Author Topic: how to not fix your computer  (Read 2133 times)

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
how to not fix your computer
« on: September 06, 2017, 10:50:32 PM »
Title change for thread, per rapidly devolving situation...


Between three of us, we're preparing to sell three laptops, each with the hard drive included.

A friend bought someone's laptop once, and found the most personal stuff on it, despite the seller's attempts to delete it.

1. How do I make sure they're clear of all our info/input?

2. What do I need to do to ensure the buyer still ends up with the OS on it (but nothing else)?

One Mac, two PCs.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2017, 06:59:27 PM by jooniFLORisploo »

bacchi

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2003
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2017, 12:53:00 AM »
The most certain way is to replace the drives and then hammer the old ones and toss the pieces into the dumpster behind a 7-11. Or broil the pieces in an oven.

How old are the OSs? SSD or HDD?

There are a lot of ways to do this but...

1) You can encrypt, format, and reencrypt the drive (Filevault, unlock, and erase will work for a Mac).

2) Do you have access to the Windows install DVDs? The OS X install can be downloaded to a USB.
« Last Edit: September 07, 2017, 12:54:53 AM by bacchi »

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2017, 01:54:18 AM »
No idea the age of the OSs, or how to find out.
No disks.
Mac is SSD; we replaced it last year.
For one PC laptop I have the instructions re: USB, so will do that.

EarthSurfer

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 57
  • Location: 5280
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2017, 06:11:25 AM »
jooniFLORisploo, This may be one of those moments when it's best to barter for services with a computer geek friend. I'm known for "selling" my services for a home cooked meal, a growler of beer, or even a pint of locally crafted ice cream.

Overall, I would only well a PC or MAC with a full wipe and fresh reinstall of the OS. Too much info these days is hidden in places that are difficult to find / clean on modern computers.

For the Windows machines, there may be a recovery partition / process to re-initialize to factor configuration, "removing" a data files. This should put the computer back in the factory state.

When that process completes, I would run through the initial Windows setup and create a default user. 

Then I would install and use the utility "Eraser" to overwrite all deleted areas. As you know, just because the files aren't listed in the file system, the old data is still on a HDD. (This differs from an SSD which has a global erase command.)

At this point, I would take pictures of the laptop for the eBay or Craigslist listing.

Finally, re-execute the recovery process to restore to factory settings.

I just realized, I have never sold one of my MACs in working condition. All have been 10+ years old and non-functional when I sell them to collectors for parts.
Retired early, retired often since 1998...

BiochemicalDJ

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 70
  • Location: Ottawa
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2017, 06:40:02 AM »
Other options include a 'low level' format, otherwise known as a 'zero pass'. It's where the hard drive is actually overwritten completely. It would have a similar effect to the total encryption followed by a wipe combo. Here's an article that summarizes a few methods.

http://lifehacker.com/5835369/how-do-i-securely-wipe-a-computer-before-donating-it-to-charity
Having fun isn't hard when you have a library card.

Aggie1999

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 252
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2017, 08:08:01 AM »
DBAN is easy for magnetic hard drives: https://dban.org/

For SSD it's even easier (just an quick command). I forget the details though.

ketchup

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2508
  • Age: 26
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2017, 08:34:38 AM »
DBAN is easy for magnetic hard drives: https://dban.org/

For SSD it's even easier (just an quick command). I forget the details though.
This is what I've used before.  Of course, you'll have to reinstall the OS after wiping, but that's gotten much simpler than it was in the "old days."

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2017, 08:54:50 AM »
DBAN looks like a very interesting option!!!!

I'm willing to DIY *or* pay a pro. Either way is fine, so long as it's truly effective.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2017, 06:56:18 PM »
Dammit, didn't realize the thread posted twice again. Stealing this great response from the other one:

Easy. 

Windows:  use Eraser or SDelete. 
     
