How to protect my information prior returning laptop that won't boot up
February 27, 2015 2:23 PM   Subscribe

So After very minimal use, my recently bought laptop now won't even power up. When I press power button, nothing happens. It's a Asus x205-ta if that matters. I made arrangement to return it to Amazon. Before I ship the laptop back, what could I do to protect things like my passwords, etc that are presumably still in there?

I am not very tech savvy, so the question may be laden with myth and superstition regarding information security. Am I over worried about this? Since it doesn't power up I can't get reformat it. And I think if I or anyone try to physically rearrange the innards it would void the return. The other option would be to all my internet passwords but I would like to avoid that if possible since I already have difficulty keeping all of them straight.
posted by Pantalaimon to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you take it to a repair shop and ask them to take out the storage disk and put it into an external enclosure to be reformatted from another computer? There doesn't seem to be much on the web about disassembly of an x205-ta, but a repair shop may have access to Asus docs that aren't public.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:54 PM on February 27, 2015

Typically, the hard drive is removable from a laptop with one or two screws - take a look at the manual that came with your computer. If you can remove the hard drive, you can plug it into another computer and wipe it, or ask someone to.
posted by destructive cactus at 3:19 PM on February 27, 2015

Can you take it to a repair shop and ask them to take out the storage disk and put it into an external enclosure to be reformatted from another computer

Nope, the guts of these are basically tablets. The storage is an eMMC, which by definition is embedded. It's basically a 32gb MMC(SD) card soldered on to the motherboard.

The good news, to me at least, would be that with the motherboard presumably dead(if you're saying it wont acknowledge powering on in any way) it's not like someone can pull the drive and get your data. The storage, being part of the motherboard, is only accessible if the system boots and that motherboard works. This is like having the logic board in an ipad die and being worried about someone accessing the data. That shit is gone unless like, the NSA or someone with a lot of skill, a reflow station to pull the chip or excellent soldering skills, who is also willing to do something like this to access the storage comes in to play.

Pretty much, are any intelligence agencies or skilled enemies targeting you?

If i was seriously concerned i would open it up, connect some leads, and fry that chip... but that has warranty-voiding consequences, and i really don't think it's necessary.

This kind of problem is becoming a real concern as even laptops become one-circuit-board black boxes though. You can't just pull out a chip like this and run DBAN on it, which is the old standard for this situation. The flipside is that well, no one else can pull it out either... but it's more of security through obscurity than real security. A good DBAN wipe will fuck over anyone without serious recovery tools, and possibly even them. This can be defeated by ripping apart an SD reader and doing some soldering.

The good news is that i really doubt the repair depot at either the shipping company(UPS and such actually run repair centers now, that do some brands) or at the refurb department of the ASUS factory wants anything to do with your data. They'll test the board, maybe bin it, maybe replace some components, factory wipe the storage if they even reuse it and ship it back out to someone else if not just you.

Could someone THEN run an sdcard undelete utility on that drive? I don't know, that's virgin territory for me, i haven't gotten to try it yet since i've only even handled one or two eMMC based windows machines. Would i worry about it all that much? No.
posted by emptythought at 3:25 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

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