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Scrubbing A Hard Drive  
User currently offlineEMBQA From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 9364 posts, RR: 11
Posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 2100 times:

Some of you may remember from a few months back I switched over to Apple and LOVE it. My old PC had a virus..again..so it was time to step up. So my question is with what I want to do with my old PC. I'm looking for the best method to scrub the hard drive clean so I can give my PC to my mom. I'm told with XP you just drop the factory XP disc in and click on the 'Format' button. ( or something close to that ) Has anyone here done this before..? any good advise..? I have all the factory discs and want to get the PC as new and clean as I can before giving it away.


"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog"
19 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinegingersnap From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2010, 898 posts, RR: 5
Reply 1, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 2088 times:

With any Windows you just drop the disk in, and delete the partition that the OS is currently installed on. Then create a new partition and away you go. At least that's how I was always taught, but I'm sure there's bits I've missed out on.

Side note: Recently Apple computers are shown to be just as vulnerable to viruses  



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User currently offlineajd1992 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 2070 times:

If you are worried about security a programme called "boot'n'nuke" may be of some use. Install it to a USB drive and let it do its thing. The full 35 pass format that erases everything takes about 3 days though.

User currently offlinealoges From Germany, joined Jan 2006, 8767 posts, RR: 42
Reply 3, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 2054 times:

There's a difference between formatting it and "scrubbing it", as you put it quite nicely. You'd only need to do the latter if you were giving the computer to a stranger, in which case I would second ajd1992's recommendation.

But since you're giving it to your mother, a simple reformat will almost certainly be enough. Just boot from the OS CD or DVD and select the appropriate options once asked... well, that's how it used to be anyway - it's been a while since I've installed a Windows OS



Walk together, talk together all ye peoples of the earth. Then, and only then, shall ye have peace.
User currently offlinemoo From Falkland Islands, joined May 2007, 4089 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 2048 times:

Quoting gingersnap (Reply 1):

That won't do it, as that only modifies the partition table and doesn't wipe the actual data on the disk - I could easily peek directly at the disk, determine what the previous partition was and reinstate it.

Formatting is also similarly useless.

Personally, I never let a used hard disk go out of my possession - if I sell a computer, it gets a new hard disk and the old disk goes in to a cupboard. I don't mess around with wiping programs.


User currently offlineKlaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21521 posts, RR: 53
Reply 5, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 2042 times:

As said above, formatting is enough if you're giving it to your mom, but overwriting it once would be the more thorough choice (multiple passes are pointless for all practical purposes).

Quoting gingersnap (Reply 1):
Side note: Recently Apple computers are shown to be just as vulnerable to viruses

Side rebuke: You may be full of glee about the first-ever major malware breakout on the Mac platform (actually a multiplatform Java exploit which only affected people who actually had Java still active in the browser), but most people would see some difference between one on the one hand and tens of thousands on the other.

Your "just as" is equating the like of a single mosquito with a pack of hyenas. But if it helps calming your own nerves...


User currently offlinefridgmus From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 1442 posts, RR: 11
Reply 6, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 2000 times:
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Quoting Klaus (Reply 5):

Klaus,

As you know, I have a relatively new MacBook Pro laptop. Are there any Anti-virus programs out there for Mac's that you would recommend?

Many Thanks,

F



The Lockheed Super Constellation, the REAL Queen of the Skies!
User currently offlineEMBQA From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 9364 posts, RR: 11
Reply 7, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 1975 times:

My biggest issue is still the virus it has. I've tried running Windows Security and it finds it..but can't remove it.


"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog"
User currently offlinedarthluke12694 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 1974 times:

When I sold my laptop, this is the program I used to erase any data, but still keeping the operating system. http://eraser.heidi.ie/ It's called Eraser and it uses a government grade shredder to erase anything left on the computer.

BEFORE you use the program, un-install all programs you have installed, and delete any data (documents, pictures, etc.) you have left. Then run the program, which will take hours depending in the hard drive size (it took all night for my 120GB hard drive). What it does is overwrite any data you have with numbers or junk data, anywhere from 1 to over 30 times. I would pick an option which it overwrites in the 20's to be safe. Also, make sure to select wipe free space. But at least this way it does not delete your operating system if you want to sell it. Then I would format the computer so when you sell it or give it away it will ask you to setup Windows just like buying a new computer.

By the way, I have no idea if you know who this is, but Kim Komando recommends this program. She is a national radio personality that is all about technology.

[Edited 2012-07-07 17:28:45]

User currently offlinedarthluke12694 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 1970 times:

Quoting EMBQA (Reply 7):
My biggest issue is still the virus it has. I've tried running Windows Security and it finds it..but can't remove it.

