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Resetting a laptop in preparation to sell

Posted: Sun Sep 29, 2019 6:57 pm
by internetsandman
Prefacing this, I'm running Windows 10 on this laptop (Alienware 15 r3), and I have two drives, the 256gb boot drive it came with, and a Samsung 500 gig EVO, both SSD's

I know about all the steps in regards to resetting a PC using the Windows recovery partition, and how you can select "remove files and clean the drives" for all the drives in your system

My trouble is that, from what I can tell, this is designed to apply to hard disks, and is a horrible thing in regards to SSD's (and doesn't seem to properly erase them anyway). I tried secure erasing the Samsung using their Magician utility, but it kept telling me I needed a bootable USB, and after it made the bootable USB and restarted, the laptop would simply still boot up on the regular boot drive and not the Samsung USB drive it had just created, and nothing would happen

All I wanna do is clean the drives enough that my data can't be recovered, and use the built in Windows recovery partition to install a fresh copy of Windows so that I can sell the machine, and it's turning into a much more complex issue than I thought it would be

Re: Resetting a laptop in preparation to sell

Posted: Sun Sep 29, 2019 7:01 pm
by Redocbew
Sounds like you need to adjust the boot priority so that you can tell it to look at the USB drive first. Usually there's some keystroke for that like escape, F2, F8, and so on. If it's not displayed on screen during POST, then you can probably find the right keystroke with a little googling for your specific laptop.

Re: Resetting a laptop in preparation to sell

Posted: Sun Sep 29, 2019 7:16 pm
by internetsandman
Redocbew wrote:
Sounds like you need to adjust the boot priority so that you can tell it to look at the USB drive first. Usually there's some keystroke for that like escape, F2, F8, and so on. If it's not displayed on screen during POST, then you can probably find the right keystroke with a little googling for your specific laptop.


That's fair, but that would still only apply to the Samsung SSD. How does Windows' "remove files and clean all drives" affect the boot SSD? Would it work? Or is there a way I can secure erase that drive and still be able to restore from the Windows restore partition?

Re: Resetting a laptop in preparation to sell

Posted: Sun Sep 29, 2019 7:52 pm
by internetsandman
At this point I honestly just wanna know if Windows' "remove files and clean all the drives" option is secure enough on an SSD that whoever I sell it to won't be able to access any old data off of it. If the SSD's have a slightly shorter lifespan/performance then I guess that's just how it'll have to be. I wanna sell the laptop ASAP

Re: Resetting a laptop in preparation to sell

Posted: Sun Sep 29, 2019 8:58 pm
by bfg-9000
Recovering data from flash that has been overwritten is expensive enough to require the resources of a government, which of course considers money to be free. So you really only need to focus on the free space--"deleted" files there are easily recovered because they aren't truly deleted at all but the space they take merely marked as available.

You can use Windows' own built in cipher command like so:
cipher /w:C
to zero out this space on the C:\ drive.

Alternately, you could download sdelete from Microsoft, which gives you two options:
sdelete -c C: /accepteula
which cleans free space to military DoD standards--by filling it with random data which is harder to recover from but obviously no good for garbage collection and TRIM
sdelete -z C: /accepteula
which fills with zeroes only to improve SSD performance too

In each case you're only adding up to four P/E write cycles to the blocks holding free space, hardly anything to be concerned about.

Re: Resetting a laptop in preparation to sell

Posted: Sun Sep 29, 2019 9:27 pm
by meerkt
I would just prepare a Win10 install USB drive, completely zap the storage device(s) using something bootable like DBAN (also available as part of UBCD), then reinstall Windows.

Re: Resetting a laptop in preparation to sell

Posted: Sun Sep 29, 2019 9:32 pm
by internetsandman
meerkt wrote:
I would just prepare a Win10 install USB drive, completely zap the storage device(s) using something bootable like DBAN (also available as part of UBCD), then reinstall Windows.


I just tried booting from my W10 install USB, the same one I used to install windows on my new desktop, and it didn't work. The BIOS of my laptop didn't even see the USB device, nor did the boot options in W10 Advanced Startup :( I think at this point I'm just gonna say screw it and use the erase and clean stuff that I mentioned earlier. If I can't boot from a proven bootable USB on my laptop I'm pretty sure I can't do anything I actually wanted to do to do this "properly"

Re: Resetting a laptop in preparation to sell

Posted: Mon Sep 30, 2019 6:53 am
by meerkt
There must be a way to boot from USB.
Either by entering the BIOS (Del/F2?) or a hotkey during pre-boot (F12?). What did you try?

Re: Resetting a laptop in preparation to sell

Posted: Mon Sep 30, 2019 11:35 am
by ludi
Often once Windows 10 is installed on any system with an EFI BIOS, all other possible boot devices get buried beneath the Windows startup routine, UNLESS you enter the BIOS config and elevate the priority of another device. On some laptops the BIOS access key (F1, F12, or whatever) brings up a menu that allows you to either continue into the BIOS, or access an EFI-level boot menu.