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How do I wipe a computer clean?

by NewNewBie / February 3, 2008 12:26 PM PST

I just bought a used computer from a yard sale. It has a bunch of stuff on it. Stuff I don't need or would use. How do I delete the whole hard drive & start from scratch? Can I do that or do I just have to keep all of this stuff? Also if I do delete the whole thing, do I need a certain disk to put windows back or will it come back?

The computer is an emachines. I don't really know what tell about it. This is my first computer. I've used friends, but never one of my own. So I'm new to all this stuff.

Thanks for all your help.

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OK.. You've Asked a BIGGIE......
by tobeach / February 3, 2008 4:17 PM PST

Machine should have been "wiped clean BEFORE being sold for the safety of the previous owners info. Because it wasn't, I'm going to assume it could be also be loaded w/ viruses/trojans etc.Common cause of trashing/selling a computer.

The problem w/ wiping clean is : CLEAN!! No Operating System at all!
If you do this you will need to buy a new retail version of a suitable
OS ($$$)for machine. Depending on model, age & specs (which you don't give) MAY
be able to take XP (min.512RAM? HD of 80 Gigs?) or not. Most UNlikely it is Vista compatible.

I assume you don't have original install disk w/ key (I you can get it, that would be very good). KEY may be on sticker on bottom or back of machine. Possible that it didn't have OS disk to begin with. Instead, back-up of original OS may be installed ON MACHINE in a separate partition (example Drive D or ?). If so, you can "Burn" a copy of it
(export) that to several CD-R's(4 or 6?)or fewer DVD R's(1 or 2?)if it has a burner.
This would be ideal!

Additionally, depending on age & OS, you maybe able to do a reformat to original factory conditions by using a process internal to original install. Often under " Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools" or in on-machine "help files" or go on line and look into "support" at manufacturer's site for info re this (or possibly it's in owners manual viewable/down loadable online ).
This would dump all except what the factory installed originally.

Great patience would be a great character trait to exhibit at this time..but it is doable. You really need to get all system specs you
can to safe guard.

As a first computer, I must applaud your courage at attempting this.
Would be VERY helpful IF you know a "Nerd" friend who has done similar to help you with this.

You may post back with more questions BUT we need ALL current system Info possible to be able to give more specific suggestions. Grin Sandy

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Thank you
by NewNewBie / February 4, 2008 12:35 PM PST

First off I want to say thank you. I'm ignorant when it comes to this computer. I know the type of computer is an "EMACHINES" computer. Other than that you will have to tell me where to find what else it is you need to know.

I am on the computer in question. It seems to be doing well, but again, I know computer smart, so it may be something wrong and I just don't know it. She (the person I bought it off of), told me it was a good computer. She just didn't need it anymore. She may have took off her person info. I'm not completely sure. She told me I would have to wipe it clean. I'm not sure what exactly that meant is why I was asking how to do it.

I did find my free space. It says there is 49% free space on the C:/ and recovery D: there is 16% free space. That is why I figured it was full and needed to be completely "cleaned" as she put it.

The computer is not really old. She said she bought it around February/March of 2005. It has Windows XP on it. I can see that also. Again anything else that you will need to know, you will have to tell me where to find it.

Thank you again for all of your help.

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You Are Definately in Luck!! That Recovery on D: is.....
by tobeach / February 4, 2008 3:51 PM PST
In reply to: Thank you

just what you need to wipe it clean! You will be able to "reformat" by using the method Grif mentioned. Basically the system has been designed to do a complete re-install automatically if you tell it to.
The reason D: has so little extra space is it's intended to hold only the recover/reformat info so size is just enough & leaves you max room for other purposes. The 49% of C: is getting low so reformat IS good idea at this time.

The general computer OS info can be accessed by right clicking the MY Computer Icon on desktop and selecting properties> general tab.
Other info may be on back panel.

