Clean personal info off work computer while leaving apps behind?
August 29, 2014 8:54 AM   Subscribe

I got a new job (cool!) but have to turn in my MacBook Air from old job (oh well). Since I also used as my primary laptop for personal stuff, like banking and Facebook, it also has a ton of personal data on it. (I plan to buy my own laptop for next job. And no, I did not look at naughty stuff on it -- I do have a tablet.) The company wants the programs already installed left on the computer, which is reasonable -- so leave Photoshop and Word installed -- but I want to clear off any personal data. Is there a good way to scrub an Apple computer while leaving programs behind? Right now you could go to Twitter on my browser and log into my personal account without a problem. (I realize I can just Clear History on browsers, but also looking for deeper scrub, such as WiFi passwords and stuff on keychains).
posted by Peemster to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Here you go.
posted by empath at 8:59 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fastest and most effective way would just be to create a new user account, and delete yours. Even if you don't have an admin account, I'm pretty sure this would be possible in single user mode. (Assuming, of course, that your company wouldn't have a problem with you fiddling with user accounts that way.)

Otherwise, just wipe everything in main home directories, including the hidden folders - config files in the home directory are user-specific. Since stock Finder doesn't let you see hidden folders, you'd need to do this in the terminal.

cd ~
ls -a
rm -r somedirectory/*

The hidden ones will show up with directory names that start with periods, like so: ~/.foo
posted by fifthrider at 9:39 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Would creating a new user account work even if I am set as admin? And will programs be left on there? (Sorry for newb questions.)
posted by Peemster at 9:59 AM on August 29, 2014

Response by poster: Duh, nm, just tried and works great. Thanks much!
posted by Peemster at 10:02 AM on August 29, 2014

if you want to take the extra step you can use Disk Utility to zero out the blank space on the drive. This will make your personal data unrecoverable.
posted by sunslice at 10:05 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Note the solution Empath linked to has a caveat of wanting to keep the User account. If thats not a limitation deleting the user and user directory is a better and easier way to go.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:28 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

The company wants the programs already installed left on the computer, which is reasonable...

I think the word you were looking for here is lazy.

It is reasonable, since it's their equipment, but it's also not really the norm and in this data sensitive day and age it's also understandable for you to want to wipe it totally clean.

Booting to recovery and using Disk Utility to completely wipe the drive would be the only real way to ensure your data is completely safe, but you run the risk of alienating your former workplace if you do that. This said, it's completely reasonable of you to want every bit of data off there unless you have some kind of work product agreement in place that says you can't.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:57 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't know, I don't think this is all that reasonable of them. I would be tempted to just wipe the drive with Disk Utility. It's not any significant burden for them to reinstall Word and Photoshop.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:58 PM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing that it's neither normal nor reasonable for companies to not wipe the drive (or agree to allow the drive to be wiped by the user) and do a fresh reinstall of the OS and software when a machine transfers users. That's typical practice everywhere I've worked. It should be easy for the desktop support folks to do, since they usually have site licenses and images handy. That's the only way to ensure your data is safe, and I'm sure the next user would appreciate having a fresh install with default settings.
posted by jazzbaby at 1:04 PM on August 29, 2014

Another vote for wiping it anyway.
posted by rhizome at 1:48 PM on August 29, 2014

Wipe the entire disk clean. Blame your cat if you have to. (Don't let the cat find out.) "I have no idea how that happened! Sorry!" should also work.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 6:38 PM on August 29, 2014

Can you restore it back to the date right after they installed the second program or right before you started using it but after the programs were already on it? I'm thinking the computer was already up-and-running when they gave it to you, like they didn't install the programs literally an hour before they gave it to you, so the date before your employment or something?

I actually don't know anything about Macs but I know you can choose a restore point with PCs so maybe your MacBook has a similar option?
posted by atinna at 8:31 PM on August 30, 2014

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