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Clearing just "personal data" off a computer

Discussion in 'Software' started by tripwire45, Apr 22, 2007.

  1. tripwire45
    Honorary Member

    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    A friend of my wife's is giving an older PC to someone but wants all of her personal information cleared off first. She wants to leave the operating system and applications intact. I know I can go through her My Documents folder and other places looking for files that might contain such information but what "hidden" places might contain data she wouldn't want others to have? Thanks.
     
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  2. wagnerk
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    wagnerk aka kitkatninja Moderator

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    If the OS is Windows 2k, XP or Vista, how about deleting the user profile (assuming that your wife didn't use the default admin account), so next time you log on Windows will have to recreate the user account from fresh.

    -ken
     
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  3. Headache

    Headache Gigabyte Poster

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    Recovery ?
     
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  4. Mr.Cheeks

    Mr.Cheeks 1st ever Gold Member! Gold Member

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    thats if the person saved her data within her docs, if there were anywhere else, like some people for some reason, save data on c root, then deleting the profile wouldn't help

    yep - i'd go with recovery disk.

    just dump all the data into a file on the desktop, and let the person verify that all the data is there, and burn to disk. of course there could be more else where, but you'll be searching the entire disk, for files and folders... unless you are willing to do that.
     
  5. wagnerk
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    wagnerk aka kitkatninja Moderator

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    True while alot of people save documents to the root of C:\, alot more people would now either save their document to either the desktop (or a folder on the desktop), a folder in the root of C:\ or in "My Docs". I'm giving the user the benefit of the doubt as she is Trip's wife. Not only that, but by deleting the user profile, you also delete any thing personal to that user - stored passwords in IE/firefox, internet history, etc...

    Recovery disc would be a good idea, however as they want to keep all the applications intact, if the applications didn't come pre-installed on the PC (we're assuming that the PC wasn't built "inhouse") you would lose the installed apps. I'm speaking from personal experience where I buy apps from the internet (like the previous expansion pack for Oblivion, Alpha Five V8 from the BCS, etc). If I forget to backup the programs and then did a system restore I would have to buy them again (or get intouch with the company, which would a pain to do).

    -ken
     
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  6. Mr.Cheeks

    Mr.Cheeks 1st ever Gold Member! Gold Member

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    but this is a friend of trip's wife.
     
  7. wagnerk
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    wagnerk aka kitkatninja Moderator

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    Dude point taken, mis-read :oops:

    -Ken
     
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  8. Sparky
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    Sparky Zettabyte Poster Moderator

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    Apart from the usual places (My Docs\desktop\root of C)it might be worth searching the whole hard drive for *.doc and other common file extensions just incase there is a folder lurking somewhere with personal info.
     
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  9. Bluerinse
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    Bluerinse Exabyte Poster

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    Watch out for the Outlook pst, and wab files and OEs mail folder files as these can be hidden.

    Well personal data can also be found in some applications folders, MYOB accounting software does this for example - the only way you can be really be sure to catch everything is to configure the OS to show all files and folders, preferably with their extensions and then start at root and manually trawl through every folder on the hard drive - this of course takes time but you might be surprised what you find.

    Bear in mind that deleting files does not erase them from the hard drive, it merely hides them from the operating system, therefore it's not rocket science to use an application to recover them.

    So, if there has been sensitive data stored on there, and by sensitive i mean data of a personal nature containing info that you want to definitely keep private, i would recommend wiping the drive with a utility that is capable of overwriting the data in such a way as to make it very difficult and expensive to even attempt recovery - of course this means you will have to re-install the OS, drivers etc and any applications you have the software for.
     
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  10. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    Wipe and reinstall. Data exists even after it's been "deleted".
     
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  11. supag33k

    supag33k Kilobyte Poster

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    Yep what he said... it is the only way.

    Note that contents of the outlook OLK folders under a user profile can be read by subsequent users without too much trouble - even if it has been deleted previously.
     
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  12. Raffaz

    Raffaz Kebab Lover Gold Member

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  13. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    Great link, Raffaz. Thanks. I've got the PC and the Restore CD but that's it. No application or driver CDs so if I really hose this thing, I'll be in a bit of a spot. Of course, I could always load Ubuntu on it. :evil
     
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  14. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    Drivers are easy - they can always be downloaded and reinstalled. And if you've got apps, but no application CDs... then do you have legal applications? Those are often restored by the restore CD - the only apps that aren't reinstalled are those you installed after you received the computer... and you should have disks for those... right?
     
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  15. Crito

    Crito Banned

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    A Knoppix CD would work too.

    dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda
    is the same a zero fill (sometimes mistakingly called a low level format)

    dd if=/dev/random of=/dev/hda
    is the same a random bit shred

    Of course, example is for an IDE drive set as master on first controller. You might need to use hdb (slave on first IDE) or sda (first SCSI drive) or something like that instead. Also, if the data is really sensitive you should overwrite with random bits three times to defeat any attempt at flux analysis -- because dd works at block device level the filesystem is out of loop and journaling isn't an issue... files themselves have to be overwriten many more times to ensure data can't be recovered nowadays
     
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  16. Raffaz

    Raffaz Kebab Lover Gold Member

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    Bit off topic Crito, but whats the difference between a zero fill and low level format (im guilty of thinking their the same):)
     
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  17. Crito

    Crito Banned

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    Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and you had to manually park a drive's heads there was a low level format -- you used to invoke it by sending a command to the controller itself... there was no software involved actually. Anyway, modern drives that come with low level format utilities are usually just zero-filling, exactly like dd example above.
     
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  18. Raffaz

    Raffaz Kebab Lover Gold Member

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  19. Crito

    Crito Banned

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    You made me look it up just to refresh my memory... the DOS command you had to use was debug:
    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/60089

    Essentially, every controller was free to use different drive geometry, and they frequently did. So you had to low-level format the drive to make it compatible with the controller.
     
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