How do I pretend I was never here?
August 8, 2008 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Today is my last day at my current job. How do I explain this to my office computer?

I am leaving my current employ (and print journalism, w00t) for a new job, and today is my last day.

Over the years I've been here, I got to the point where my work computer is like my home computer, in that gmail, my bank account, ebay, amazon, various blogs and lots of other web sites automatically load up with my username. Or Firefox automatically fills in login info, etc.

Is there some simple way I can make this computer forget I was ever here?

It is unlikely that our dim-witted IT department will clean it off before the next employee plants his ass here, and I'd rather he not start posing as me on Metafilter, purchasing jesus cheetos on eBay or otherwise make use of my online identity.

My work computer runs on XP, if it matters, and only uses Firefox for browsing.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If all you want to do is clear your stuff out, Firefox (at least Firefox 3) has a "Clear Private Data" option under the Tools menu. You could follow up with CCleaner to have it obliterate stuff.

Or just delete your profile.
posted by fogster at 8:56 AM on August 8, 2008

Best answer: With Firefox, there is a "Clear Private Data" option under the Tools menu. Do that in addition to deleting all of your bookmarks and then emptying your recycle bin. Firefox doesn't keep a .dat file that you can't easily erase like in IE. Unless you're afraid of some sort of hacking forensics being used on you, it should be enough.

Another option, depending on how much control you have over the computer, is to create a new user account with the same privileges as yours, switch to that account and delete your old user account. (Be sure to manually delete the account folder in Documents and Settings, too.)
posted by cimbrog at 8:57 AM on August 8, 2008

"You could follow up with CCleaner to have it obliterate stuff." was really poorly-worded. I meant more, "as an extra precaution." It'll do about the same thing, though if you've never run it, it might help clean out some other junk, too.
posted by fogster at 8:58 AM on August 8, 2008

Best answer: Open FF, go into Tools and then Clear Private Data. Find all the folders you've ever saved stuff in in My Documents and My Music and what have you, and delete them. Open up any other browser ever used there and do the Tools, Delete Cookies/History/Etc thing as well. As a precautionary measure also go into My Computer/C/Documents and Settings/Every User there (admin, local, your name, whoever)/Local Settings/ and then the Temp and Temporary Internet Files folders and delete everything in them. If you can't see the Local Settings file, go into Tools/Folder Options/View Tab/click on Show Hidden Files and Folders (that would be on your folder window menu, not your FF menu). Click Bookmarks on the FF browser and delete all of your bookmarks. Go into Control Panel/Add or Remove Programs and uninstall anything you've installed (itunes etc) that you yourself installed and that you know won't screw anything up if you uninstall it. Don't forget to empty your recycling bin before you leave.
posted by iconomy at 9:04 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

(er that would be ReCYCLE bin, not recycling.... ;)
posted by iconomy at 9:06 AM on August 8, 2008

This previous question is relevant. Using eraser or other secure-delete tools is probably overkill, but hey - this is your bank information and stuff that you're talking about. Who knows where your computer/hard drive is going next and how unscrupulous the new owner may be. Why take a chance?
posted by chrisamiller at 9:13 AM on August 8, 2008

....So simply deleting all cookies wouldn't do it? (This is a sincere question from someone who had always been told that "deleting all cookies" would do that kind of thing, and so I nodded and accepted that as Wisdom From The Oracle.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:12 AM on August 8, 2008

Restart your computer with a Darik's Boot and Nuke CD in the CD drive. Get it going on the default settings. Remove CD. Head home.

The IT department can easily reinstall XP, and this is pretty critical data you're talking about.

....So simply deleting all cookies wouldn't do it? (This is a sincere question from someone who had always been told that "deleting all cookies" would do that kind of thing, and so I nodded and accepted that as Wisdom From The Oracle.)

No, you have to do quite a bit more than that.
posted by cmonkey at 10:23 AM on August 8, 2008

The only thing 'cookies' do is stores information for each website. For instance, the date/time you last visited, site preferences and stuff like that, and probably what you were referring to - the 'keep me logged in' feature many websites have. Any programs installed wouldn't be covered under that, nor would your browser history (pages you've been to) nor would it include the 'autocomplete' of login forms (enter your username and the password automatically pops up without you having to type it in.)

So, if all you did was clear your cookies, it would just 'sign you out' of all websites that you're normally automatically logged into. But if the browser was set up to store userids/passwords, it would be just as easy to log you back in to those sites.
posted by MarkLark at 10:26 AM on August 8, 2008

Deleting cookies will remove any information that Web sites have stored on your computer. If, for example, you log in to MetaFilter, it keeps you logged in between visits through the use of a cookie. (This may or may not include your password.) However, when you log in, you enter your username and password, and if you let Firefox store that when it offers, it's not stored as a cookie. They would not show up as logged in when you hit the front page of MetaFilter, but if they visited the MeFi login page, your username and password would be filled in for them.

Just as a protip: Next time, use Portable Firefox. Then you just unplug your thumb drive and all your personal stuff is gone. (I actually recommend a small hard disk, as running Firefox from a thumb drive can be painfully slow.)
posted by kindall at 10:28 AM on August 8, 2008

Wow, this question is perfectly timed. Is there anything different any would want to do if it were a Mac w/itunes?
posted by drezdn at 11:13 AM on August 8, 2008

Keep in mind that you probably have a responsibility to keep the work-related documents you have on there -- boot and nuke is the equivalent of shredding the contents of your filing cabinet before you leave. Even if you're leaving on poor terms, destroying company documents on the way out the door is going too far.
posted by mendel at 11:49 AM on August 8, 2008

Response by poster: I plan to leave all my docs and notes intact on the computer for my successor, and I'm leaving on very good terms.

I just want all of my passwords and stuff erased. Thanks for all the great advice!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:44 PM on August 8, 2008

Speaking as an IT guy, we'd hunt your ass down if you ran boot and nuke. What we'd do when we caught you, I'm not sure. Probably a sissy fight would ensue.

iconomy's answer was great, do that stuff instead.
posted by dosterm at 1:39 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

explains how to delete your Firefox profile. It should do the trick.
posted by kittenstew at 5:08 PM on August 8, 2008

Ouch.. there's supposed to be a link.
posted by kittenstew at 5:09 PM on August 8, 2008

Response by poster: It is accomplished. You guys are terrific.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:26 AM on August 9, 2008

Speaking as an IT guy, we'd hunt your ass down if you ran boot and nuke.

Really? I thought most IT departments would wipe a hard drive as a matter of general hygiene before passing it on to someone else.
posted by timeistight at 1:32 PM on August 10, 2008

timeistight- we WILL nuke the drives (or should), but we usually hold on to the contents for a few weeks while a new person gets up to speed, or if a supervisor needs to pick through it to pull out the actual final version of a draft or paper on it.

Usually if it is on amicable terms, it is not so much an issue, as we know that the user can sit down with their superior and copy their files to the server, etc. But at my last job I got the fun duty of being the cleaner when an employee would get terminated, which included ensuring that they did not wipe any data or tamper with anything.

And if there is anything that may be required for legal evidence (termination due to illegal things or breach of contract), we may just pull the hard drive entirely, and setup the old computer with a new hard drive. Letting us send the old drive to a forensics lab for a full data recovery. (I haven't had to go this far yet, but I would assume that would be adequate, unless someone can make an argument physically removing the hard drive is more damaging of evidence than holding onto the entire damn thing).
posted by mrzarquon at 9:42 PM on August 10, 2008

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