You can download & install Belarc Advisor. It will assay the machine and tell you all most important info re OS, hardware & software currently on/in machine:
It's other main purpose is to tell you what MS updates are missing.
Reformatting will wipe out any MS updates installed since new & you'll probably want to replace them as soon as possible after reformat.

You may also want, before reformatting, to download and save to USB Flash or CD various programs of your choice for Anti-Virus, anti-Spy, Cleaner etc. A list of safe ones are available on the Spyware/Virus/Security Forum here in Sticky at top "Tools".

If you have printer, it's very valuable to print out Belarc report for reference in case of theft or fire. Insurance won't argue replacing.
If you don't have printer but do have a USB Flash storage stick, you can send the report to that for safe keeping and perhaps print it at a friends house.

I would do the report right away and then do a new one after re-install. From info given I suspect you have a DVD burner.

You will have the option to burn a copy of Recovery Info to DVD in same place you find the recovery option as Grif described. I ,being overly cautious ,would burn 1 as is & another after re-format. You will probably be offered a choice of recovering to 1 or more user created points (previous owners)or "factory default". The later is the one you want both for keep safe disk & for reformat/recover (I'm using those 2 interchangeably).
The factory one will probably have assorted trial software junk you won't want and you will probably delete upon finishing re-format. After that, once you have everything on machine & set-up as you want, you should create a User point & burn that to DVD as it would be preferable to factory one because of junk.

If you paid a reasonable price, you may have done well!
I think you now have enough info to start proceeding.
Good Luck & post back w/ progress please! You passage may be of use to others doing same in future. Grin Sandy

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Wipe my computer clean
by MikFinkel / April 19, 2009 2:04 AM PDT

Hi tobeach, I read this post and liked your answers and the way you handled the situation. I am a newbie to this sort of thing. I have had Kubuntu on a previous computer but it was sharing space with XP at the time. Kubuntu ran out of space, I believe if XP was not there it would have been O. K. So, I want to clean out my computer and install Ubuntu 8.04.1 LTS Desktop Edition. If you have any interest in helping me, I have already made a copy of what is in my computer using both the Belarc Advisor and Everest at Home. I have them on my desktop and would be able to e mail them to you if you wish. I am a pretty confident ( what I call an advanced beginner ) Internet user and am fairly comfortable downloading things, but this is way further than anything I have done before. Thanks, in advance, M.

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read loosing files answer, and have a similar request
by roseistaz / June 29, 2010 4:24 AM PDT

I lost my once in a lifetime vacation pic's. Took camera, downloaded pics to FinPixViewer ( as I always do.). Made 2 folders, after importing, draged the pics I wanted to folders. Checked them. Then deleted all pics from FinePixViewer. Delted recycle bin and then the folders I created were empty. Spent 48 hours trying to retrieve ( also had cleared camera for work next day). Downloaded 4 software sites promising to be able to retrieve deleted files with shadows. Did not work. One company had a techi who said, STOP trying these programs, just messing things up more. Took camera to a photo finishing establ., they recovered only a few pics. Anyway, they are gone. However, I wanted to buy a program where I can delete the recyle bin deleted files for good ( aware that the content is somewhere still on the ocmputer taking up space), and would like it when I delete temp. files, cache's, cookies, that they are permanently gone. DO NOT with to wipe out my computer totally to start over, just want to know if such a program is available to pick and choose what items you want cleaned?? Kind of like the lady you spoke to who bought a garage sale E machine that still had former owner's stuff on it. Only, as I said, I do not want to wipe out my entire computer. I own a business and want all that stuff to remain. Would just like to keep my computer as clean as possible. I know that pics take up a lot of space ( which is why I deleted unwanted pics), but now my recyle bin is full of stuff that was deleted, but hidden in some form on my computer. Long...I am sorry. Thx for any help?

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Re: deleting
by Kees Bakker / June 29, 2010 4:29 AM PDT

If you delete a file INTO the recycle bin, it stays present. It's just renamed and be restored if you feel the need to undo the delete.

