wants it then they can get it. Destroying the disk completely is the only sure way.

See, the tracking of the drive head around the platters moves very slightly over time, so all your old data gets left behind on very thin tracks that are left.

Of course, recovery techniques that utilise this are expensive and time consuming, and they're not likely to be used in most circumstances. As has been written many times above, it all depends on your level of paranoia.

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