View Full Version : Removing Personal Information from my PC

11-04-2004, 01:01 PM
Hi Folks-

I just handed down my Dell Computer to my son and I am looking to sell his Compaq Presario 4540. It works perfectly and there is a nice monitor, printer and scanner to go with it. It is mid 90's technology, with a AMD K6 266Mz Processor, running Windows 95, so I am not asking much for the bundle. I have a concern about selling the CPU because of all the stories you hear about information being permanently stored within the computer. Since the computer was mine, before I gave it to my son, there was quite a bit of information that could have been stored in the PC. I took the System Restore Disk and I ran the utility that claims to put the computer back to the factory settings. It also claims that all files, programs, software, and hardware drivers, installed by me, would be lost. I ran the utility and it appears, on the surface, to have accomplished what I intended. I looked everywhere that I could think of, and couldn't find anything that I had added. I right mouse clicked on start and went to explore, and also typed in "regedit" in the run box and couldn't find anything in the expanded tree of the registry. I need to know, with absolute certainty, that I can get all personal info and history out of this PC, before I sell it. If there is any doubt, I will just sell the peripherals and smash the heck out of the CPU. Please let me know if what I have done is adequate, or if there is something else I need to do. If there is absolutely no way of getting it all out, please let me know that as well, so I can dispose of the CPU. Thank you so much for your help.


11-04-2004, 02:02 PM
I dont believe that personal information can be stored on the CPU. To my understanding a hard drive reformat "should" get rid of any personal info on the computer, or as a next to last resort, (last being you smashing the CPU), Take out the hard drive and buy and get a cheep used 8 gig or somthing for it and install the system disc on that.

I will leave the CPU storing pesonal info thing up to the others, as I dont know for sure, though it seems kind of hidious to me if it does.

11-04-2004, 02:18 PM
I'll refrain from commenting on the above reply but after running the Restore Disk to get back to the original setup someone would have to do some hard work and have the proper software to find anything left by you on the hard drive (unless you sell it to someone who works in the data recovery field) so sell that old PC (notice that I didn't say CPU?).

11-04-2004, 03:20 PM
Thanks Mates for the prompt reply. I guess the only remaining question is how would a person in data recovery field go about finding anything, and where would he/she find it? Thanks Again!!


11-04-2004, 07:13 PM
If you're so worried about it then replace the hard drive with an other and bury the old one.

11-04-2004, 08:26 PM
Norton Utilities, as well as several other vendors, came out with a wiping program several years ago. It randomly writes 1s and 0s to the data bits of the hard drive. Most offer what is called a "Government Wipe" that performs this task multiple times. When data is overwritten it is very difficult to retrieve data; even with the proper equipment. Look into a utility like this if you are worried about personal information being left on your drive. You'll want to slave the drive your selling to another box to perform this wiping function, however, so that you can wipe the entire surface area of the drive.

Oh, and a reformat does absolutely nothing for removing data from a drive, it simply wipes the FAT so there is no roadmap to the data stored. The data is still there in all its glory for folks like me to get back.

11-05-2004, 06:17 AM
There should be plenty of freeware hard disk wiping programs out there. I think Sysinternals Freeware (http://sysinternals.com/) may have one.

If it's just the processor you're selling, don't worry about it. Personal information can be found on RAM and the hard drive, but you won't find much anything on the processor. The only memory on a processor is cache, and you can't really retrieve anything from that. If you want to sell the hard drive, you will want to look at a utility to write random binary (as Darth mentioned). A good 3 or so passes of random re-writes should be good, with 35 being good if you're paranoid. This won't leave everything completely unrecoverable, but the equipment and time it would take to recover and find the old data wouldn't be worth used for anything short of government or business secrets, so don't expect someone to recover your credit card information (or whatever) off of a drive that has been wiped over a few times. If you're really worried, just melt the hard drive or cut it up into small pieces. It can't be worth much, anyway... With the RAM, the longer it's been there, the harder it is to recover. You could also destroy that, as it isn't likely to be worth much, either.

To recover you data, someone would simply put the drive a computer and use a recovery program. There are plenty of comercially-available software programs and freeware programs that can do it, but a few passes of random binary would probably make it more trouble than it's worth for just some personal information, like I said.

11-05-2004, 09:02 PM
I'm a big fan of Darik's boot and Nuke: http://dban.sourceforge.net/

you make a bootable floppy using this and use it to wipe the partitions from the harddrive before you reformat the drive and resell the machine..

11-06-2004, 05:31 AM
Assuming it randomly writes binary over the old data, it looks good. Your description meets that of many formatting tools (hell, fdisk can do that...), but the link reveals some mildly impressive credentials.

11-08-2004, 10:18 PM
Assuming it randomly writes binary over the old data, it looks good. Your description meets that of many formatting tools (hell, fdisk can do that...), but the link reveals some mildly impressive credentials.

mildly impressive? I like the sound of that.

seriously what i like is you can set how many passes you want it to make over the data. a friend of mine does professional data recovery for DriveSavers and he thinks its pretty good so thats enough for me..

06-29-2005, 07:42 AM
I would install window washer to erase all your personal data. It does a VERY good job of erasing things in ie and other things.