Reformat a second hand laptop?

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posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:22 PM
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I am buying a used laptop today and I am wondering if I should format the hard drive before I use it. I hate reformatting, but I'm paranoid about the computer having shady crap on it. Any thoughts?




posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:24 PM
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reply to post by InvisibleAlbatross
 


Replace the hard drive.

2nd



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:28 PM
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100% yes.

It is a pain in the ass, but it is the only way to be sure of the integrity of the system.

Look at it this way...when you buy used clothes what is the first thing you do?

Wash them.



reply to post by AnteBellum
 


That may not be an option.

Otherwise yes, that is the absolute safest thing to do.

If the OP was buying a desktop I would also advise replacing the ethernet card too...there is no way to know where the previous owner went online.

Replacing that card changes the MAC address and seperates the current owner from the actions of the previous owner.
edit on 1-4-2011 by {davinci} because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:29 PM
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reply to post by AnteBellum
 


Oh, it was advertised as having a brand-new hard drive put it. Can I get away with simply formatting it? I am spending all my money on the machine and have nothing left to buy another hard drive. I do plan to disable internet access for at least the next several months, as this will be a work computer with confidential reports on it.



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:34 PM
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reply to post by {davinci}
 


I never would have though about the ethernet card. I will not be going online for quite some time, if ever, with this machine, but I absolutely see what you mean. Thanks

ETA: Oh you said on a desktop you would replace the card. Can this be done on a laptop? Should I do it? As you can see, I'm pretty dumb when it comes to computers.
edit on 1-4-2011 by InvisibleAlbatross because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:35 PM
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reply to post by InvisibleAlbatross
 


You can, but formatting doesn't erase memory from the hard drive, just lets the cpu overwrite existing data. So there are ways to get around this that any good programmer knows.

There is a way to do what you want to do but I don't remember the name of the software you need to use.



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:42 PM
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Always a good idea to start with a fresh install.

However I would also suggest that you look into the speed of your current hard drive.,
a 5400 rpm drive is a slow POS.
I suggest a 7200rpm drive as a replacement.
or even a solid state drive.

You can boost performance quite a bit with a faster hard drive.



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:43 PM
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reply to post by InvisibleAlbatross
 





Can this be done on a laptop?


no, it's integrated onto the motherboard, so it's non replaceable. Almost all desktops come with it integrated as well, but you have expansion slots so you can add another if needed. Laptop you'd have to either buy a PC card Ethernet port, or a usb ethernet card.

Also you can easily change the MAC address with software if you are worried about it (which you shouldn't be, they don't track you by MAC alone for that very reason.)




You can, but formatting doesn't erase memory from the hard drive, just lets the cpu overwrite existing data. So there are ways to get around this that any good programmer knows.


yes and no. formatting does erase the data. A quick format merely removes the file table (essentially a phonebook of files) but not the files themselves. Formatting removes these, but they are not truly gone until you write over that area with new data.

Secure disk wiping refers to "zeroing" out a drive, which literally means formatting, then filling every available block of space with a 0. A NSA level wipe requires at least 7 passes.

there are plenty of freeware apps that can do this, usually a linux boot cd (diamond is one). DSX is the one the RCMP use here in Canada.

these are time intensive.



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:44 PM
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The simplest / least intrusive way is to download Ubuntu Linux, burn it on CD. Then boot up your newly acquired laptop from that CD - do not install, just choose the option to "Try" Ubuntu. Once it loads (it takes time to load from the CD), format the laptop's hard drive by going to System > Administration > Disk Utility.

Do a format, then re-install the operating system (I'm guessing Windows).

Be sure you have installation disks handy. Otherwise, you'll be out of luck, you can install Ubuntu though.



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:45 PM
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I think that for all intents and purposes, formatting the hard-drive should be sufficient, one piece of probably obvious advice, just ensure that you have ALL the drivers for that model of laptop. Or else you will format, and the trackpad won't work or something obscure will stop functioning. Windows 7 tends to be very compatible but laptops are funny creatures.

