"Wiping" your Computer Clean

Bleedred

Member
SoSH Member
Feb 21, 2001
7,128
Boston, MA
I'm donating my laptop to a local charity and before I do, I need to make sure nothing is left on my computer that I wouldn't want them to inadvertently open or see (Financial, Pics, Porn, etc.). I've documented my lack of tech knowledge here before, so I need very basic direction as to what the best thing for me to do to make sure nothing proprietary (to me) or offensive (to them) is disclosed.

Oh, and what type of Virus protection should I use on my new laptop? Garden variety Norton anti-virus ok? Webroot? Other?

Thanks
 

Couperin47

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
1. How paranoid are you ?  If you have your laptop drive partitioned so only the OS is on C:, then erasing all of your D: drive is probably good enough. If you have been operating with everything on C: then it gets more complicated. Unless the laptop came with OS disks which you can locate, or a hidden partition to allow a restore to 'original factory state', keep in mind, depending upon the level of sophistication of the charity, giving them a laptop which has had the OS completely removed may be of little use to them. If they say that's OK, then the util available here:
 
http://www.pcworld.com/article/2084977/hdderase-exe-review-freeware-utility-securely-erases-drives-the-old-fashioned-way.html
 
will deliver a drive that's clean, unless your charity actually works for the NSA.
 
If you have just the single logical C: drive, and no ability to restore the OS and they need it... then I'd uninstall any programs, disable rollback and then erase all directories except Windows.
 
2. No single anti-virus works perfectly, the best practice is to use a multilayer approach which means finding apps that play nicely together. I've been using the following 3 all live at the same time, they do NOT interfere, are available cheaply and don't even together use 2% of my cpu power:
 
A. The MS Security Essentials (that's what Win 7 calls it, it's Defender in 8 I believe is free and almost worth it...) seriously it's the weakest but can't hurt to run and inoffensive
B. Been using Webroot for years, their SecureAnywhere which is now cloud based seems very good, includes lots of useful extras (a Password manager, an easy to use Sandbox, coverage for my Android cellphone (Moto Electrify M) and, ahem, one subscription seems to work just fine on several boxes...
C. Eset NOD32, just their AV product, NOT the full Suite, has always been known for it's small size and lightweight use of resources, it's also 'insensitive' to being installed on multiple boxes with a single sub so instead of buying a sub for multiple machines, google looking for a sale on a multiyear sub.
 
I go to many many 'unsafe' locations, Webroot and NOD32 alternate on which stops me sooner and nothing even slightly serious has made it onto any of my boxes. Keep in mind all good programs do need to be configured, just buying and installing without ever even looking at the setup options will NOT produce anything near optimum results, especially since most programs today also 'stop/warn' for 'unwanted apps' (like browser toolbars) and cough cough 'legitimate cracks' which some of us sometimes actually want to investigate...
 

kelpapa

Member
SoSH Member
Feb 15, 2010
2,610
I've used d-ban for wiping computers. Use a registry key finder for any programs before hand, wipe it clean with this, reinstall the programs later. 
 
Most recently it wiped out networking drivers on a laptop, so I'd make sure you document those before you wipe it.
 

Brickowski

Banned
Feb 15, 2011
3,755
I've used AVG Free anti-virus for years.  IMHO it's as good as Norton or McAfee and, well, it's free.  Windows defender is also free.  I've never used Webroot.
 
I had one issue with a rootkit virus about 5 years ago, but Norton won't pick those up either.  You need a rootkit remover.  McAfee has one (which does not come with their anti-virus software), but there are others. 
 

Joe Sixpack

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Sep 9, 2002
4,065
Mansfield, MA
Whatever you do, please don't use Norton. It's a pile of crap.

AVG mentioned above is a good bet, as is Comodo. Both are free for home use and both are better than Norton.