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How do I clean this new-to-us computer?

 
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A year or two back, a friend gave us their son's old computer. They said they'd had it cleaned, and we let it sit around since we got it because it's always a pain to switch computers--all the tranfering of files and installing of programs. It takes hours, which we really didn't want to spend. Anyway, our current computer keeps getting slower and slower, so I figured it was finally time to switch to the new-to-us computer...

....My husband opened up Chrome on the new computer, and noticed that obviously it had NOT been cleaned out. The history and bookmarks (both FULL of porn sites ), were all still there. When he clicked facebook, it auto-filled the previous owner's password. Obviously, this computer was not cleaned very well!

So, how do I clean it? And, how do I find all the weird settings and change them to better ones? It's Windows 10, and we found a bunch of settings that we defaulted to let aps access our location and microphone, etc; and even allowed the aps to send messages and emails. We turned those all off, but what else are we missing?
 
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Most times Windows computers have a recovery partition.  If you go to the manufacturer's web site, it will tell you how to access it.   You turn the computer off and as it is coming back on, you hit a specific keys or keys and it goes into recovery mode.  It's very simple and only takes a few minutes.  It wipes everything out and puts it back to the way it was when it came from the factory.
 
Nicole Alderman
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It looks like it's an Acer Athlon II X2 255 computer that was initially installed with Windows 7 and then upgraded to Windows 10. If I do the recovery, will I lose the Windows 10?
 
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Nicole,

I have two options for you.  If you really, really want a clean computer, the best options are to either reformat the hard drive or install a new hard drive.

Of the two, installing a second hard drive gives you a place to park all your new files and saves the first hard drive only for operating software.  I no longer buy but build my computers now and I always install a “C” drive for operating software ONLY and I install a “D” drive for data ONLY.

After you get your second hard drive up and running, go through and delete everything not needed, like old cookies and random files.

Did you get any software on external media(meaning CD, DVD)?  The reason I ask is that you could just reformat the original drive and re-install the operating system and important software.  When I build a system I buy the OS and one or two other programs I will use a lot and I download free versions of everything else.

If this is all to complicated, just let me know and we can find a simple and cheap way to get you up and running.

BTW, that older, slower computer is not broken, it simply has a lot of extraneous files that have added up and need deleting.  It is not a difficult operation, just some maintenance that needs be done.  You can even buy some software to help with this.

Last point.  You will likely need a new hard drive soon anyway.  Hard drives have a lifespan and when they die, you lose everything unless you back up.  I am a backup fanatic because I have lost hard drives before (though fortunately I had already backed up before losing the hard drive so I lost nothing).  I strongly recommend at least getting an external drive to backup since you are buying a used computer.

If you really need help, I will let my son take a look at it remotely.  He is a whiz and loves doing this stuff!  That is if you want.

Best of luck,

Eric
 
Trace Oswald
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Yes, but as far as I know, you can still do the free upgrade to win 10.  MS said they ended it but it was still working a few weeks ago.

A better option in my mind is to download and install Elementary OS and be done with Windows.  There isn't much of a learning curve to it anymore and you can run it from CD without installing first if you want to try it.  It will run much more slowly from CD of course than it does when it is installed.  It's a really beautiful operating system and the entire install only takes about 10-15 minutes and two or three questions, like what time zone you are in.  It's also free.
 
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Let it log in as the current user. Go to Control Panel>users and create a user for yourself and make it an administrator. Log out and log in as your new user. Go to File Explorer and on the C: drive find the Users folder. Delete the previous user. Go to Control Panel>Programs and Features to see if there is any software you want to uninstall. After that, click on the start button and type Disk Cleanup. Run this and that will get rid of any temp files left over. This will also not mess with any licensing so you won't lose Windows 10.
 
