Computers 101
April 6, 2009 9:05 AM   Subscribe

How do I wipe clean an old HP desktop to give it away to someone.

Is there an easy way to delete all the personal files on it and return it to factory settings?
I'm sorry if this is a ridiculously easy question.
posted by chickaboo to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have a Windows install CD, or a restore CD (these usually come with the computer)?
posted by box at 9:06 AM on April 6, 2009

You'll want to format the hard drive and reinstall the OS (Windows 9x/XP). Your computer likely shipped with a disc that contained the OS and drivers necessary for a reinstall. Do you have that? If so, pop it in and follow the on-screen instructions. If not, you won't be able to completely wipe the drive without having an OS disc to reinstall it. In this scenario, you would either need to find a Windows disc, or just manually go through and delete anything that is personal.
posted by nitsuj at 9:08 AM on April 6, 2009

Get one of the linux boot CDs, say ubuntu or damn small linux, to use the shred utility to completely wipe the hard drive.

If you want you can then reinstall the OS and be sure all of your data is cleared out. Make sure if you have more than one hard drive your run the utility against all of them.
posted by beowulf573 at 9:47 AM on April 6, 2009

Trying hitting F11 when the HP logo appears (after you start the computer). You might find an option to return the laptop to factory setting without needing a disc this way.

Good luck.
posted by jstarlee at 9:48 AM on April 6, 2009

If you want security, use Darik's Boot and Nuke.
posted by DonSlice at 9:51 AM on April 6, 2009

To be clear, some of the above suggestions such as deleting files within Windows, formatting the disk and reinstalling Windows will not get rid of the files so that they cannot be recovered. It's not terribly hard for a techy to get personal files back in this situation. The suggestions by beowulf573 and DonSlice are a bit more work than simply reinstalling Windows, but they will ensure your files are gone forever.

If you really don't want to go through the hassle of a boot CD or USB drive wipe, followed by a reinstall of Windows, a second-best option would be to (1) delete all personal files (assuming you know where they are) and empty the recycle bin (2) run ccleaner with all the privacy settings turned on (3) run the Wipe Free Space function of ccleaner to ensure that everything you've deleted stays deleted.

As for 'return it to factory settings', do you mean undoing all options changed since purchase, uninstalling software added since purchase, undoing personalisations made since purchase etc.?
posted by Busy Old Fool at 10:18 AM on April 6, 2009

You'll have to reinstall from scratch, but if you really want to do it DBAN is one way...

Formatting may not be enough, depending on your paranoia. If you Google the following, there is more than enough to read.

erase harddrive before recycling
posted by fluffycreature at 10:18 AM on April 6, 2009

posted by Simon Barclay at 10:37 AM on April 6, 2009

The best way to do this in general is to reformat, and reinstall from the appropriate media using the OEM CD-Key on the Windows sticker on the case. If you can't find the original HP-branded install or restore media, you should be able to use generic OEM media. If the CD key on the case doesn't work to install, just use a working key, and change the key via phone-in activaction once installed.
posted by reptile at 11:11 AM on April 6, 2009

The purest way is from the original discs that came with it (including "erase and format new partition" or whatever it is called), or in lieu of that, from a generic Windows installer CD (but using the correct/legal license key), and the kind thing to do is to subsequently do all the online security updates for the person, so they don't get a virus within 10 mins of plugging it in.

You could also install Firefox to be nice.
posted by rokusan at 11:33 AM on April 6, 2009

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