Eraser is a free and easy-to-use solution that will overwrite your private information with random patterns until the data is no longer recoverable. It works with nearly every version of Windows and offers a number of methods of overwriting your data, including methods approved by the Department of Defense
Eraser is available here:  https://sourceforge.net/projects/eraser/

SDelete overwrites your private data with zero's (zero-fills the sectors on the disk where the data files resided).
SDelete is a downloadable command line thing:  https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/downloads/sdelete

Mac:  use Secure Empty Trash (Finder -> Secure Empty Trash)
     Secure Empty Trash overwrites the space on the hard disk with random bits.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2017, 04:02:36 PM »
Computer #1:

Gifted to me, had another's stuff on it.

1. I created an OS recovery USB.
2. Per local tech person's advice, I hit Settings/Update Security/Recovery/Reset PC.

When it completed that, a message on the screen said:
A configuration change was requested to clear this computer's TPM.
Warning: Clearing erases information stored on the Trusted Platform Module.
You will lose all created keys and access to data encrypted by these keys.
Press F12 to Clear the TPM.
Press ESC to reject this change request and continue.

What do I do?

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2017, 04:15:07 PM »
Oh, I took too long to post here, and after several minutes, the message disappeared. I don't know which decision it made in my lack of response.

It is installing Windows, which involves multiple restarts. The above message reappears at regular intervals. When I take too to act, it carries on with its Windows process.

robartsd

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 959
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2017, 04:50:49 PM »
Computer #1:

Gifted to me, had another's stuff on it.

1. I created an OS recovery USB.
2. Per local tech person's advice, I hit Settings/Update Security/Recovery/Reset PC.

When it completed that, a message on the screen said:
A configuration change was requested to clear this computer's TPM.
Warning: Clearing erases information stored on the Trusted Platform Module.
You will lose all created keys and access to data encrypted by these keys.
Press F12 to Clear the TPM.
Press ESC to reject this change request and continue.

What do I do?
The TPM is a cryptography hardware module that holds keys and performs cryptographic operations with them. The keys cannot be read from the TPM. I think it should be safe to clear the TPM unless the operating system software license is tied to a key the TPM holds.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2017, 04:54:42 PM »
How do I know if the operating system software license is tied to a key the TPM holds?

And/or, is clearing it critical to wiping personal (non factory) info?

robartsd

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 959
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2017, 05:08:13 PM »
How do I know if the operating system software license is tied to a key the TPM holds?

And/or, is clearing it critical to wiping personal (non factory) info?
Clearing it is critical if the previous user ever stored a private key in it. I don't think Windows ties itself to a key in the TPM, but I don't know for sure - I imagine Windows would be warning you about that if it did. The Hackintosh community used to worry that Apple would use a TPM to lock down Mac OS to Apple hardware, but as far as I know Apple does not do this either. If it were my machine, I would clear it (but I use Debian GNU/Linux as my primary OS).

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2017, 06:22:00 PM »
Yep, your note prompted me to Google the message for additional user input.
I'm going to start that process again and clear it.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #15 on: September 10, 2017, 08:10:38 AM »
Okay...

Computer #1: Gifted From Stranger

It was supposed to be clear/new/factory-state. It wasn't. Gifter had create a profile, and installed some programs. Let's assume the worst -that the gifter accidentally or intentionally put in malware, remote access, anything yucky.

I have now:
*made OS recovery USB
*hit Settings/Update Security/Recovery/Reset PC
*cleared the TPM
*confirmed the TPM status of "ready"

I'm confused that it didn't need my recovery USB.

I'm not concerned about any personal information, as they presumably did not also use it as a personal computer (i.e., type or record original stuff on it). Thus, I did not also do an erase.

So far, so good???

Will the above steps clear EVERYTHING of gifter's additions?
Their programs, their malware?
Such that when I pass it along, final recipient won't have to worry about gifter's remote access or malware, etc?
« Last Edit: September 10, 2017, 10:06:36 AM by jooniFLORisploo »

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #16 on: September 10, 2017, 10:01:54 AM »
While hoping for replies to the above, also preparing to begin on...

Computer #2: Personal Files

Finding very mixed reviews re: DBAN.
i.e., That some people were able to recover partial files after it, that beginners may not implement it optimally, that development stopped on it and it's now used as bait for the expensive Blancco, etc.