Trace Oswald
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Marie Grace wrote:Let it log in as the current user. Go to Control Panel>users and create a user for yourself and make it an administrator. Log out and log in as your new user. Go to File Explorer and on the C: drive find the Users folder. Delete the previous user. Go to Control Panel>Programs and Features to see if there is any software you want to uninstall. After that, click on the start button and type Disk Cleanup. Run this and that will get rid of any temp files left over. This will also not mess with any licensing so you won't lose Windows 10.



That's a very good option as long as the person stored everything in their user profile and most people do.  If you go that route, a registry cleaning program will cleanup old broken links and things and make the computer run much faster.

Eric Hanson wrote: I have two options for you.  If you really, really want a clean computer, the best options are to either reformat the hard drive or install a new hard drive.



That's true, but if you just use the recovery partition, it formats the hard drive for you as part of the install and sets the machine backs to factory-new.  The recovery partition ust automates the process for you so you don't have to do the new install manually.

If you install a new hard drive and slave the old one, you don't gain much in this case, assuming there is nothing on the hard drive they want.  I'm assuming there isn't, because it wasn't their computer.  You do gain an additional drive, but it isn't tremendously helpful if used the way you mentioned.  Your way is the best way to use it, and I do it as well, but I also do backups to a server.  If you don't back up somewhere else, the problem comes in if you lose the data drive.  No one generally cares about the "C:" drive, because it's just your programs.  All the data is on the extra drive, so you still don't have redundancy of your data, and that is the important thing.
 
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My vote is to clean up Windows via one of the previous suggestions, then dual boot install Ubuntu and setup a second hard drive for your data files. That's what I went to a few years ago and it's soooo nice.
 
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Trace,

Actually I agree with just about everything in your post.

In the backup note I have an installed “Z” drive to which I backup nightly.

I also have an external hard drive that I back up to monthly.

Eric
 
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Nicole,

Trace and others have some excellent points.

Eric
 
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I know there are already a lot of responses and they are all legit. But here's how I do it. (I do these a lot for friends because buying comps on craigslist is a great way to save money)

  Verify your windows license number. If you have the original cds that came with it it's on there or on a sticker in the case. I believe it's in the software somewhere too. Sometimes it's actually on the motherboard.

  Go to Microsoft website and download a Windows 10 CD. It's free, it's the license you pay for.

  Find and download DBAN (Derriks Boot and Nuke). This is a CD you pop in before startup that will wipe, wipe, WIPE your hard drive. It has options that range from writing a 0 into every bit of memory to a full-on DoD wipe (If you have 20+ hours).

  Then pop in the Windows CD you downloaded and presto! Brand new computer/ win 10. Enter your registration key when you get tired of the transparent "reminder" that it's not done. Although, I have used a computer without registering windows for          YEARS, hahaha.

I am not a IT expert by any means but I do have an AA in networking. And computer science! So, that and $7 will get me a cup of coffee at the local Charbucks...
 
Trace Oswald
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Dan Fish wrote:
  Find and download DBAN (Derriks Boot and Nuke). This is a CD you pop in before startup that will wipe, wipe, WIPE your hard drive. It has options that range from writing a 0 into every bit of memory to a full-on DoD wipe (If you have 20+ hours).

 



That works, but it is very much overkill for anyone not trying to erase illegal activity from a hard drive.  If you don't want to see the friend's son's porn bookmarks, a simple reload will do everything you need and in 10 minutes rather than hours.
 
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If you don't mind learning a different operating system, I suggest Linux Mint 18.3.

There are so many benefits over MS that it's hard to know where to start.  Though really that is determined by what is important to you.  Time, simplicity, and nosiness are my pet peeves, and where MS fails most by comparison, imo.

Since you have two laptops to work with, you could give Linux a try on one.  If this is a consideration, you can find details at https://www.linuxmint.com/edition.php?id=248 for Mate.  There are other editions though I've found Mate to be most appealing.  Maybe you know someone local who uses Linux who can discuss it with you?  