If you delete a file FROM the recycle bin (or with shift-delete in Windows Explorer) it's gone. It doesn't use any space any more, so cleaning doesn't give you anything extra. That makes me wonder what's your reason for such a extra cleaning operation?


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by roseistaz / June 29, 2010 7:01 AM PDT
In reply to: Re: deleting

I told you, when I installed and uninstalled four programs to try to retrieve 150+ pictures from the recycle, none of the programs worked. There was a company that I also called. He said to stop this nonsense, and also, I have now clogged up my computer. He also said that if you delete from a recycle bin, it is really there, you just can not retrieve now that I have installed, run programs, uninstalled and did this process numberous times. Now the files have changed. So. with that said, each picture was aournd 2 MB, I don't want all that junk, along with deleted mail that is not really deleted, along with all the cookies that I clean out, which are not really delted. This is a lot of space that is swimming around in my hard drive.

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It's not swimming out.
by Kees Bakker / June 30, 2010 7:01 AM PDT
In reply to: deleting

For all practical purposes, it's gone. All that rests is some magnetism. Magnetism doesn't take space that's accounted anywhere.

Please do an experiment.
1. Go into the properties of the c:-drive. Note the number of used and free bytes.
2. Make a 1 GB file. Check that there's 1 GB less of free space, and 1 GB more of used space.
3. Delete the file to the recycle bin. The amount of free and used space stay the same.
4. Delete the file from the recycle bin. The number of free and used bytes returns to what it was in step 1. It's gone.



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Swimming out
by roseistaz / June 30, 2010 10:19 AM PDT
In reply to: It's not swimming out.

I appreciate the help on this forum, and I have never done a forum before, so if I tagged on to an old request, I apologize. It says to type problem, and that put me on that page and it was a similar request. As for adding one mb and deleting one mb, of course it is gone. I was a computer lab teacher for years and do know a thing or two, however, I am not a real techi, obviously, I lost my precious pictures. I did take my card from the camera to a prfessional and paid $$, and they only recovered a few pics. As for the recyle bin and my question of a deletion software ( I do not want to restore my computer to the beginning as if a crash, I know how to do that from a prev. virus.) I also back up to USB Flash Drive. That being said, a man from Gillware Inc. offered to recover for $400.00. Well I don't have that money. It was that techi who said STOP loading these software programs promising to recover. As stated in another forum, you need to so something like this right away before files are distorted, which I did. But everytime a program like that runs, it messes things up. More important, he said that cache's, cookie imprints, emptied recyle bins are not really gone. At some point, this is what makes a computer run slow. I had a lot of pics, 2 MB a piece along with 3 years of junk. I just wanted to clean it out since he told me this information. So, I don't think you are correct about it being gone. I never heard this before, but the guy that works here said so:

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Please try this title -> RECUVA
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 30, 2010 10:43 AM PDT
In reply to: Swimming out
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Is this a plea for help?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 29, 2010 4:35 AM PDT

I'm not sure. You posted in an over 2 year old discussion. I know it sounds strange but to get help, make your own new post.

The problem with recovery stories like yours is that most folk keep using their machine. With every use the empty space that has your photos is slowly used and recovery becomes less and less likely.

For years I've removed such hard drives from the machine as soon as possible then on another PC using titles like RECUVA (it's free too)

Read the user reviews at

Even if you formatted that camera's SD CARD you want to use this one.

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which windows product would work
by luthertolchinsky / February 19, 2011 12:02 PM PST

If I wipe my computer clean could i use a newer upgrade to install after if I already have windows vista.

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Not sure what yu are asking
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / February 19, 2011 7:36 PM PST

This is the XP forum and you mention Vista. May be you should be posting elsewhere, eg the Vista forum?

In any case I am not sure what you are asking, so please be sure to create your own thread and provide full details.


Please read before posting

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem

Also, newer upgrade from what to what?