Try downloading AVG ( http://download.cnet.com/AVG-Anti-Vi...on-2012/3000-2239_4-10320142.html) or Avast (http://download.cnet.com/Avast-Free-Antivirus/3000-2239_4-10019223.html?tag=mncol;1). They are both free. Windows Security is a joke.

Your only other option is format, then use the program I suggested above, then format the computer again.


User currently offlineKlaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21521 posts, RR: 53
Reply 10, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 1968 times:

Quoting fridgmus (Reply 6):
As you know, I have a relatively new MacBook Pro laptop. Are there any Anti-virus programs out there for Mac's that you would recommend?

Not at this time, as far as I can tell.

Your best defense still is to keep the system up to date (have Software Update checking daily) and being generally cautious with interactions with the outside, particularly with the internet. In particular, be vigilant when the system asks you whether you really want to execute a downloaded program – especially when you didn't expect the download to be a program.

The aforementioned Java vulnerability was quickly plugged by Oracle (for all platforms) and Apple (for the Mac via Software Update); Hardly anybody needs Java in the browser any more, so it's also recommended to disable it there completely unless absolutely necessary (this is true for all platforms again).

As far as I'm aware, at this point there is no relevant threat to the Mac that any of the third-party software products would actually be able to catch that the built-in detection & cleanup mechanisms can't. That might change some day, but that's still the status quo.


User currently offlineKlaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21521 posts, RR: 53
Reply 11, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 1962 times:

Quoting EMBQA (Reply 7):
My biggest issue is still the virus it has. I've tried running Windows Security and it finds it..but can't remove it.

A completely cold install from the original disk that came with the computer (or from another known-clean OS install disk) would be your best bet, since you're giving it away anyway.

Be sure to completely power it down, then make a cold boot from the installation disk so that nothing is run from the computer's disk, then make a fresh install.

There is now even some PC malware which writes itself into the BIOS memory, but those are not too common yet. Those would be really difficult to get rid of, but everything else should be flattened if you make a fresh installation from the original disk, with a full re-format and completely new installation.


User currently offlinedcaviation From Poland, joined Aug 2011, 222 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 1946 times:

Quoting ajd1992 (Reply 2):
The full 35 pass format that erases everything takes about 3 days though.

35 passes? Are you mad? Why would you do that? When I used to work for fed gov I had to do 6 or 7 passes (don't remember exactly) with software called WipeDisk. 6 (or 7) passes were DOD certified. You can't recover anything after that, not even in the ontrack labs.
It took 8 hours for one 300GB hard drive to be wiped out clean. I usually started the process in the morning on few machines and set next set for overnight operations.


User currently offlinehOMSAr From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 1212 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 1939 times:

Question for yous out there in the know:

Why are multiple passes seen as necessary to wipe a hard drive completely clean? If the utility rewrites every bit/byte of the disk with new data, why does it have to do it again and again? Is it like erasing pencil marks on paper, where you still see traces of the old stuff even after you've written over it, or is it more a matter of "just in case it missed something this time"?



I was raised by a cup of coffee.
User currently offlineNoUFO From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 7966 posts, RR: 12
Reply 14, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days ago) and read 1930 times:

Quoting EMBQA (Thread starter):
My old PC had a virus..again..

Congrats.
I wonder how you (and other people) do it. I have been using PCs since 1989 (Macs too) and have been online since 1995 or 1996, and never ever did a virus, worm or trojan horse any harm to my computer.

Quoting dcaviation (Reply 12):
35 passes? Are you mad? Why would you do that?

Probably to further limit the lifespan of the hard drive.

Quoting Klaus (Reply 5):
As said above, formatting is enough if you're giving it to your mom,

  



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User currently offlineALTF4 From United States of America, joined Jul 2010, 1214 posts, RR: 4
Reply 15, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 1880 times:

Quoting hOMSAr (Reply 13):
Question for yous out there in the know:

Why are multiple passes seen as necessary to wipe a hard drive completely clean? If the utility rewrites every bit/byte of the disk with new data, why does it have to do it again and again? Is it like erasing pencil marks on paper, where you still see traces of the old stuff even after you've written over it, or is it more a matter of "just in case it missed something this time"?

Hard disks store data by modifying the magnetic field of parts of the drive, essentially. All data is reduced down to a 0 or a 1 in computing, however when writing to an analog medium (i.e. a hard disk using magnetic fields as storage), there is not a pure 0 or 1 on the drive. In essence, one bit is "mostly 0" or "mostly 1", with potential for variations in there. The drive hardware controller then interprets these fields into digital form, and tells the computer it is either a 1 or a 0 - no "mostly" involved.