Moving through the links you guys have provided, landed here:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-hard-drive-eraser.htm
So will try its recommendation Eraser.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #17 on: September 10, 2017, 10:35:15 AM »
This page says people like me should use the Stable version, but in the long list of versions, none is explicitly called that:
https://eraser.heidi.ie/download/

Which one for me?

bacchi

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2003
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #18 on: September 10, 2017, 12:34:57 PM »
This page says people like me should use the Stable version, but in the long list of versions, none is explicitly called that:
https://eraser.heidi.ie/download/

Which one for me?

The beta or nightly builds would be marked "-beta" or "-nightly". There are none so the latest version would work.


bacchi

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2003
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #19 on: September 10, 2017, 12:44:18 PM »
Okay...

Computer #1: Gifted From Stranger

It was supposed to be clear/new/factory-state. It wasn't. Gifter had create a profile, and installed some programs. Let's assume the worst -that the gifter accidentally or intentionally put in malware, remote access, anything yucky.

I have now:
*made OS recovery USB
*hit Settings/Update Security/Recovery/Reset PC
*cleared the TPM
*confirmed the TPM status of "ready"

I'm confused that it didn't need my recovery USB.

I'm not concerned about any personal information, as they presumably did not also use it as a personal computer (i.e., type or record original stuff on it). Thus, I did not also do an erase.

So far, so good???

Will the above steps clear EVERYTHING of gifter's additions?
Their programs, their malware?
Such that when I pass it along, final recipient won't have to worry about gifter's remote access or malware, etc?

Resetting the PC (not refresh but reset) would erase any installed software but not any personal files, unless you checked the box "delete personal files/settings" or something like that.

If it's Windows 8+, the OS reinstall was done from the internet.

Yes, a reset would remove any malware.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: wiping laptops free of personal stuff, and restoring OS
« Reply #20 on: September 10, 2017, 02:40:00 PM »
Thanks very much, bacchi :)

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
wiping laptops of personal data
« Reply #21 on: September 10, 2017, 02:57:41 PM »
Downloaded the latest Eraser.
Watched its how-to video.
It demonstrates how to erase one file.

Options it gives me to target:
File
Files in Folder
Recycle Bin
Unused disk space
Secure move
Drive/Partition

I want to erase everything (except the OS).
What do I do?
« Last Edit: September 10, 2017, 05:55:00 PM by jooniFLORisploo »

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: wiping laptops free of personal data
« Reply #22 on: September 10, 2017, 06:10:32 PM »
Okay, tried Drive/Partition.
This brought up a long, full-screen, error message on a blue screen with too many words for me to catch.
Now it's making the "male symbol" (circle + arrow pointing right/up) eternally.

Good or bad?

THIS PROCESS SUCKS.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: wiping laptops free of personal data
« Reply #23 on: September 10, 2017, 06:32:39 PM »
Huh.

I think I killed the computer.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: wiping laptops free of personal data
« Reply #24 on: September 10, 2017, 06:33:38 PM »
So far, this would all go under the thread "when DIY cost more than paying someone would have."

Damn.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #25 on: September 10, 2017, 07:01:47 PM »
So I asks myself: What would a computer geek do in such an instance?

*grab a beer, then
*clean the bathroom, then
*break 12 year old's swiss army knife in the process of opening beer, then
*realize she should have asked said 12 year old to complete original tech task, saving us both grief, then
*drink beer

I am ON it.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #26 on: September 10, 2017, 07:32:53 PM »
Well, I'll be damned... If the above four steps didn't work!! Maybe!

I continued fiddling around, reading tech threads and watching Youtube videos on it that made zero sense to me.
Then tried a combo of a few of the tips that made no sense to me, and plugged in the recovery USB I made from yesterday's computer. Windows symbol came up, and the laptop gave me options!

Currently "recovering." Me and the laptop both, I guess.

bacchi

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2003
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #27 on: September 10, 2017, 08:04:03 PM »
Yeah, you can't erase your OS files, which is what I'm guessing happened. I'm surprised Eraser let you choose the boot drive for the "Drive/Partition" option.

Using the recovery USB might delete the personal files. You could then use Eraser on the "Unused disk space."