Linux OSs are free, open source, and have become so 'made for anyone' that the learning curve is next to nothing.  A friend who is not at all computer or internet savvy was actually excited after using the Mate desktop interface on my laptop.  More so after I installed it on hers because Office Libre converts Microsoft Office products.  MS subscriptions can be optional unless you're tied to using those products.  She said that was helpful with homeschooling.  Her laptop is about 7 years old and now it moves like a kid again :.)  (Mine is so old there is no bluetooth!  About 8-ish years old with the hard drive signalling it's close to done.  Still the Linux OS works like a champ.)  Her kids love it and have since learned more about Linux than I have during the past 10-ish years ^.^  

GIMP is way cool and comes free with the standard install.  It's a slimmed version of Adobe Photoshop.  There's thousands of free apps, games for kids (not all junk), and educational tutorials for typing, math, etcetera.  I used the Tux math tutorials to help with saggy math skills.  The Software Manager allows searching for and installing free open source apps, so there is no need to be concerned with anything other than installing apps for your Linux version.  It works or it doesn't.  Super easy install / uninstall with the Software Manager.

Windows is so slow on older computer models.  Tweaking can alleviate that but if a reinstall becomes necessary then all that tweaking has to be done again and those instructions become quickly outdated.  Cortana... ugh.

If you know how to partition drives, you can multi boot to use both OSs.  I use a thumb drive to download the OS install.  This allows viewing prior to install and without obligation of any kind, because it's all on the thumb drive.  If you don't want it, just remove the thumb drive and reformat for other use.  If you do, select install and follow directions.  Easy as eating pie :)

Just remembered one thing that could slow things up some, not terribly so.  These days UEFI (interferes with installing other OSs) is a factor and dealt with according to the model.  The steps are simple if sometimes long-ish.  This is for computers on which Windows was 'factory installed'.  Afterward you can install nearly anything you want in the future and be almost 100% MS free.  Or completely if, like me, you avoid MS junk at all costs :)  It's been easy enough to do that.

There is also an app called WINE that liaisons between Windows and Linux apps.  It's not an emulator, rather a kind of virtual sandbox environment for apps to sit in without touching the Linux OS.  There is a sentiment that MS does not cooperate sufficiently to allow WINE to work with more apps, though some users say WINE is worth the bother specific to their needs.  That's a toss up for me.  Haven't needed it.

All in all, about the same amount of time is spent including circumvention of UEFI to prepare for a Linux OS install.  Unless you're a developer, in which case there are probably all manner of fun tweaky things to do :.)
 
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Nicole,

Is this new/old computer a desktop or a laptop?

Eric
 
Nicole Alderman
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It's a desktop computer. We don't have any laptops.

I'm thinking Marie's idea is probably going to be the easiest for us. Programs, documents, etc do seem to have been wiped. Whoever wiped it just didn't seem to have erased the browser data. I don't think I'm up for learning (or have the time to learn) a new operating system, so I think/hope just creating a new user and deleting the old one should be good!
 
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Nicole,

Marie’s option has the benefit of being quick and easy.  I will inform my son—he will be disappointed, but don’t take that personally, that’s his problem.

Keep in mind that your 1st computer is not broken, it simply needs a little bit of maintenance, meaning deleting some extraneous files that have added up over time.  I can’t tell you which ones exactly, but I know my son would.  Just keep in mind that your 1st computer is easily made just as fast as the day you bought it.

Eric
 
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Do a factory Reset, and remove everything. It really will clean up all these files. It is a part of Windows 10, so you don't have to worry about it deleting itself. You will however have to download and install Chrome/etc all over again, but that is a good thing it will be a fresh start

To reset your PC
Start > Setting
Click Update and recovery, and then tap or click Recovery.
Under Remove everything and reinstall Windows, tap or click Get started.
Follow the instructions on the screen.
 
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Catherine Windrose wrote:If you don't mind learning a different operating system, I suggest Linux Mint 18.3.



Catherine, if you like Mint, I bet you would love Elementary OS.  It's just a really beautiful OS and I found it to be faster than Mint.  It's a really small install.

