How do I clear all personal data from my computer completely ?

Discussion in 'privacy problems' started by batsec, Jan 22, 2012.

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  1. batsec
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    batsec Registered Member

    Hi all reading this thread

    I'm using XP Pro, service pack 3 and I'm planning to sell my computer.
    The problem is: I need to find and remove all personal data (email accounts, documents, pictures, program data that i used, office files, user accounts, etc. briefly all things belong to me.) in a such way that they cannot be recovered easily; but all the installed programs should be remained. At this point I do not want to format my computer.

    Can any program like Eraser 6.0.9, PC Tools Privacy Guardian or SecureClean programs manage to handle this (I don't have any experience with these programs) ? What do you suggest me to do on this issue ?
    Or/And manually do something extra ? :doubt:

    Thanks in advance.

    PS:

    I'm not sure but I want to state: First create a backup of my system without documents and recover the system from this backup. Is it possible ? A way ? not sure. o_O
  2. Cudni
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    Cudni Global Moderator

    Re: How do I clear all personal data form my computer completely ?

    you could create a new admin login/profile and then from within there delete your old one.
  3. batsec
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    batsec Registered Member

    Re: How do I clear all personal data form my computer completely ?

    hımmm thanks, you say it's enough to this.
  4. zapjb
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    zapjb Registered Member

    Re: How do I clear all personal data form my computer completely ?

    'Twas me I'd nuke, format, clean install. Everything else I consider insecure.
  5. bryanjoe
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    bryanjoe Registered Member

    Re: How do I clear all personal data form my computer completely ?

    if u still have the winxp installation CD and also have the time.

    perhaps a format or an erase. Then an fresh installation.
  6. noone_particular
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    noone_particular Registered Member

    Re: How do I clear all personal data form my computer completely ?

    XP stores a lot of user data. It's not just in files but in the registry and possibly in alternate data streams as well. No single tool will clean all this. On top of that, the user applications also store data all over. Deleting files does not remove them.

    If you have anything that you consider sensitive on that PC, nuke it and reinstall.
  7. chattycathy
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    chattycathy Registered Member

    Re: How do I clear all personal data form my computer completely ?

    In my opinion, the easiest, safest and most secure way would be to format and put it back like it was when you purchased it. Let the seller worry about updating, etc. This way, you don't have to worry about "did I get all of my personal information off?" Every computer I've sold, this is the way I've handled it and it is much easier and more secure.
  8. EncryptedBytes
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    EncryptedBytes Registered Member

    :cool:
    Coming from someone who does forensics is your Hard drive encrypted? If yes then a simple reformat will be ok. If no, I would nuke your harddrive then reformat. Additionally I would suggest you use a program that can also clean out bad sectors as most data wiping systems miss these and us forensic people love them. I would after nuking then reinstall your OS clean. After which I would say you have done what you could to remove all PII.
  9. batsec
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    batsec Registered Member

    If it goes like this, I'll give up selling my comuputer. :)
    Thank you to all for your suggestions.
  10. LoneWolf
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    LoneWolf Registered Member

    When it comes time to retire my Xp box I plan on using Active@ KillDisk to make sure there's nothing recoverable.
    (Then I'll probably crush the hard drive to boot using machinery at work) :D
  11. focus
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    focus Registered Member

    Sell the computer without a hard disk in it. Include OS discs if you have them, but keep your hard disk(s) unless you are totally comfortable with wiping them completely.

    @EncryptedBytes Can you tell us of a program that will wipe all including marked physical bad sectors? I don't think I have ever see one that explicitly states it will do this. Thanks.
  12. Hungry Man
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    Hungry Man Registered Member

    Delete all of the personal info manually. Download and run CCleaner. Enable secure wipe in settings. Wipe everything except free space.

    Run it again and this time wipe free space.

    It'll take hours.

    You can clean out the registry with it as well but I doubt there'll be much personal info there.
  13. CasperFace
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    CasperFace Registered Member

    There was a similar topic discussed here on Wilders which mentions a program called "SecureErase" for wiping bad sectors.
  14. EncryptedBytes
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    EncryptedBytes Registered Member


    Casperface mentioned an excellent tool above. It is a set of commands embedded in most ATA drives built since 2001. Secure erase is a lot more thorough than say Dban or many commercial products that I have encountered. Not saying commercial or open source do not do what they promise however if you have damaged drives they tend to miss bad sectors or not write over them well.

    Smart adversaries tend to hide information in ‘bad sectors’ or outside the readable range of the drive. Thus they are one of the first things examined. ;)
  15. focus
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    focus Registered Member

    Thank you for the info CasperFace and EncryptedBytes. I was aware of SecureErase, but more as a SDD "refresh" tool.
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