Or, if the personal files still exist after the recovery, toss 'em in the recycle bin and then use Eraser on it.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #28 on: September 10, 2017, 08:52:27 PM »
Yeah, I didn't see any suboptions under those choices. So just Drive/Partition, with no sub-selection. I was aiming for C drive. I'm certain I saw other Youtubers specifically select C, but when it gave me options, I just picked what was on that screen.

It's at 73% recovery. When it completes, I'll do that (use Eraser on Unused disk space).

Questions:

1. If I don't intentionally keep files on my PC*, what should I be using Eraser on? (I create, sometimes save to desktop for a week or two, but then put into cloud, and delete from computer, emptying recycle bin regularly.)

2. Why is Eraser often used on "unused disk space" (per examples on Youtube, etc)? How is it that hidden personal files are stored there vs elsewhere?

BiochemicalDJ

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 70
  • Location: Ottawa
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #29 on: September 11, 2017, 08:01:48 AM »
This is a gross oversimplification, but should do in this case.

1)When you 'write' a file, there's two parts to the file that get stored on the hard drive- the actual data itself taking up a part of the hard drive, and then there's information somewhere else saying 'The file is located here, it's this big, it's on these bits of hard drive, please don't write over it', etc.-

Often, when you delete a file, it's faster for the computer (and saves wear-and-tear) for the computer to tell the hard drive 'OK, you know that file? I don't care about it anymore. Free up that space and let me write over it again, sometime- whenever it comes up.' But it doesn't *actually* write over the file, until it needs to. Because speed. And a few other reasons.

When you 'Format' a hard drive, you basically overwrite the index, the computer 'Forgets' where everything is, and pretends that it's all a blank slate. But someone sufficiently sophisticated can go back, and say 'Look for all files on this- they should be this big, in this format, etc.- show me what you got' and then they can sometimes pull up a list of files that are *still* on the hard drive, the computer just doesn't know where they are.

So many of these 'Secure shredder' and 'File secure delete' programs/protocols are *deliberately* writing over the file, at its *actual* location, not just the 'index'- sometimes multiple times! (US Government standard is 3 times, I believe.) This is to try and make *absolutely sure* that the true location of the file was scrambled. But you wouldn't want to do it too many times, because it adds wear to the mechanical parts of the hard drive, and it takes a long time.

A 'Zero pass' is so named because it actually goes through the entire platter of the hard drive and changes all the 1s and 0s to *just* 0s- pure computer gibberish, basically. But it takes a long-assed time.

So all that said- When you 'temporarily' store your files on your PC, then recycle bin them, then empty it- They're still there. The computer just doesn't worry if they get overwritten, and has marked their spots as 'available.' So sufficiently malicious actors could technically recover them, without too much trouble.

2) When you scrub your 'Unused' disk space, you're deliberately telling the computer to write *SOMETHING* there, whether it's all 0s, or other kinds of gibberish, or something- sometimes multiple times. Just to make sure that no fragments of original files remain. So that's why you'd want to do that. But it takes a while, and adds a smidge of wear-and-tear on the hard drive. Still a good practice, though.


Having fun isn't hard when you have a library card.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #30 on: September 11, 2017, 08:10:32 AM »
Thanks very much, BiochemicalDJ! Despite the frustrations, I've really been enjoying learning more of the tech aspects.

Eraser had a video explaining "why wipe" in a lovely way, too. (Basically: Think of our stuff like a book. Deleting files is the equivalent of ripping the table of contents out. The rest of the book remains intact, every word, paragraph, and chapter just as we'd originally organized it.)

But wouldn't some our of our "book" be on used disk space??

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #31 on: September 11, 2017, 08:19:55 AM »
So, washing the bathroom and having a beer did get my computer to a limited level of Windows (basic version of icon, then option to recover, reset, return to earlier version, etc).

Alas, after two rounds -the first taking a few hours- the system declared it was not able to complete (presumably, reinstall the OS).

So, my guess right now is that -short of my replacing the hard drive- my own files are permanently stuck on the computer, because I can't apply anything that will wipe them.

Yes?