I run Ubuntu on my servers and it's really great too.
 
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instead of starting a new thread:

How do you salvage a laptop that is password protected on the OS level.  Meaning on bootup you have to enter a password.  Linux OS i believe.  A trash scavenger neighbor of mine found the laptop a year ago and after not being able to use it gave it to me.  But i wasn't able to get stated on it either.  

i did not try to boot it from a USB or anything fancy.  And i didn't open it up and remove or mess with anything.

Thanks
 
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C.E.

If it is password protected at the OS level, my bet would be to get into the bios before the OS loads.  You probably need a bootable thumb drive, but that’s my first thought.

Eric
 
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Catherine Windrose wrote:If you don't mind learning a different operating system, I suggest Linux Mint 18.3.



You just beat me to suggesting the same thing.  Linux Mint has been our primary OS for years.  Works great for decomplicating my elderly parents computer as well!.  
 
Trace Oswald
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C. E. Rice wrote:instead of starting a new thread:

How do you salvage a laptop that is password protected on the OS level.  Meaning on bootup you have to enter a password.  Linux OS i believe.  A trash scavenger neighbor of mine found the laptop a year ago and after not being able to use it gave it to me.  But i wasn't able to get stated on it either.  

i did not try to boot it from a USB or anything fancy.  And i didn't open it up and remove or mess with anything.

Thanks



You have to open the case. On the motherboard, there is a battery that looks about the size and shape of a nickle. Pull that out and leave it out for awhile. I usually wait overnight to be sure. Pulling the battery clears the bios password. There is also a small jumper that you move to a different set of pins to clear the password and then move back. You can look up what jumper it is by motherboard on the manufacturers site.  Either works on most models. A couple, like the old IBM ThinkPad are much more complicated and you should have someone that knows how do it if you have one of those. The way i posted works for about 99 % though.
 
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Catherine Windrose wrote:If you don't mind learning a different operating system, I suggest Linux Mint 18.3.

There are so many benefits over MS that it's hard to know where to start.  Though really that is determined by what is important to you.  Time, simplicity, and nosiness are my pet peeves, and where MS fails most by comparison, imo.

Since you have two laptops to work with, you could give Linux a try on one.  If this is a consideration, you can find details at https://www.linuxmint.com/edition.php?id=248 for Mate.  There are other editions though I've found Mate to be most appealing.  Maybe you know someone local who uses Linux who can discuss it with you?  

Linux OSs are free, open source, and have become so 'made for anyone' that the learning curve is next to nothing.  A friend who is not at all computer or internet savvy was actually excited after using the Mate desktop interface on my laptop.  More so after I installed it on hers because Office Libre converts Microsoft Office products.  MS subscriptions can be optional unless you're tied to using those products.  She said that was helpful with homeschooling.  Her laptop is about 7 years old and now it moves like a kid again :.)  (Mine is so old there is no bluetooth!  About 8-ish years old with the hard drive signalling it's close to done.  Still the Linux OS works like a champ.)  Her kids love it and have since learned more about Linux than I have during the past 10-ish years ^.^  

GIMP is way cool and comes free with the standard install.  It's a slimmed version of Adobe Photoshop.  There's thousands of free apps, games for kids (not all junk), and educational tutorials for typing, math, etcetera.  I used the Tux math tutorials to help with saggy math skills.  The Software Manager allows searching for and installing free open source apps, so there is no need to be concerned with anything other than installing apps for your Linux version.  It works or it doesn't.  Super easy install / uninstall with the Software Manager.

Windows is so slow on older computer models.  Tweaking can alleviate that but if a reinstall becomes necessary then all that tweaking has to be done again and those instructions become quickly outdated.  Cortana... ugh.