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On Many Newer eMachines Computers... Recovery Partition..
by Grif Thomas Forum moderator / February 4, 2008 8:30 AM PST

Access the System Recovery partition from the Start-All Programs-System Recovery-System Recovery Menu. Following the prompts will allow you to reformat the computer and reinstall the operating system and all software as it came from the factory. From that point, if you don't want any of the factory junk, you'll need to uninstall it yourself.

If the Recovery partition is missing, (usually a D: drive) , then you'll need to have the original Recovery discs which were created when the computer was new.

Hope this helps.


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Am lost
by sudhen / November 20, 2011 5:01 AM PST

i have been trying for a while now on this matter, and thought maybe this forum might help. i've scoured the other CNET forums without much benefit.

1. i have an old Dell Inspiron 6000 (~2006) laptop - 1.6GHz Intel Pentium, 1GB RAM
2. The machine has been used a lot over the last 5-6 years. However, nothing too high-level (e.g. no gaming)
3. It has become progressively slower and slower to the point of inducing physical pain whenever i have to turn it on.
4. I have purchased a new laptop, have transferred all necessary data over and am ready to wipe out the old machine (Dell).
5. I have the original XP disk that came with the Dell, as well as the drivers disk.
6. when i put that disk in the drive, it states it wont install it as the "current version of the OS on the computer is newer than the version to install"
7. I've bought the Windows 7 OEM, but have a 64 bit rather than a 32 bit. i can exchange this, obviously, but i also dont have the graphics capability on this computer that the windows website says that Windows 7 requires.
8. I went to the Windows website to download the Windows 7 compatability program, but it keeps having an error and wont install the program on my machine, and so, i a unsure if the 32-bit is even an option at this time.

I'm a bit stuck, as i cant buy the Windows XP OS anymore. I'd like to wipe the computer clean and make it usable again to allow me to sell/gift it away, but am running out of ideas other than take it into a computer store, which is going to run me around $450, which seems silly to drop on this machine. Any thoughts would be helpful.

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Re: lost
by Kees_B Forum moderator / November 20, 2011 5:06 AM PST
In reply to: Am lost

You can use DBAN (free download) to erase the disk before installing the old OS. But you should be able to use the setup program to delete all partitions on the disk and recreate them before it starts installing. Carefully read the questions before answering.

So 2 ways to go.

Best of luck.


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looked over both replies
by sudhen / November 25, 2011 3:42 AM PST
In reply to: Re: lost

Thanks to both kees and grif for replying. it took me some time to get into set-up BIOS to allow me to reformat, but the link under grif's post is quite helpful and essentially idiot-proof. i have reinstalled the original factory XP disk and am waiting for the XP SP3 OEM to arrive to upgrade the OS fully. Its already worlds ahead of where it was.

i still wonder however, if anyone has thoughts on whether this machine with above-noted specs under "Am Lost" can support windows 7 or not? I have found out that through the install, the included video drivers are ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 Rev: A00 and nVidia GeForce2 GO Rev: A07. I dont know if these make a difference, but include them for completeness sake.

Appreciate the time.

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Windows 7 Drivers May, Or May Not Be Available Plus...
by Grif Thomas Forum moderator / November 28, 2011 3:43 AM PST

...I wouldn't run Windows 7 on 1.6 GHz Pentium with 1 GB of RAM. (Most Windows 7 computers now come with dual-core processors, or better, and at LEAST 2 GB of RAM, preferably 4 GB or more.) You wouldn't be happy with the processor speed. Plus...On older computers, it may not be possible to find the appropriate drivers to make the video card compatible with Win7.. You'll need to do the research.

By the way, if you've already got XP installed on the computer, there's no reason to install SP3 from an OEM disc.. You can download the full SP3 installer from the link below. Simply download the full installer file, then run it to bring your original factory XP version up to SP3.. (Of course, if you're trying to change from XP HOME to XP Pro, then you'll need a separate installation disc.)

Hope this helps.