Anything else I can do?

bacchi

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2003
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #32 on: September 11, 2017, 08:40:56 AM »
So, washing the bathroom and having a beer did get my computer to a limited level of Windows (basic version of icon, then option to recover, reset, return to earlier version, etc).

Alas, after two rounds -the first taking a few hours- the system declared it was not able to complete (presumably, reinstall the OS).

So, my guess right now is that -short of my replacing the hard drive- my own files are permanently stuck on the computer, because I can't apply anything that will wipe them.

Yes?

Anything else I can do?

Hrm. Does it error out? The reset will do the job if it can finish.

You can use the working PC to put Eraser on the recovery USB, boot with the USB on the problem PC, and then run Eraser from the USB.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #33 on: September 11, 2017, 08:48:11 AM »
Yeah, I had created two USBs before the mess up:
*Eraser
*recovery of Computer #1

Putting Eraser into the new one and selecting "Drive/Partition" caused the meltdown.
After trying various settings to allow any degree of activity, I put the Computer #1's recovery USB into Computer #2.
It was looking good, but after some hours Computer 2 process ended with an error, yes.
I forget the message. Something like "...could not complete. No changes were made."
It gives me the option to start again (reset) or shut down computer.
I did reset again, same end.

bacchi

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2003
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #34 on: September 11, 2017, 08:58:16 AM »
Eraser needs to run from its own boot drive, which is gonna be the recovery USB. If you can copy the app to the recovery USB in a new folder, you might be able to boot from the USB and run it.

Can the recovery USB see the computer's hard drive? If so, you should be good to erase it, format it, and then reinstall the OS. Or, at the least, erase.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #35 on: September 11, 2017, 09:00:33 AM »
Will play with that...

BiochemicalDJ

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 70
  • Location: Ottawa
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #36 on: September 11, 2017, 09:07:17 AM »
OK, so there's a lot going on here behind the scenes, but let's see if I can get you where you need to be, based on reading your post.

So, when Windows has a thing to try and 'Recover' your computer. Basically, it takes your existing windows install, writes 'checkpoints' of what programs you had installed, what your settings are, etc. etc. and can sometimes 'Roll back' to these settings. Usually this is to stop the user from breaking something beyond repair. (You install the newest greatest ITunes and it stops your computer from booting? Better System Repair™!)

That can only go so far. We will come back to this, and I'll explain what I *think* has happened to you, based on your descriptions.

So, I've never used Eraser, but there are many utilities like it. As a rule of thumb, if you're running your program from a bootable USB (in the old days, it was a bootable CD, and older than that, a bootable Floppy), you're actually bypassing Windows altogether. The computer is running whatever's on the bootable USB- BEFORE it even gets to Windows.

So when you're running from this bootable media, you can actually do tons of stuff to your windows install, basically breaking it more horribly than would be possible otherwise- because there's no 'idiot proofing' when you're interacting with your PC at the 'Pre-operating system' or 'Outside of Windows' level. If you're running from bootable media, it's a pretty good bet you know what you're doing.

So what it *sounds* like you did (feel free to correct me) is that you ran Eraser from a bootable USB, bypassing Windows altogether (Yay!) and it gave you options as to what you wanted to 'clean/wipe'. And you picked 'Partition', which basically says 'Everything that used to be Windows and everything on there? Nuke it. For real.'

What usually happens after that successful procedure is, you reboot your machine, remove the bootable media, the computer has orders to run the operating system (Windows, Linux, Mac OSX, whatever), and it makes the attempt. And it asks the Hard Drive if it's got anything.

At which point, the hard drive goes 'Nah, I got nothing. I'm scrambled.' and you get a classic DOS prompt that says something like

'No boot drive found. Insert Bootable Media or point to correct drive and reboot to continue'. Flashing tiny DOS cursor below this forever, until reboot.

Success, the computer's nuked and ready for a fresh Windows install.

So where I'm trying to figure out what happened to you, is how you ended up with a BSOD.