Goodluck



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:45 PM
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reply to post by gandalph
 


It just occured to me that the guy said it comes with XP Pro and MS Office; he did not say whether he would give me the disks. I regret not clarifying that.



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:46 PM
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reply to post by grey580
 





or even a solid state drive.


Only if the laptop motherboard and chipset support SSD, or it's a complete waste of time. Also note, that SSDs are indeed uber fast, they have limited writes available to them, each time you write to it, you are reducing the life span. Once it fails, that's it, game over, there is no data recovery option.

My desktop I have a 120 gig SSD as my windows drive, any games get installed to this drive. Then I have a standard mechanical drive as my storage drive.

Verify your laptop will actually accept the drive, some won't, some desktops require a bios upgrade to get the full speed, or to even see it at all in some cases.



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:46 PM
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Originally posted by InvisibleAlbatross
reply to post by {davinci}
 


Can this be done on a laptop? Should I do it?


It can be done with an PCMCIA/Cardbus expansion card.

I just checked Tiger Direct and they sell them in Canada for as cheap as $25 (search PCMCIA)



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:48 PM
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reply to post by InvisibleAlbatross
 





It just occured to me that the guy said it comes with XP Pro and MS Office; he did not say whether he would give me the disks. I regret not clarifying that.


He's not allowed to sell you his os. This isn't to say he can't, but according to the EULA he can't. i wouldn't be too concerned with that, but I'd suggest you prepare to install a LEGIT os on it in case.



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:50 PM
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reply to post by phishyblankwaters
 


Crud, this is turning out to be more expensive than I planned.



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:51 PM
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Originally posted by grey580
Always a good idea to start with a fresh install.

However I would also suggest that you look into the speed of your current hard drive.,
a 5400 rpm drive is a slow POS.
I suggest a 7200rpm drive as a replacement.
or even a solid state drive.

You can boost performance quite a bit with a faster hard drive.


If he's buying a used laptop, he probably doesn't have the $$ to spend on SSD drive, which will run several hundred dollars.

A relatively modern 5400 RPM drive will hold its own against a 7200 RPM drive. While access time is generally better on 7200 RPM drive, real world benchmarks offer less than 5% improvement. I have benchmarked both on my laptop, and upgrade from 5400 to 7200 RPM wasn't really worth it.



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:53 PM
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reply to post by gandalph
 


I should have said that I will be using this laptop for word processing only, at least for now, so speed is not something I am overly concerned with.



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 12:54 PM
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reply to post by InvisibleAlbatross
 


Definitely dodgy if you don't get the OS disks.

You need to clarify that.



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 01:01 PM
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reply to post by InvisibleAlbatross
 


An xp disk is easy enough to get your hands on original or Yeaaarghhh.
As long as you have the hologram user key on the computer you own a "legal" copy.
I used to use 1 disk to install several computers and then used the individual keys for said computers.
But a format and reinstall is definately a good idea if you are the tinfoil hat sort.
If you are on this site, you are the tinfoil hat sort.

Hope it helps.



posted on Apr, 1 2011 @ 01:12 PM
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reply to post by g146541
 





As long as you have the hologram user key on the computer you own a "legal" copy.


That depends on how many times it's been activated, and XP is no longer supported though i do believe you can continue to activate and update for the time being. As well, depending on the OEM the key might be a 1 time use key.

There's no paranoia involved in cleaning a newly purchased used machine. You have no clue what bloatware, malware, and possibly keyloggers, might be pre-installed on it. As someone said, you wouldn't wear second hand clothes without washing them right?

Anyways, if you're going strictly for word processing, you might want to look at ubuntu or fedora core linux os. They are free, easy to use, and will suit the job just fine. I believe you can easily install open office and have it compatible with windows based documents.

====

to summarize.

You do not need to worry about replacing the network adapter, that's just paranoia.
You do not need to replace the hard drive unless it is faulty
you do not need to pay for a new os.

Not costly at all. If you require more detailed information, and links to software to get yourself up and going, pop me off a u2u, I do this as my career.





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