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Thread: shredding Vista

  1. #1

    Default shredding Vista

    I have my brother-in-laws old computer in front of me.

    4 or 5 years old, with Vista Home Premium installed. He wishes to sell it to a co-worker (she has already indicated she wants it).

    My task, since he is computer illiterate, is to ensure that nobody sees his 'stuff'. You, know, identity theft sort of stuff. He retrieved pictures, etc., before giving it too me and put them on his new computer.

    So far, I have:

    -created recovery disks (he never did)
    -reinstalled Vista via the recovery partition to 'factory fresh condition"

    It occurs to me that I should use some kind of shred or wipe utility to reformat the drive, then reinstall Vista again.

    1. Anyone have suggestions for a (free) utility to do this? I'm not seeing anything in Windows.

    2. Any thoughts about installing Ubuntu to effectively wipe the drive, then re-installing Vista?

    3. Can I leave the D: (recovery) partition in place while doing either of the above?

  2. #2


    I've used DBAN in the past for a similar purpose: Darik's Boot And Nuke | Hard Drive Disk Wipe and Data Clearing. Unfortunately it will destroy everything on the disk though, including the recovery partition. It's nice and simple to use though and it's all self contained.

    You could also use the dd command when booted into an Ubuntu (or other Linux) live environment using /dev/zero or /dev/urandom as the input and the hard drive as the output (something along the lines of sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda bs=2M if the hard drive was /dev/sda). You'll have to set the block size (bs=) to at least a few MB's otherwise you'll be waiting a while. Zero will just blank each block on the disk and urandom will will write random stuff but will take longer to complete. They'll be plenty of examples behind a search on how to do this.

  3. #3


    If you format any non-OS partitions (if there are any), leaving just the OS and recovery partitions, that will delete any personal data from those partitions. Then resinstall Vista from the recovery partition. Finally, use software (such as the free version of CCleaner) to overwrite any free space on your hard drive to ensure that deleted files can't be recovered:
    CCleaner - PC Optimization and Cleaning - Free Download
    Piriform - Wiping free disk space

    There are still ways to recover overwritten data, but it would be extremely expensive and difficult and not something even a competent techie would be able to do without a lot of expensive kit or access to a forensic IT lab.

    An even "safer" method would be to use DBAN (as Phobos suggests) to totally "nuke" the hard drive. Although that would destroy Vista and the recovery partition too.

    The only truly safe (or at least, almost perfect) way to ensure that nothing can be recovered is to take some very large nails and smash them through the drive to shatter the glass platters into small pieces, and scatter the shards over as wide an area as possible. Preferably at sea... :-)

  4. #4


    Thanks phobos, thanks tiny.

    I've used the 3 pound hammer method on my old stuff. Very effective. And emotionally satisfying.

    B-I-L is broke, which is why he's even thinking about selling this thing. Anyone who stole his identity would find themselves in worse shape than before they started. I think using piriform is probably the best/easiest option. Before I do that, I think I've still got Ubuntu-on-a-stick stashed somewhere. Maybe give that a try to see what the options look like.

    I want to do it right, but also leave the next user with the most useable machine possible, which means leaving the recovery partition intact. I even intend to run it through Windows Update and maybe download openoffice so they can hit the ground running.

  5. #5


    Update: I'm running the Piriform drive wiper now. Having read the documentation and looked over the options, it looks like it will do exactly what I want.

    Previous to that, I dumped a load of pictures and music files from my backup drive onto it, deleted, and did it again. Even if recovered, there's nothing confidential or useful for identity theft purposes in any of the folders and files I used. That plus the 3x wiping should make the B-I-L's data effectively unrecoverable. 7x or 35x seemed excessive for the low risk involved.

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