Somewhere in the process, it sounds like you had a 'Blue-Screen-Of-Death'. That's a windows error- When the screen flashed blue, said a bunch of crap way too fast for you to read, then rebooted itself. Bad news. Can be caused by... Well, almost anything with Windows. It's kind of a famous thing. If you google 'BSOD', you'll see what I mean. It's not the end of the world, but it's a pain the ass. Doubly so if it happened while you were in the middle of a relatively complex delete/install operation.

The weird part is, I can't figure out where the heck you got your BSOD, because if you were running Eraser from bootable media, you shouldn't have hit Windows at all. The whole operation should have gone through pre-operating system, and you'd be good to go.

So my best guess is (and this genuinely is a guess), you stick your Windows USB back in, and it reads the drive and goes 'Somewhere on here is a bastard, mangled, horribly maimed install of Windows. Do you want me to try and use System Restore™ points and my best guesses to repair that crap'? And you said 'Yeah, give it a shot.'

It tried, and then failed.

So... It's not necessarily an emergency, and you can definitely come back from this. I'm just having a hard time understanding how you got here xD.

Having fun isn't hard when you have a library card.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #37 on: September 11, 2017, 09:24:38 AM »
I believe you've got it all exactly correct.
i.e., That all sounds true to what took place from my perspective.
Yes, I googled BSOD a lot yesterday.
It was Googling that, and trying out the available options presented, that got me to what seemed like a slightly better place.

How I got to the BSOD...
Computer was functioning (like a POS, but functioning).
I plugged in the Eraser USB and selected Partition.
The symbol for male (circle with arrow sticking out) came up endless times across the screen.
I eventually powered it off (via pressing and holding power button).
When I restarted: BSOD.

BiochemicalDJ

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 70
  • Location: Ottawa
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #38 on: September 11, 2017, 10:03:02 AM »
Sweet Jesus. The symbol for Male should really never be part of a computer repair... That's not in the manual ;)

So what I'm getting from this explanation is that it appears you did *NOT* boot from USB.

You generally have to turn on the computer, smack either F8 or F10 a bunch before Windows starts (It will tell you what button to push to 'Select boot device' but it flashes super quick across the top of the screen) and then specify your boot device to be USB, or 'Removable Media' rather than HDD1 or CDROM1. You'll know you did it right when the Eraser dialog/menu/etc comes up INSTEAD of Windows, and windows was never part of the equation.

It sounds a bit like you were running Windows from the hard drive, inserted Eraser, and eraser said 'Do you want me to try and nuke the entire hard drive? Including Windows? Which you're running? Which you're using to run *ME* right now?' and somehow, it allowed you to say yes, at which point it tried to delete itself like a snake eating its own tail and all hell broke loose. (All guesses.)

So my theory is, you're getting BSODs because your Windows install is so mangled now that it'll basically never boot again in its current state (halfway to nuketown!), and you need to finish the job. You need a complete hard drive wipedown, no trace of Windows left, fresh for a brand new fancy install. It's also important to note (and I hope, comforting) that you probably have done zero actual hard damage to your computer in this entire process- just on the software level. The machine should still be completely functional- just after getting a full clean and system reinstall.

... So my recommendation now is make sure the computer is booted from USB and using the Eraser tool or any other of the fabulous, bootable 'Rescue' USB disks available, you order up a low level format / zero pass / complete nuke of the entire partition on the hard drive.

Here's a good list of free recovery USB images and the instructions on how to use them at the following article:

http://lifehacker.com/5984707/five-best-system-rescue-discs

I personally vouch for HiRen's BootCD, which I believe has several low level format tools (read: Hard drive scramblers/nukers) on it, any of which would do the job.

Once you're confirmed booted from the tool (and not windows) and you order up the delete, you should be able to make a pot of tea and hang out for an hour or two while it does it's thing, then you'll know 100% it worked if you get that 'No bootable media found' error after the reboot when you pull the USB disk.

Then, you toss your Windows USB back in, boot, and select 'Fresh Install', and follow the clickies. The only thing to note is that the Hard Drive will likely show up as 'Unformatted' in one big block, and you'll have to manually tell Windows to 'Format' the whole thing to NTFS before install. Should be relatively painless. (Also, will be another sign the process worked.)

Hoping this will work for you.

