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How to clean your computer before you sell it

Discussion in 'Windows Tools & Tips' started by Jeanh, Aug 17, 2015.

  1. Please or Register to view links
    If you’re planning to sell your computer you need to wipe your hard drive before doing so. If you don’t you, could be inadvertently revealing all that you have done, saved and deleted on your computer to a stranger.

    Second hand computers can fetch a decent price especially if they have a relatively new processer such as an Intel Core. And there’s Please or Register to view links for them, so a sale shouldn’t be a problem.

    However, before you sell your computer you need to wipe it clean so there are no traces of your digital life left on it. If you don’t, you may be set for some embarrassment further down the line.

    A few years ago Longwood University in the US, Glamorgan University in the UK and Edith Cowan University in Australia bought hard drives from second hand computers online to warn the public of the dangers of selling second-hand computers that have not been cleaned.

    Please or Register to view links. One computer held a trove of information about defence contractor Lockheed Martin including blueprints of facilities and photos and personal data about employees, including their social security numbers.

    It even included highly sensitive information about a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system. THAAD is a ‘hit to kill system’ without a warhead that hones in on its target and collides with it like a ‘bullet hitting a bullet’. This was a serious blunder.

    In other incidents a Please or Register to view links on a second-hand laptop she had been given, Please or Register to view links belonging to NHS staff and patients were discovered on another, and Please or Register to view links serving in Afghanistan and Iraq were discovered on a second-hand mρ3 player.

    Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg and you can bet that the confidential information leaks that hit the press are only a fraction of the true figure. So, if you want to sell your computer here’s what to do to ensure your digital life doesn’t become public knowledge or you give away personal financial and identification details.

    Back it up
    Clearly the first thing to do is back up all your files, photos, documents, etc. so you can transfer them to your new computer. If you don’t, you’ll lose them. You can use an external drive or for extra safety a Please or Register to view links.

    The advantage of cloud is that your data is securely stored ‘off-site’ and you can access it from any computer and any location. Further, when you’ve transferred your files to your new computer you can still back them up in the cloud so you always have fresh up-to-date versions saved in the event of unforeseen circumstances such as theft or loss of your computer.

    Erase the hard drive
    If somebody wanted to do some sleuthing on your computer the hard drive is the place to go. It holds all the information about your digital life – even the things you thought you erased by dropping them in the computer rubbish bin.

    Hard drives are difficult to destroy as any number of criminals will tell you when they tossed their computers into the swimming pool or tried to set fire to them as the police crashed through the door. The only way to truly destroy the data on the hard drive is to take a big magnet to it and run it across the surface.

    But given that you’re planning to sell your computer it’s not what you want to do. For this purpose there is another method and that is to wipe everything on the hard drive.

    Fortunately there is plenty of data destruction software designed to wipe hard drives available. Each of these programs essentially overwrites the information on the drive. There are other ways of wiping the hard drive but data destruction is the simplest.

    Below is a list of data destruction programs. But before you get on to this you need to know that these programs use different ‘data sanitization’ methods. There are about 20 different popular data sanitization methods, so if you discover the software offers different ‘cleansing’ choices don’t be alarmed.

    • Please or Register to view links (Darik’s Boot and Nuke). This is free and considered one of the best data destruction programs available. It needs to be burnt onto a CD or flash drive before you can run it, but the menu interface is easy to use.
    • Please or Register to view links is touted as one of the best data destruction programs available. It was created by researchers at the Center for Magnetic Recording Research (CMMR) at the University of California, San Diego and ironically supported by a grant from the National Security Agency.
    • Please or Register to view links is a freeware, scaled-down version of the KillDisk Pro data destruction tool. You can download an ISO file, which is simply an image of a CD/DVD, for burning to a disc or USB drive. You can also install a regular application to run KillDisk from within Windows.
    • Please or Register to view links doesn’t run from a bootable disc, rather you must install it to your computer like you would a regular program. It’s very easy to use; you simply select a hard drive and choose a wiping method
    • Please or Register to view links is a free data destruction program that runs before the computer boots up. You simply select the disk that should be erased, confirm the selection, and then PCDiskEraser immediately begins shredding the whole disk.
    The above list is by no means exhaustive, there is plenty of software available to wipe hard drives, but the ones mentioned above are some of the most popular.

    Windows 8 exception
    If you’re using Windows 8 operating system you don’t need to do any of the above. Windows 8 offers a feature that will wipe your drive when you reset your PC called ‘fully cleaning your drive.’ When you use the Windows 8 Reset Your PC feature to set Windows back to its factory default state, you are offered the ‘clean drive’ option which ensures your computer is automatically wiped, erasing all your personal files.

    Reinstall the operating system
    Once your hard drive is wiped, or as some people say ‘formatted’, you won’t have anything on it. This means you need to reinstall an operating system before you sell it, to prove that it is working.

    In all likelihood you’re probably running Windows 7; XP is no longer supported so you don’t want to reinstall it. While with Windows 8 none of these steps apply.

    So, you’ll need a copy of the operating system, which you likely received on DVD when you bought the computer. The process is easy; reboot the system, and boot from the operating system disc itself. Windows should then automatically boot from the disc.

    If you don’t have a copy of Windows 7 don’t worry.

    You can download a copy from the Please or Register to view links as long as you have the original product key. If you’ve lost your product key it may be helpful to contact Please or Register to view links. If your computer came preloaded with the operating system you need to Please or Register to view links.

    Chocks away
    If you’ve followed these steps, and they’re not as complex as they may seem, you’re ready to sell your computer, without revealing your entire digital life to a stranger.
  2. Thanks for sharing :)
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