Wiping a computer's hard drive

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Nick
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Wiping a computer's hard drive

Post by Nick » Thu Dec 27, 2007 6:41 pm

Long time, no post. Anyway, I really hate my laptop. Hate it. I've had it for about six months, and it's the worst computer I've ever owned (which is saying something). I'd just like to wipe the hard drive and sell it. Best way to do this would be...? It's running Windows Vista.

Any help would be appreciated. I know how to format, etc. I'd just prefer it if little remnants of my files weren't floating around after that for intrepid hackers to find.
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Re: Wiping a computer's hard drive

Post by curt_grymala » Thu Dec 27, 2007 7:37 pm

If you have the Windows disks to reinstall Vista, you can use a Linux live disc to "zero fill" the driveand then reinstall.
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Re: Wiping a computer's hard drive

Post by Roofus » Thu Dec 27, 2007 7:58 pm

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Re: Wiping a computer's hard drive

Post by Stormwatch » Thu Dec 27, 2007 9:06 pm

Nick wrote:it's the worst computer I've ever owned
Nick wrote:It's running Windows Vista.
Okay, correlation != causation, but still... :roll:
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Re: Wiping a computer's hard drive

Post by Lunchbox » Fri Dec 28, 2007 1:08 am

I'd throw a DOS image on there and call it a day

Or you could just do the trusty ol' format c:
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Re: Wiping a computer's hard drive

Post by curt_grymala » Fri Dec 28, 2007 8:36 am

Lunchbox wrote:Or you could just do the trusty ol' format c:
format c: is not going to keep a nasty hax0r from getting to his files. All that does is remove the virtual links to each file on the drive, it doesn't remove any of the files.

He'll need to zero fill the drive multiple times in order to even slow a hax0r down if he's truly concerned about someone getting to his stuff.

It appears as though the DBAN utility Roofus linked to will do a good job for him, too.

Norton used to come with a utility that overwrote you hard drive 99 times or something like that, but I'm not sure if it does anymore.
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Re: Wiping a computer's hard drive

Post by Ex-Cyber » Fri Dec 28, 2007 12:48 pm

Zero-filling the drive should be fine, unless you're super paranoid. The best thing you can do short of destroying the drive is do several passes of writing random numbers, but I doubt that there's much practical advantage to that over zero-filling. Anything you can do with software has the possibility of leaving traces (e.g. duplicate/spare sectors used by the drive for defect management), but only a data recovery specialist would be able to get anything, and what they'd actually be able to get would probably be minimal.
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Re: Wiping a computer's hard drive

Post by BlackAura » Sat Dec 29, 2007 1:18 am

Zeroing the drive will be more than sufficient - there's no way anyone's going to be able to recover anything useful.

It is theoretically possible to disassemble the drive, and use specialised equipment to recover overwritten data. However, the process is extremely difficult, expensive, varies from drive to drive, and might only have a 40% success rate. That doesn't mean that 40% of the data will be recoverable, by the way - it means that 40% of the bits might be recoverable. So instead of 01101010, you might end up with ??10??1?.

DBAN is probably the simplest way. It'll wipe out every (accessible) sector on the hard drive by filling it with either zeros, or random data.

If you want to sell the thing as a working computer, there's probably a few more things you should check.

First, have a look at the hard drive, to see how many partitions it has. If you have more than one, and one of them looks like a recovery partition, then you want to back that up before you erase the drive.

If you have a recovery partition, the easiest way to back it up is by making an image of the partition, keeping it somewhere safe (external hard drive, or a network share), then restoring it after you've blanked the drive.

Once the drive is blank, use the recovery discs that came with the laptop to restore the original OS. Shut it down when it's finished, and the hard drive will be in as-new condition.
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Re: Wiping a computer's hard drive

Post by Nick » Sat Dec 29, 2007 12:58 pm

There's two partitions. I nuked the recovery partition when I did a basic format the other day. I was running out of space on my other drive and I don't know what the hell I had saved on the recovery partition (but it wasn't just the recovery stuff any more). Probably not the best of ideas, considering my computer did not come with any driver CDs (which I didn't realize at the time), but I'll let the buyer deal with that. I'm just going to zero-fill both partitions a couple times and then sell it clean, without anything installed on it. Seems like the best solution since people aren't too fond of Vista anyway.

Thanks for the help.
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