Also, as a heads up, this same service from my old computer shop (My first job!) would have charged you $250 CAD for everything you're about to do yourself in a couple of clicks.

« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 10:10:19 AM by BiochemicalDJ »
Having fun isn't hard when you have a library card.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #39 on: September 11, 2017, 10:30:50 AM »
That again sounds all correct to what I can fathom, yes :)

I did adjust the settings at BIOS (or whatever) to boot from USB, rather than from any other location, but whether it actually did? Dunno.

I will give all this a go.

At the very least, I'm learning loads, which I believe will all be helpful for understanding my tech in general, future maintenance, future cleanups, etc.

Shinplaster

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 940
  • Location: the frozen north
  • The ghost in the corner
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #40 on: September 11, 2017, 05:18:38 PM »
Thankfully my laptop is working fine, but I just want to say if I had a problem, I'd like BiochemDJ to walk me through it.  You give great (and simple!) explanations of what to me is a dark mystery.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #41 on: September 11, 2017, 10:23:41 PM »
Quote
turn on the computer, smack either F8 or F10 a bunch before Windows starts

Both F8 & F12 brought up a single, flashing cursor in the top left corner.
Sometimes part way along I saw 'F12 Boot Options'.
So I did a round of F12 too, but same single, flashing cursor.

Raenia

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 304
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #42 on: September 12, 2017, 06:24:43 AM »
On my last computer it was F3.  If that doesn't work, try googling the model of computer and "BIOS Boot Options" or something like that, you should be able to find the right key to use.

BiochemicalDJ

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 70
  • Location: Ottawa
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #43 on: September 12, 2017, 07:20:28 AM »
Now, you mentioned- you already set the boot options priority in the BIOS! Therefore, you likely won't need to do the F12 trick if it's set correctly. It should just go.

Boot options was the thing you were hoping for. The trouble with that is always timing; it's basically voodoo magic knowing when to hit F12 that the computer will 'Get' it. If you saw a message indicating that F12 would lead to boot options, then you're pretty close. My best recommendation would be to boot the computer and keep tapping F12 constantly the entire boot cycle until you see the boot options.

If you have it set in the BIOS, then you don't need to smack anything; it should run down the list you've provided in priority from top to bottom. So, if your USB is truly 'bootable' (it's a minor pain in the ass to get them to this state; see the HiRen's BootCD Boot from USB guide), it should just launch you right into it. If it fails, the USB may not be set correctly, or the computer doesn't support USB booting (only older machines wouldn't). Note that USB sticks *definitely* do not come from the factory 'Bootable'; it takes intervention via a few software programs to get them there. I just follow the how-to on the recovery USB of choice's site (in my case, HiRen's.)

Ideally, once you're in the boot options section, you've got a list of 3 or 4 things and one of them is removable. In a perfect world, you'll arrow key down to the right one, hit enter, and then it'll go.

Note- once you understand how to make bootable USBs and then boot from them, other people *may* end up considering you a voodoo wizard, as you'll be able to boot into another operating system (other than windows) and then read many of their files, copying them wherever you want. Even on nominally busted Windows computers. With great power comes great responsibility.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 07:34:30 AM by BiochemicalDJ »
Having fun isn't hard when you have a library card.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #44 on: September 12, 2017, 07:23:04 AM »
Ah, thank you, Raenia!
It is F2 :)

The screen that comes up has one reference to Boot, and that's Boot Sequence.
It is still set to USB.
I then followed the directions here:
https://www.dell.com/support/article/ca/en/cabsdt1/sln142679/how-to-enable-boot-from-dvd-option-with-uefi-boot-mode-enabled--windows-8--81--10-?lang=en

I set it to UEFI/USB Storage Device.

I continued the instructions there, ultimately hitting F12 to boot from there.
For the first time, a screen came up inviting to boot from...
I chose USB.

Flashing cursor in top left returned.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #45 on: September 12, 2017, 07:32:20 AM »
Quote
So, if your USB is truly 'bootable' (it's a minor pain in the ass to get them to this state [...] If it fails, the USB may not be set correctly,

Okay, based on this I swapped the USBs again. Because it seemed everything was set correctly, yet the USB with Eraser wouldn't go.

