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Donating Computer - Need to "clean" out all personal "stuff"

by maggieboby / August 30, 2006 11:52 AM PDT

We are taking a computer to let a small group in the high school use it.

We don't want to reformat simply because it is a Sony Vaio that originally had WinMe on it and when we u/g it, it was nothing short of a day-long event. (We had to d/l all types of files, drivers, etc., install some first, then install XP, then finish the Vaio u/g "stuff".)

What I'm looking for is software (hopefully free) that will help me delete files, programs, cookies, etc -- and all personal stuff -- and not let it be recovered from the HDD. I am aware of being able to recover deleted items from a HDD if you know what you're doing. Most of the folks that will use this computer are not very tech-savvy, but none the less, I want to get as much off of there PERMANENTLY as possible.

Thanks in advance for your help!
Maggie

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Not that simple...
by mousearoma / August 30, 2006 2:04 PM PDT

When referring to 'personal stuff,' that can cover a lot of things, including Word files. No software is intelligent enough to sniff out such files hiding in the far corners of your system.

The free program CCleaner has an option to perform a secure deletion, wiping out cookies, temporary files, etc. However, some stuff will remain.

Window Washer (which has a free trial) can securely overwrite all 'free space' where files were previously deleted but have yet to be overwritten. Thus, it will go the extra mile, but it still won't find that Word file containing your family tree.

In short, the only way to be reasonably secure is to wipe the entire drive using KillDisk or DBAN, both of which are free. The decision of which is more important, privacy or time, is up to you.

John

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Not that simple...
by maggieboby / August 30, 2006 10:40 PM PDT
In reply to: Not that simple...

Thanks for the info!

I do remember Window Washer from a while back and have used CC Cleaner many times (which I plan to do anyway). I'll check out DBAN as well.

Thanks for your input.

HAGD

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Reply: cleaning computer
by Kees Bakker / August 30, 2006 6:23 PM PDT
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Reply: cleaning computer
by maggieboby / August 30, 2006 10:38 PM PDT

Thanks! I thought there was one -- I didn't see it when I went searching for it before I posted last night. I appreciate the info and will go back and review it.

HAGD
Maggie

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Here's the prior discussion.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 30, 2006 9:29 PM PDT
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Here's the prior discussion.
by maggieboby / August 30, 2006 10:36 PM PDT

Did I say they were bright people?? LOL
"They" wouldn't be the ones reloading the OS if I reformat the HDD; I would be! BLAHHH

Truthfully, I'm not overly concerned since I know where the unit will be and who will be using it. I think I mostly just wanted to "do the right thing".

I THOUGHT there was a thread on this previously, but when I was searching last night, I didn't run across it. I read the weekly all the time -- often adding my 2 cents worth. I'll go back and review it now.

Thanks so much!
Maggie

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Just to scare you more. Run this tool (link, discussion)
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 30, 2006 10:51 PM PDT
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Simplest and Safest method
by john_mcdoogle / August 30, 2006 10:54 PM PDT

Just format it using a secure delete program like Killdisk, and then just give it to the school with a blank drive and all the discs.

It's actually probably easier for the people at the school that way, since the first thing they'd likely do is format it.

There's no other way to be completely sure you got everything. As you've been told, there's no program that can find every last trace of any personal data that might be lurking. Best to just use a scorched earth policy and wipe the drive clean.

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Wipe Drive
by suthrnkisses / August 31, 2006 9:18 PM PDT

Use utility "Wipe Drive", easy interface. I understand US
government criteria for total elimination of drive data , ("impossible" to retieve, requires a drive to be wiped clean of data 9 times. This utility eliminates all data on drive, enables clean install of new or prior OS. Good luck.

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more govertment disc protection requirements
by trsands / August 31, 2006 11:08 PM PDT
In reply to: Wipe Drive

Just to appreciate how hard it is to completely erase a disk, the NSA's method for disposing of disk drives used there includes chopping up the hard disk to a small enough size to fit through a screen! (I don't know the size of the openings in the screen). So, they aren't convinced that it can really be done.
But, you live in the real world (I assume)

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Here's what I did... HDD clean up
by maggieboby / August 31, 2006 10:34 PM PDT

Since I was asked to come back on and post what I eventually ended up doing to resolve my needs of clearing the HDD to send the computer to our high school, here's what I did:

The first thing I did was turn off Windows Restore -- so that changes wouldn't be reversible; then I cleared all of the previous restore points in the history.

