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Cleaning PC before donation

Discussion in 'All Other Software' started by Fabienne, Apr 29, 2008.

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  1. Fabienne

    Fabienne Thread Starter

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    My boss is donating several PC's to the Goodwill.
    He wants me to clean everything off of them except the operating system.
    Issue is... we dont have any of the OS discs.
    How can I wipe them clean, yet leave the OS, without a disc?

    Thanks
     
  2. Elvandil

    Elvandil

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  3. Plantsman

    Plantsman

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    You can clean a PC of files, folders and such and leave the OS intact but that would be too time consuming and a bad idea anyway from a security standpoint. I'm afraid the only safe way is to use a program like Active Killdisk which will destroy all data on the hard drive making it unrecoverable and re-install the OS afterwards. As you don't have OS disks to re-installyou face a dilemma to which there is no satisfactory answer except one similar to what I've just given. Tell your boss how it is, I'm sure he wouldn't want data on those disks falling into the wrong hands. Deleting things from a hard drive in the normal way can be so easily undeleted with readily available software.
     
  4. Elvandil

    Elvandil

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    I don't believe it can be done at all. There is too much data hidden away in log files, index.dat files and so on to ever find it all. Not to mention that data can very easily be recovered after being deleted.
     
  5. TheOutcaste

    TheOutcaste

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    There are programs that will securely delete files, and wipe free space, but as Elvandil has pointed out, there is info in other files that you might not think of, plus saved passwords in the registry for websites, email, network shares, etc.

    That can all be cleaned out, but would be a time consuming process, and easy to miss something. Plus, hard drives write data at the sector level (512 bytes), but the OS file system writes in clusters (8 sectors, 4096 bytes usually). If a file with personal data had been deleted, and overwritten with another file that is a bit smaller, there could be a up to 7 sectors (3584 bytes) of recoverable info at the end of the file. Best to wipe the drives.

    You can use almost any disk to re-install the OS, so if you can get a hold of a copy of the OS disks, you can re-install using the key for each PC. If you don't have the key written down, you can use a key-finder like Magical Jellybean Keyfinder to find it before wiping the drive.

    Only caveat is for XP (and maybe Win2K) the disk type must match the key type. If it's an OEM key, you can't use a Retail disk and vice versa.

    HTH

    Jerry
     
  6. Plantsman

    Plantsman

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    Sorry I should have classified the Active Killdisk version. You need to purchase Active Killdisk Professional at $39.95 to wipe the drive securely to these standards.

    US Department of Defense Data Security Standard DoD 5220.22 M compliant
    Supports several erasing methods including the most secure Gutmann's algorithm
     
  7. valis

    valis Moderator

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    as elvandil previously metioned, the derik's boot and nuke is an excellent option. We use that here at work, it's very simple to use, and I believe it's dod-m compliant as well.

    Regardless, it's good enough for us to use on the machines we donate; it does, however, completely erase all data on the hd, including the OS.

    and it's free. ;)
     
  8. Elvandil

    Elvandil

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    DBAN

    "Wipe Methods:
    Quick Erase YES
    Canadian RCMP TSSIT OPS-II Standard Wipe YES
    American DoD 5220-22.M Standard Wipe YES
    Gutmann Wipe YES
    PRNG Stream Wipe YES

    DBAN prevents or thoroughly hinders all known techniques of hard disk forensic analysis."
     
  9. valis

    valis Moderator

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    we sent one of our pc's that we dbanned to our off-site recovery team, and they said that they could get some, if not all, of the data off, but it would easily be 5 figures worth.

    I think the only thing better is shredding them, personally.
     
  10. 1002richards

    1002richards Trusted Advisor

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    Hi Fabienne,
    Why not use one of the progs suggested above to wipe everything and then install a free OS such as Ubuntu - I'm sure whoever receives the machines would be happy with that.

    Richard.
     
  11. Elvandil

    Elvandil

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    I wish someone had actually seen that data. I don't think company geeks ever say that they can't do something.
     
  12. valis

    valis Moderator

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    dunno. I saw a program few years back where some guy took his hd out of the case, snapped off the actuator arms, drilled 5 3/8" holes in it, gave it to some government kid who, I swear to god, couldn't even shave, and the guy an amazing amount of data off of it.

    All magnetic, I guess, and with the right tools and brainpower it's just there.

    I dunno. dban works fine for me, but then, I don't have anything to hide. As for my company, there's billions of dollars of data on there, I would prefer shredding them, but it's not my company. ;)
     
  13. Elvandil

    Elvandil

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    Well, as we should know, CSI is not real (AFIS scans, for example, take 2 hours even with perfect fingerprints). Data is not easily recovered from drives and certainly not as easily as on that show. Data can certainly be recovered from a physically destroyed drive because it has not been erased and is still on the platters. Few places on Earth can do it.

    But once the magnetic material has lost its orientation and been re-aligned enough times, the data is just plain gone. If the DOD and RCMP think their data is not recoverable, it should be good enough for anyone else. If the drive is filled with random data, lots of things can be recovered, even long strings that are readable and make sense (no complete Shakespeare plays), but they were created randomly and were not on the uncleaned drive.
     
  14. valis

    valis Moderator

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    completely agree. If it's good enough for the DOD, it's good enough for me.

    After all, it was one of their guys that got the data off, so I know that if it's good enough for them, it's light years beyond anything I can do.
     
  15. valis

    valis Moderator

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    this is the best I could do. :)
     

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