How to safely resell a barely used netbook?
January 7, 2013 7:33 PM   Subscribe

I bought a netbook a couple of years ago and have probably used it a total of eight times since. I just resold it on Amazon and am now preparing to ship it off. I understand that under normal circumstances it's advisable to wipe the hard disc and then reinstall the operating system. My netbook has no CD drive and therefore no operating system CD. I'm told the operating system may be embedded in another disc but I don't have the savvy or patience to figure it out.

Essentially, I'm wondering if it's OK and not totally stupid to to sell the netbook as is without reinstalling the operating system? I have never kept files on the machine, and don't believe I've done online banking on it, either, but could change all my banking passwords now for extra measure. What's the minimum I need to do to protect myself from having my private information hacked off this machine by its new owner (if she does in fact have malicious intent)?
posted by AlmondEyes to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think I did a factory reset on my old laptop, and it wiped any data but kept the OS. I'm nowhere near smart on computers though.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:49 PM on January 7, 2013

Well you can probably press F9 during boot to reinstall Windows and that's probably enough to stop most people from recovering your stuff.

Your harddrive may still have personal information that could be recovered and although that's unlikely you'll have to decide if it's worth doing more.

Don't use something like DBAN because that'll wipe your recovery partition which the F9 thing, above, uses. What you'll want to do is to do one-pass of random data over the Windows partition before a reinstall. I'm not sure of any easy non-techy way of doing this but I'd usually boot a live Linux distro (off a USB stick) and run the command dd bs=1M if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/sd# where # is the partition you're trying to wipe. Then reboot and do the F9 thing.
posted by holloway at 8:07 PM on January 7, 2013

It's not *totally* stupid, but it's certainly not recommended.

What's the make and model? I'm sure there's a simple reset a little Googling would find.
posted by hanov3r at 8:08 PM on January 7, 2013

I had a similar issue in sending my hard drive back to the manufacturer for a warranty. Probably safer than your situation, but still, any time you're sending a hard drive to someone you don't know, there is some risk.

The problem is that even if you delete your personal information, it can still be recovered. And that's assuming you delete all your personal information in the first place - there's always going to be the odd thing that you miss here or there that you're going to miss.

As for banking passwords, the issue is not necessarily your password, but your access number. Passwords are relatively simple to brute force especially with the constraints some banks put on it (my bank seriously limits me to 8 characters), but your access code is generally fairly secretive and only known to you. It's a lot harder to change an access code than your password.

So the easiest method you can go for here is to use a Data Destruction software to completely wipe the disk. While formatting the hard disk is generally reliable enough to cut off access to all but the most dedicated, vulnerabilities still exist (besides, that may not be an option considering you don't have your disk). Here's a guide on some free software and how to use them I found off google. You'll need to burn it onto a CD and use it that way for the majority of them.
posted by Conspire at 9:13 PM on January 7, 2013

I'd wait until after noon tomorrow before doing anything, let some of the rest of the technical heavy hitters come into this thread and give their take on it.

By one PM I'd bet you'll have a clear course of action and have it laid out simply, too -- do this then that then the other then reboot and put it in a box and send it on its way.


If it was me -- well, I'd wait and then follow the lead of the surest road laid out here. If I had to get it out the door tonight I'd re-install the OS as recommended above, then go to and download CCleaner, and then run it, go to the Tools tab and then to Drive Wiper, which I'd then run on free space of the drive, probably three passes.

But I am terrified almost even to write that here, as The Technical Gods who reside on this site here will probably somehow shoot their hands right out of my screen and choke me for giving such errant advice. So maybe wait til one, right?
posted by dancestoblue at 11:33 PM on January 7, 2013

You only need one pass to wipe data. It's a myth that anything more is necessary.
posted by holloway at 1:09 AM on January 8, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, All! Will be digging into your responses tonight in the hopes of shipping off the netbook (an ASUS Eee PC 1015PEM-PU17) tomorrow. So far, pressing F9 during reboot looks like the best/simplest option. I'm afraid anything involving external media is more than I have time for/my brain can hand handle at the moment.
posted by AlmondEyes at 9:57 AM on January 8, 2013

The recovery option for my netbook is on a partition on the hard drive. If you google your netbook and find the user manual it should tell you how to reinstall the OS.
posted by essexjan at 12:51 PM on January 8, 2013

Response by poster: Ok, I think I have a plan of action:

1) Download and install a free disk erasing tool, such as one from the link recommended by Conspire (maybe Active's KillDisk, Softpedia's DP Wiper, or WipeDrive). Then,
2) Reinstall operating system by progressing F9 during reboot (confirmed,

My outstanding questions/concerns are a) whether I am doing these in the right order (dancestoblue suggests system reinstall before disk wipe) and b) whether I need to be careful about choosing a disk wipe software as some may destroy my capability to do an F9 system reinstall (as suggested by holloway).

Thanks again!
posted by AlmondEyes at 1:21 PM on January 8, 2013

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