If you know how to partition drives, you can multi boot to use both OSs.  I use a thumb drive to download the OS install.  This allows viewing prior to install and without obligation of any kind, because it's all on the thumb drive.  If you don't want it, just remove the thumb drive and reformat for other use.  If you do, select install and follow directions.  Easy as eating pie

Just remembered one thing that could slow things up some, not terribly so.  These days UEFI (interferes with installing other OSs) is a factor and dealt with according to the model.  The steps are simple if sometimes long-ish.  This is for computers on which Windows was 'factory installed'.  Afterward you can install nearly anything you want in the future and be almost 100% MS free.  Or completely if, like me, you avoid MS junk at all costs  It's been easy enough to do that.

There is also an app called WINE that liaisons between Windows and Linux apps.  It's not an emulator, rather a kind of virtual sandbox environment for apps to sit in without touching the Linux OS.  There is a sentiment that MS does not cooperate sufficiently to allow WINE to work with more apps, though some users say WINE is worth the bother specific to their needs.  That's a toss up for me.  Haven't needed it.

All in all, about the same amount of time is spent including circumvention of UEFI to prepare for a Linux OS install.  Unless you're a developer, in which case there are probably all manner of fun tweaky things to do :.)



MX Linux is VERY fast.
Worth a look-see!

I use it on a 15 year old desktop and it works very well!

It barely uses 2GB of ram too.
 
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I've been building etc PCs for more than 20 years if it was me & I needed my files I would just migrate my drive.

This is a simple option to migrate your existing OS & files which would over-write the existing software & files

This works & is straight-forward to use.
https://www.easeus.com/backup-utility/free-windows-10-disk-imaging-software.html
Use Install to dissimilar hardware option.

You however MUST have the drivers for the new machine - if this is a pre-built PC you should be able to download the req'd driver package from the manufacturer site. These you load when you restart the PC after the migration which overwrites the destination HDD.  If you are lucky & have good internet access Win may auto-download the req'd files too, but I find it pays to cover your bases.
You will then need a couple of reboots for the drivers to install but when done it will be what you are used to & all other stuff will be gone.  

You can also secure wipe the drive prior to moving the image over
https://www.partitionwizard.com/partitionmagic/free-hard-drive-data-wipe-software-009.html

For the Win10 install you should extract the OS key on the new PC & store it so you can re-run the upgrade using a Win10 image.
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10

To get the key
https://www.techadvisor.co.uk/how-to/windows/find-windows-10-product-key-3632749/
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:You have to open the case. On the motherboard, there is a battery that looks about the size and shape of a nickle. Pull that out and leave it out for awhile. I usually wait overnight to be sure. Pulling the battery clears the bios password. There is also a small jumper that you move to a different set of pins to clear the password and then move back. You can look up what jumper it is by motherboard on the manufacturers site.  Either works on most models. A couple, like the old IBM ThinkPad are much more complicated and you should have someone that knows how do it if you have one of those. The way i posted works for about 99 % though.



Sounds like good advice, if needed, but I would just try the bios first. I've never actually seen one that had a password set.
 
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T Melville wrote:

Trace Oswald wrote:You have to open the case. On the motherboard, there is a battery that looks about the size and shape of a nickle. Pull that out and leave it out for awhile. I usually wait overnight to be sure. Pulling the battery clears the bios password. There is also a small jumper that you move to a different set of pins to clear the password and then move back. You can look up what jumper it is by motherboard on the manufacturers site.  Either works on most models. A couple, like the old IBM ThinkPad are much more complicated and you should have someone that knows how do it if you have one of those. The way i posted works for about 99 % though.



Sounds like good advice, if needed, but I would just try the bios first. I've never actually seen one that had a password set.



It depends what the poster meant by "boot up".  I took it to mean as the computer is booting up.  The password that comes up as the computer is booting up, meaning before it tries to load the operating system IS the BIOS password, or rather, one of them.  The other BIOS password is needed to get into BIOS.  I have both set on my computer, so there's at least one computer in the world that has it
 
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Password protecting BIOS settings has been a option every time I've thought to look. Stands to reason someone's using it.
 
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