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View Full Version : Trying to reformat a Windows XP computer


Azeotrope
07-05-2012, 10:08 AM
I have an old computer I want to recycle but I want to reformat the hard drive first. The machine, however, doesn't seem to want its brain wiped out because everything I've tried isn't letting me do it.

Is there any way to either boot to DOS instead of Windows (I seem to remember Win98 had that option but can't seem to find it in XP) or a way of reformatting through Windows itself?

Failing that, if I reinstall Windows (by some miracle I do have the Windows CD that came with the machine) is that good enough to erase my personal files?

It's Windows XP Home, SP3, if that makes a difference.

Jragon
07-05-2012, 10:12 AM
There ARE ways to nuke the drive from orbit and do a complete data wipe and reformat, but I think by far the easiest method would be to reinstall Windows, and then just download CCleaner and use the feature it has to write zeroes to unused sections of the drive.

njtt
07-05-2012, 10:25 AM
There ARE ways to nuke the drive from orbit and do a complete data wipe and reformat, but I think by far the easiest method would be to reinstall Windows, and then just download CCleaner and use the feature it has to write zeroes to unused sections of the drive.

You don't need CCleaner. Just open a DOS box and use "Cipher /W:Windows" (this actually overwrites the free space three times, with zeros, ones and random bytes, but if you think that is overkill you can easily stop it with Cntrl-C after the first pass).

Perhaps, though URT does not want to give away a Windows installation. I don't know what to do about that.

Fear Itself
07-05-2012, 10:28 AM
You can delete the partition using the Windows install disk, then cancel the install. That will leave a completely blank hard drive that won't even boot.

Jragon
07-05-2012, 10:31 AM
You don't need CCleaner. Just open a DOS box and use "Cipher /W:Windows" (this actually overwrites the free space three times, with zeros, ones and random bytes, but if you think that is overkill you can easily stop it with Cntrl-C after the first pass).

Perhaps, though URT does not want to give away a Windows installation. I don't know what to do about that.

I heard cypher was unreliable, but having never tested it I'll take your word for it.

Azeotrope
07-05-2012, 10:32 AM
I don't care about the Windows installation, as long as all my personal files are wiped out.

Azeotrope
07-05-2012, 10:43 AM
You can delete the partition using the Windows install disk, then cancel the install. That will leave a completely blank hard drive that won't even boot.

Ooh, nuke from orbit and sow the ground with salt for good measure. I like it :D

Jragon
07-05-2012, 10:46 AM
Ooh, nuke from orbit and sow the ground with salt for good measure. I like it :D

Bring it to a refinery, melt it down, tell the hard drive company you want a new physical drive forged from the ashes of the old one :D.

njtt
07-05-2012, 10:59 AM
I heard cypher was unreliable, but having never tested it I'll take your word for it.

Unreliable how? It is not like it is doing anything very complicated.

Jragon
07-05-2012, 11:02 AM
Unreliable how? It is not like it is doing anything very complicated.

I honestly have no clue, mostly just people in the computer science department at my uni saying "cypher is shit, never use cypher." I was never in any real context to ask WHY.

Canadjun
07-05-2012, 11:14 AM
You can delete the partition using the Windows install disk, then cancel the install. That will leave a completely blank hard drive that won't even boot.

I could be wrong since I am not THAT familiar with the guts of Windows, but I'd be surprised if that would suffice for his needs. Seems to me that deleting the partition would have a similar effect (note I said similar, not same) as deleting files in Windows; it leaves them inaccessible by normal means but they could still be recoverable by suitable data recovery programs.

I haven't used DBAN myself, but a previous employer used it a lot before giving away obsolete computers. Probably the best software way to nuke everything. http://www.dban.org/

BigT
07-06-2012, 04:23 PM
Yeah, wiping a partition does not remove data. Programs exist to get your data back if you do this. It also shocks me that cipher can be run while Windows is still running. I'd have assumed you'd have to run it from a Recovery console.