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to add
by sudhen / November 20, 2011 5:29 AM PST
In reply to: Am lost

i did find a windows xp sp3 oem off of nextag. i am going to order and see if this handles the issue related to reinstalling windows xp. in the meantime, i've also tried to 'dumb' down the OS by removing the sp1, sp2 and sp3 from the current machine.

again, any thoughts/ideas would be appreciated.

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To Format The Drive And Reinstall Using the Original XP Disc
by Grif Thomas Forum moderator / November 21, 2011 1:05 AM PST
In reply to: Am lost

...Dell's disc should allow you to perform the steps if you BOOT from the XP disc using the instructions in the link below. You're receiving the "current version of the OS on the computer is newer than the version to install" because you aren't booting from the XP disc at startup, which takes you "outside" of Windows.. Follow the instructions below:

After the operating system is installed, you'll need to install the drivers from the Dell "Resource/Driver" CD.

Hope this helps.


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now up and running
by sudhen / December 14, 2011 8:08 AM PST

but cant seem to locate my ethernet card or wireless adapter to allow me to connect to internet (have already reinstalled the drivers). i did upgrade to xp sp3 using the oem since i couldnt connect. any thoughts on how to remedy?

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It's a Dell. Did you install Dell's QUICKSET app?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 14, 2011 8:25 AM PST
In reply to: now up and running

Besides the drivers, I find I have to install QuickSet or else, no wifi for you!

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Quickset app
by sudhen / December 14, 2011 10:38 PM PST

where/how do i download this and can i rip to a cd from a different computer? or how best to transfer? have not heard of this app, so obviously did not install it Happy

shouldnt i still be able to see the 10/100 card? i cant even see that in my networking directory?

thanks so much for the help. been great

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by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 14, 2011 11:56 PM PST
In reply to: Quickset app


As to seeing that card, if you didn't install motherboard drivers or the card is dead/unplugged or this is one of the models that you can disable in the BIOS or required QuickSet then you get the idea by now.

All this makes you wonder why the makers continue to create such systems.

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am on the net
by sudhen / December 15, 2011 9:54 AM PST
In reply to: Where

this computer issue is fairly well resolved, so thank you bob and grif.

to install the drivers, i actually learned that allows you to download all of the drivers specific to your machine from their website. you just need to enter your service tag code (under the machine). then, you can download all the hardware drivers and transfer to the old machine, or just initially download the processor and wireless connectivity drivers and transfer to the old machine. if you do the latter, you can go to device manager and then quickly download the remaining drivers. i then updated the windows xp security patches which took some time.

hope this helps others.
thanks again

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The service tag method
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 15, 2011 10:06 AM PST
In reply to: am on the net

Has been around for over a decade. I can't remember how long it's been around.

Glad someone reminded you about it.

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Thank you to all.
by NewNewBie / February 6, 2008 8:48 AM PST

I just wanted to tell yuns, that I did it. & I'm back here on the net. So it seems to be working. The webpages are loading fast. On my previous post they were kinda slow, but now the are doing great. It worked. Everything seems to be doing good. Thank you to all. It wasn't near as hard, as I thought it would be. Thanks to yuns. Yuns made it easy to do. I think this is $200.00 well spent. Again thank yuns. Take care. Misty

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(NT) Glad We Could Help! You Done Good!!!! :D
by tobeach / February 7, 2008 3:00 PM PST
In reply to: Thank you to all.
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Misty, Your are a certified Nerd now...congratulations
by cindya929 / February 8, 2008 8:43 AM PST
In reply to: Thank you to all.

I read all your posts and the responses. You have done a fantastic job. You can add that task to your resume. Not many would undertake such a task and succeed so wonderfully. Super Job......

A computer geek, in Westland, MI

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Clean PC
by sumit.nephro / February 8, 2008 1:17 PM PST

1. First of all:- Count how many partition, you are having in your hard drive.
2. Except the "C" drive, format all other partition with NTFS system.
3. Arrange a CD of Windows XP, then load a fresh copy of the operating system by formating "C" drive.


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