Basic Erase on Home Computer.

samingram

New Member
Hi.

I'm looking for a way to format my Windows Vista C Drive to factory conditions. I am passing my laptop on to a family member however I have no idea where it will end up in the future so I'd like both drives, C and E erased as best as possible to get rid of any passwords and bank details and things like that, which I have saved on it in the past. I have already formatted the E drive using windows own tool, but I was wondering if using Eraser's overwrite free space tool afterwards would sort it fully. Although I am guessing this would take long time as the drive is 80Gigs.

On top of this, how could I erase everything and format my C drive that contains the operating system without the use of the original windows Vista disk? I've heard a lot about partitions and things like that, but I don't know how to use something like this at all. And I wouldn't like to try without the help of an expert. My C drive is the most important also for erasing, as the E drive, to my best recollection, has only ever contained things like program files.

If anyone could walk me through it, that would be great. It seems like Eraser is the best tool to get rid of my data, I'm just unsure how to use it safely.
 

Joel

Active Member
Probably what you should do is, since E: is already formatted, erase the unused space on the E: drive, then restore the OS to the E: drive. Boot from E:, then format C: (which when booted will be a different drive letter, identify by the contents of the drive) and then erase the unused space.
 

samingram

New Member
Thanks for the quick reply.

How exactly do I go about restoring the OS to the E drive. Is that something that I'd need the original Vista installation disk for, or is there a way of transferring it over from the C drive?

As you can probably tell, I have little to no idea about anything when it comes to this kind of thing.
 

Joel

Active Member
Yes you'll need the original Vista installation disk. Depending on whose restore CD (or the Microsoft one) the steps would really differ.
 

samingram

New Member
If I can't get my hands on my original disk is there anything that I can do at all? How about something like Acronis True Image? Could I duplicate the OS to the E drive with this, then format the C drive?
 

Joel

Active Member
That wouldn't be too clean, since the majority of your privacy leaks (without a skilled adversary) is undeleted data.
 

Joel

Active Member

samingram

New Member
Thanks. Your second link is especially helpful.

I have one final question. I have managed to create a windows vista recovery disk using this download -

(link redacted for infringement in forum rules)

I downloaded this then burned the iso to a DVD.

Could I boot from this disk upon startup and restore my laptop to factory settings, then use recovery to overwrite the free space on the C drive? Would this essentially do the same thing as the second method in this link? -

viewtopic.php?f=35&t=6011
 

DavidHB

Active Member
As the author of the post you referred to (thank you for your kind comments), I have to say that the only safe answer to your question is 'no'. But that is not necessarily the end of the story.

Firstly, the recovery disk you created is a useful item, so you by no means wasted your time creating it. But its real function is to provide a bootable means of repairing an existing installation rather than creating a new one. In the post, I was referring to the computer manufacturer's restore disk, not a Windows restore disk. This will contain not only Windows, but all the drivers and utility programs you need, in the form of a disk image which a utility program provided by the manufacturer will load on to your machine after formatting the hard drive, and thereby restoring it to factory condition.

However, for some years now, the term 'recovery disk' has been something of a misnomer. I do quite a bit of support for family and friends, so I suppose that I have been involved in the purchase of half a dozen or so laptops in the last couple of years (none of them mine!). None of these machines came with any form of recovery disk, though most did have the means of making one. But the actual recovery 'disk' is typically a partition on the laptop that Windows cannot see, and there is usually some form of utility to enable you to use this partition to restore the machine to factory condition. Assuming that all of this exists on your machine (which it probably will if you haven't actually deleted it), you could do as follows:

  • run an Eraser free space erase on your laptop drive(s); don't bother to erase cluster tips (which can be problematic on the C: drive); this is to increase your chance of making sure you have removed everything sensitive;
  • run the laptop manufacturer's utility to restore the machine to factory condition; as part of this process, the drive(s) will be formatted;
  • install Eraser on the machine, and run a free space erase before you install anything else; again, don't bother to erase cluster tips as a large number of OS files will be protected.
Will that process give you a 100% guarantee that none of your data will ever be recovered? No, but in Joel's language, you would need a very skilled adversary indeed with extensive resources and a lot of time to recover anything useful. Most of us are just not worth that kind of effort.

I hope this is helpful.

David
 
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