Well, if one were to simply take a drive with data and then write 0's to it in every sector, it is possible that the 0's that were 0's before would be more 0 than the 0's that were a 1 before. Do enough analysis, on a platter-level using some sophisticated machinery, and you can, potentially, re-create data that was removed. Now, you have some pretty big enemies in life if anybody will be doing this on your hard drive, but it still isn't a bad idea to do two passes: #1 do random data to the disk, then #2 to zeros to the disk. By that time, you'll have written over everything enough that you can rest easy. If you want to be paranoid, do the 5 or 6-pass DoD approved, or if you're off-your-rocker-insane, do the 35 passes, but that is pointless.

Now, all of that is much, much different than not using an eraser utility at all. Typically when an operating system deletes a file, it actually just deletes any reference of the file, while the file itself stays on disk. Effectively you are removing the entry in the table of contents of a book, but the page itself and all words on it still exists. This is why many criminals are caught after there computers are forensically analyzed and the criminal thinks he's ok because he cleared his internet history. Surprise surprise, the data is still on disk in many cases, as long as it has not been overwritten by new data. Simply browsing the disk, even within the operating system using some special tools (doesn't require fancy hardware), you can fully recover the file itself. This is why just reformatting and reinstalling Windows leaves data left on the computer. This data can be recovered outside the context of the operating system, however the OS or programs cannot, typically, read the data. Further, this data is no longer going to be saved - it could be overwritten at any minute by the operating system, as it sees that physical spot on disk as available and may write to it next. This is why if you have a virus, reformatting takes care of the virus in most cases. There are some exceptions, such as ring-0 viruses that virtualize everything running on the computer and don't let the computer actually access the hardware itself. These are fairly rare, though.

In regards to the OP: If your mom is the owner of your soon-to-be-gifted computer, just reformat it and reinstall Windows. If its going to leave your family, however, or anybody you trust, do yourself a favor and do one or two passes over the entire disk just to be safe. You'd be surprised at what I've found on old computer hard drives. Just takes one dumpster diver...



The above post is my opinion. Don't like it? Don't read it.
User currently offlineJETSTAR From United States of America, joined May 2003, 1665 posts, RR: 10
Reply 16, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 1775 times:
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I use a very good tool to erase data from a hard drive before I either dispose it or give the computer to some one, like my old computer that I gave to my brother, an 8 pound sledge hammer.

Hard drives are cheap enough today that I would rather install a new one that is compatible with the mother board and install the operating system and drivers then go through all the trouble of trying to wipe out all the data, and this way the computer also has a new clean hard drive as well considering that hard drives are up there on the component failure rate.

JetStar


User currently offlineAcheron From Spain, joined Sep 2005, 1724 posts, RR: 2
Reply 17, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 1695 times:

Quoting gingersnap (Reply 1):
Side note: Recently Apple computers are shown to be just as vulnerable to viruses

They always have been, like any other computer, except that most virus coders couldn't be bothered to write malware for them because how little Macs were out there.

Now with the proliferation of iStuff and the misguided notion that Apple products are impervious to malware(plus a userbase that seems mostly tech illiterate), expect an increase in malware for Apple equipment.


User currently offlineRara From Germany, joined Jan 2007, 2170 posts, RR: 2
Reply 18, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 1675 times:

Quoting NoUFO (Reply 14):

Congrats.
I wonder how you (and other people) do it. I have been using PCs since 1989 (Macs too) and have been online since 1995 or 1996, and never ever did a virus, worm or trojan horse any harm to my computer.

Baffles me too. I wonder how many of these "I had a virus again" tales are just from poorly maintained systems acting strange, with false positives from virus software.

I've often said that I consider most security software nowadays to do more harm than good. They rely on scare tactics to stay in the business and to that end deliver all kinds of irrelevant information. The real threat to a well-maintained system is a newly discovered exploit, in which case security software often doesn't help at all.



Samson was a biblical tough guy, but his dad Samsonite was even more of a hard case.
User currently offlinehOMSAr From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 1212 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 1588 times:

WRT viruses, I've only ever had a couple. One actually came from this site, I think, through some pop-up that took control of my browser and gave me some BS warning about a virus being detected (the pop-up warning was actually the virus) and I was unable to close my browser in time. My guess is that it was an infected ad of some sort. However, as soon as I realized what was going on, I did a hard power-off (didn't bother with the start menu) to stop it in its tracks, booted up, ran McAfee, and got the thing taken care of.

Then, there was my favorite virus story of all, this one: http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail118.html



I was raised by a cup of coffee.
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