The USB with the Windows Recovery from Computer #1 did. Now, remember it got here before too! This is where it spent a long time "recovering this PC" and gave an error in the end. Will note the error here if it appears again.

BiochemicalDJ

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 70
  • Location: Ottawa
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #46 on: September 12, 2017, 07:38:57 AM »
OK, so your Windows Recovery USB- I think I misunderstood its purpose. I thought it genuinely was a Windows install USB- one that you would download from the microsoft website.

I think it might instead be a 'recovery' USB that Dell and other third party PC manufacturer's let you make to try and restore your stuff.

Generally, those rely on a second, partially hidden partition on your hard drive that contains windows install information and proprietary Dell/Lenovo whatever software BS. The 'Recovery' USB can restore it to factory defaults, but only if those partitions are in good shape.

Bad news is, I can't guarantee those partitions would still be intact if they were attacked with Eraser, if the program does what I think it does. If I'm correct in my theory, Eraser would return the hard drive to a 'blank slate', direct from factory- no hidden partitions, no dell bullshit, etc... but also no way to conveniently 'restore' the PC with one button.

So you'd have to start from square one with a fresh Windows 10 install USB- luckily, Microsoft makes them pretty easy to make (google 'Make Windows 10 Install USB' and I think Microsoft has a tool for it.

I think it would even make *that* USB bootable for you, but you wouldn't be able to use that USB to run any other third party utilities (HiRen's, etc.). For that, you'd need your own homebrew Bootable USB.
Having fun isn't hard when you have a library card.

BiochemicalDJ

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 70
  • Location: Ottawa
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #47 on: September 12, 2017, 07:44:12 AM »
The USB with the Windows Recovery from Computer #1 did...

Crap. I just re-read this.

If you made a 'Windows Recovery USB' based entirely on another *computer*- ie. that one was a Dell, this one is a Lenovo/Homebrew/Whatever, it's *extremely* unlikely to work. Windows Recovery USBs or CDs made directly from Windows or from Dell/Lenovo/IBM utilities are *specific* to *that* exact computer and model. With that hardware config, etc.

If it's *that* kind of recovery USB, it's kind of like you were telling the computer to re-build itself based on instructions that are completely irrelevant (different hardware, different versions, different software, etc.)

If that were the case, it would be entirely unsurprising that it failed.

A brand new, fresh Windows 10 *install* USB (made from the Microsoft website with the Microsoft provided tool) will work on *any* computer. A 'Windows Recovery Disk' made from another computer likely won't.

Good news is, you've proven your computer can boot from a properly made bootable USB. So there's that. Now we just need to make the right ones (a HiRen's bootable and a Windows 10 Install bootable.)
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 07:46:58 AM by BiochemicalDJ »
Having fun isn't hard when you have a library card.

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #48 on: September 12, 2017, 07:49:51 AM »
Oh, okay! That all sounds like it might be correct (again).

What Shinplaster said is true: The way you present it makes me feel like I know what we're talking about! Makes it all seem doable.

I will see the current Recovery process to its end (faster now after the first one), and if it doesn't work (which I think it won't, because it didn't before and because yeah, I bet I killed that partition via Eraser), I'll make a new one off the Windows site and start again. At least it is in fact booting off the USB, etc.

Question: When I put Eraser in, selected "Partition", then hit Enter, the "male symbol" appeared right off the bat. If Eraser had been killing the Partition, would it have done so this quickly, and with only this "notification"? Was the male symbol evidence that Eraser was in fact erasing, and I gave it several minutes to do so before shutting it down? Or did Eraser not function at all and something else glitched to create the male symbol?

jooniFLORisploo

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2591
  • Location: under the couch, looking upward
Re: how to not fix your computer
« Reply #49 on: September 12, 2017, 07:53:54 AM »
Quote
If that were the case, it would be entirely unsurprising that it failed.

Yep! All along I didn't expect a Recovery from Computer #1 to work on Computer #2, but hoped it might, because I hadn't known Windows would give me the stuff. So, I'll do that next.

I'm going to create the Windows Install one and re-read your instructions re: HiRen's bootable.