Dallas Jones
07-06-2012, 05:04 PM
Why not just remove the hard drive?

drachillix
07-06-2012, 06:32 PM
I haven't used DBAN myself, but a previous employer used it a lot before giving away obsolete computers. Probably the best software way to nuke everything. http://www.dban.org/

Seconded.

However

Depending on who you are giving it to, a simple reformat and reload windows will be sufficent. handing off to a friend neighbor or family member, no biggie. It takes fairly computer saavy folks to make much of data recovery from a reformat. Not unassailable, but for most peoples purposes its good enough. Probably 95% of folks you hand the machine to have no hope of getting any kind of valuable personal information picking through the scraps of your reformatted hard drive. The next step up would be reformat, reload, and run CCleaners free space scrubber to remove any meaningful chance of recovering anything useful outside of serious forensic data recovery labs.

Is this 100% uber secure method suitable for storing the account numbers to donald trumps swiss bank accounts, no but you take much bigger risks driving to work every day than this.

Canadjun
07-06-2012, 06:48 PM
Why not just remove the hard drive?

Depends on what the OP means by recycling the computer. If he means to pass it on to a good cause, leaving the drive in is fairly useful to the new recipient.:D

GameHat
07-06-2012, 08:56 PM
I haven't used DBAN myself, but a previous employer used it a lot before giving away obsolete computers. Probably the best software way to nuke everything. http://www.dban.org/

DBAN is the way to go. Don't trust any "disk wipe" software that you run from the O/S itself, you need a boot disk wipe program, and DBAN is thorough and great.

kp_72110
07-06-2012, 09:48 PM
Download DBAN. It has always worked for me.

kp_72110
07-06-2012, 09:49 PM
Oops. Missed the post before mine. Nevermind. :smack:

AaronX
07-07-2012, 01:30 AM
I also used dban. There are special instructions for getting it to run from a thumb drive.

Azeotrope
07-08-2012, 08:51 AM
The recycling I'm doing is one of those "community e-cycling" things so I don't know if the pc will be automatically junked, tested to see if it's still good and donated to a charity or something like that, or stolen by some criminal mastermind who'd use my Plants Vs. Zombies addiction to blackmail me :D That's why I was wanting to nuke it from orbit. While pulling the drive and beating on it with a hammer sounds pretty appealing, I don't want to wreck it in case someone else can use it.

Stupid DBAN questions time:

I got into the BIOS on the old machine and set it to boot from CD and burned the DBAN files onto a CD. I can't use a floppy because my new computer hasn't got a floppy drive and I don't think I can use a thumb drive because there's no option to boot to a USB device.

I popped the DBAN CD into the old computer and nothing happens: I get "press F1 to retry boot or F2 for setup options."

What probably very obvious thing am I missing?

Myglaren
07-08-2012, 09:14 AM
Did you check the BIOS for boot options?
Usually Del, F1 or F12 when booting and allow booting from the CD drive.

If it doesn't work with DBan then perhaps GParted (http://gparted.sourceforge.net/) will fix it for you.

Wipe the partition then reformat as Ext2, then Ext3, then NTFS then Ext4.

Ed: Just reread your post. Press F2 when booting to alter the BIOS options.

AaronX
07-08-2012, 09:15 AM
The error sounds like you don't have a bootable cd. Did you just burn the files to cd, or did you specifically make it bootable?

Azeotrope
07-08-2012, 09:19 AM
The error sounds like you don't have a bootable cd. Did you just burn the files to cd, or did you specifically make it bootable?

It wasn't a bootable cd :smack:

Azeotrope
07-08-2012, 09:33 AM
Ok, I made it bootable this time and it's up and running right now. Thanks everyone for your answers :cool:

AaronX
07-08-2012, 08:16 PM
Yeah, sorry I'm on my phone so I can't find instructions for you.

AaronX
07-09-2012, 08:59 PM
Ok I found out how I installed it on a USB drive, using another program called Universal USB Installer. I think the instructions I followed were something like www.pendrivelinux.com/install-dban-to-a-usb-flash-drive-using-windows/

In case anybody else wants to know. It worked, but I had to use the default settings for DBAN - any other settings would cause an error.

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