I ran a quick Disk Cleanup (Windows utility)

I went through add/remove programs and made a note of what I knew I didn't want to keep on the HDD program-wise.

I then ran CC Cleaner -- did a great job as usual.

I then ran Eraser -- it was very easy to use, very comprehensive and uses your choice of US standards/Gutmann's protocol/custom passes. This ensures that the data is overwritten a minimum of 3 times. It also had the option of overwriting all free space in the same manner. I made a point of choosing files/folders etc. to add to Eraser's list of things to delete/overwrite that included passwords, bookmarks, histories and the like.

Then I had a great idea (if I may say so myself!): I made the original Windows account (my son's profile) the admin account and password protected it. Subsequently,I set up a second account that I named after the group that my son is involved in at school that I gave limited access to. This account is the ONLY one the kids will be using. I felt that this gave me one more layer of control since my son is the only one that will be able to play around with some of the Windows controls, etc.

I then did a defrag just to move some of the stragglers around -- but to be honest, Eraser did most of that and it probably wasn't necessary.

When all was said and done, on a fresh boot, I regained at least 50% of HDD space back and when I checked the registry, .bak files, histories, restore points, etc., nothing was there that could be used by anyone. I feel pretty confident that the unit is ''good to go'' and am dropping it off at the school in about 2 hours!

Thanks to all of you for your advice and suggestions. I appreciate the feedback and am grateful to be a part of the great CNET community!

Maggie

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(NT) (NT) What did that scary item show afterwards?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / September 1, 2006 2:31 AM PDT
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Shoot.. I MEANT to give you that info!....
by maggieboby / September 1, 2006 4:16 AM PDT

Bob, I did indeed run PSPV ... and found alot of what I thought I took out... however Eraser got rid of it since when I ran it again, there were only a few stragglers left... and I used PSPV to delete them and ran it one more time.

Sorry for omitting that -- it was great info and a very helpful tool that I'm glad you sent me. I was in too much of a hurry when I posted the update this morning! Thanks for reminding me!!

HAGD
Maggie

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OMT (One More Thing.) What did you do about ADS?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / September 1, 2006 4:28 AM PDT
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The only sure way...
by azloafer / September 1, 2006 4:26 AM PDT

I believe the only absolute, safe way is to use a 3/8" drill and place three holes in the drive. It is easy to replace the old drive with a new clean drive. New hard drives come with easy installation directions.

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deleting files, cookies, etc.
by phylliesal / August 31, 2006 11:06 PM PDT

The best program I have ever used to permanently erase files, cookies, cache,, recycle bin, etc, is "Window Washer". It also cleans the spaces between files and regains megabytes of space that would normally be "lost." I highly, highly recommend this utility. It is not free but usually sells for $30.00

SR

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deleting files, cookies, etc.
by maggieboby / September 1, 2006 4:22 AM PDT

Thanks for the info.. I was aware of Window Washer -- it's been around for quite a while. However, I knew there was also other utilities out there (whether free or not; but free is always good!) that would probably be a bit better.

Please check this thread prior to your post under the tilte: "Just to Scare you more ..." authored by R. Proffitt. I would bet you will be surprised at the results of using PSPV right after you've run Window Washer. I know Eraser is an excellent program and still PSPV found a few passwords I thought were already deleted.

Maggie

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Computer Donation- w/ personal files- it's very easy!!!
by kd6rhd56 / September 1, 2006 1:35 AM PDT

Maggie , first delete the files then defragment the computer(assuming you have ME,2000, or XP), Make sure the files are gone from everyspot including recycle bin, then do your defragent of the hard drive. and that should solve the problem. If not Then a total reformat is the next best thingin wiping the hard drive, short of passing the drive over a High Electro magnetic field( which would scramble the contents of the drive,but would have the be formatted again anyway)


Hope it helps, if not look on c-net downloads for a disk utility.

John

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Computer Donation- w/ personal files- it's very easy!!!
by maggieboby / September 1, 2006 4:24 AM PDT

Thanks for your contribution. I did, in fact, do everything you mentioned, only added a couple of utilities that ran a minimum of 3 passes over free space and also dug out passwords that we thought were already long gone.

Maggie

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