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Is it a common practice to back-up a brand new computer? This computer has never even been taken out of the box and turned on.

I always assumed, perhaps wrongly, that back-up is for archiving "personal" documents - your pictures, documents, music files, etc.

A friend of mine gave her brand new laptop to a co-worker who told her he would back it up for her before she started using it. He returned the laptop, told her it "took 4 hours to back it up" then didn't give her any discs with the back-up data. He also promised her he would install OpenOffice for her, but its not installed. She feels like something isn't exactly above board with this. Is she correct?

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Just use the recovery disc/partition to reset the laptop anew, then back it up yourself using clonezilla (if you can burn a cd you know how to use it). You don't need some fishy backdoor installed by a pervert in your laptop ! – Shadok Feb 27 '12 at 17:26
I checked the laptop yesterday for maleware, spyware, or any other nasties. I didn't find any. – eBeth Feb 27 '12 at 18:17
It's a good idea to backup a new computer so that you can restore it to it's factory settings without having to reinstall everything - which takes time. However, it doesn't sound like you trust this 'guy' and you're getting some creepy vibes. I always give the customer any copies I make - he should do this too. Is your friend with the PC rather attractive? The possibility that the guy installed spyware increases the hotter she is - seriously. – skub Feb 27 '12 at 20:14
Makes me wonder if he borrowed parts from it also, sounds creepy to me also. – Moab Feb 27 '12 at 22:15
@eBeth Given the ease of putting back the original OS I wouldn't take the risk, explain the case to your friend and ask her what she wants to do. – Shadok Feb 28 '12 at 9:52

It would probably be a good idea to make an initial image of the system in case you ever wanted to restore it completely to 'out of the box' configuration. You can use the built in Windows tools or something off the shelf like Acronis.

Here is a link to Acronis:

Or if you want to use the already installed Windows Utilities:

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Thanks for the links. I'm going to look into these. She REALLY wants "back-up" discs for herself so I can make them for her. This guy keeps telling her "I have everything - just tell me when you need them." That doesn't help if she looses contact with him. – eBeth Feb 27 '12 at 18:21
Exactly, it is really easy just to take a quick full image of the machine in case the person ever needs it fully restored to factory condition. Incremental back-up plan would be good so that data is saved as well. – xXPhenom22Xx Feb 27 '12 at 18:28

If you don't trust this person, tell your friend to not use that computer. There are several malicious things that could have been done to the computer but here are two of the most likely and serious:

  • He could have installed a keylogger. This will record everything you type and email it off somewhere. This would allow someone to steal any passwords, credit card information, incriminating secrets, etc. that have been entered into that laptop.

  • He could have installed a backdoor on the computer. This would allow the attacker to gain control of the computer, including such things as turning on a webcam and transmitting what it sees.

The solution is delete everything off of the computer (which will destroy the malicious software) and reinstall the operating system. You want to take OS install disc (which came with the computer) and use it reformat the hard disk, then reinstall the OS.

Backups are never made of new computers. There is no point: there is nothing on there but the OS, and you have the install disc for that. And yes, backup often only covers files you personally created, because everything else can be restored from elsewhere. There is also something called disk imaging that will backup the entire computer, but that requires extra hard disks or magnetic tape, and isn't typically done for a personal computer (servers are another question).

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Many systems come with a utility to make a backup of the full system. This would allow a recovery if there was a failure or you wanted to start with a fresh install. This avoids having to have media for Windows and any pre-installed apps.

This usually creates an ISO or possibly more. You would then burn the ISO to use as a recovery disk. They are usually bootable. Four hours seems long but I did have a Toshiba that seemed to take forever. Not sure how long as it simply ran while I did something else.

Check for ISO files on the computer. No idea on OpenOffice.

A backup can also be for any data on the system.

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That makes sense as the computer didn't come with any discs. I'll check for and ISO image (didn't think of that). I'll end up installing OpenOffice for her, but, that's what friends are for. – eBeth Feb 27 '12 at 18:25
Some PC's also have the ability for you to make your own Factory Recovery Discs (or flashdrive), HP for example has this feature. Post the make and specific model for more information regarding this. – Moab Feb 27 '12 at 22:17

You are correct that backups are usually meant to save important information somewhere besides on the system itself. If this was a Server, the important stuff would be all of it: the whole Operating System and all the programs and everything. Because it's just a personal laptop, the important stuff is the personal stuff.

The technician may indeed have backed up the whole system, which could have taken up to 4 hours depending on how he was backing it up. However, not giving any media (disks, drives, etc) containing backed up data is indeed very fishy.

Like others have suggested, I would recommend you use the built-in system restore tools to restore the system to a fresh and clean brand new state and then use a system like Dropbox or simply a thumbdrive to store backups without needing any technical help. It's usually cheaper this way too.

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Most people don't back up virgin systems, but there are several valid reasons to do so. My own main reason, is to give a great big * * * * you to whoever decides they need to read the disk if I need to return the device. A different reason is to simplify reinstallation later if you actually use the OS that was preinstalled. Persons with a bit of foresight sometimes prefer to take occasional snapshots (another name for backup that does not refer to personal documents) of their systems so they can revert quickly if their drives break or they do something they regret. A full backup of a 500GB disk takes at least an hour and a half if it's ripped out of the computer and connected to another, 4 hours 37 minutes to a USB drive and 11 hours over a 100mb/s network connection. (Time is proportional to capacity, easy to scale.) More or less time is required depending on whether compression is employed and if one makes assumptions about, or disregards unlinked disk areas.

However, what you describe is an archetypical example of social engineering. If the computer is for a single user, and not managed by an IT department, there should be very good reasons before somebody apart from it's designated user is given the ability to make changes that normally require greater privileges than that of a generic user.

I would suggest your friend speaks to the management in her company about this strange behavior in her coworker, and have someone with the necessary knowledge confront the coworker about it. Depending on the circumstances, a suitable reaction could range from a disapproving message to criminal charges. (Assuming the episode is somehow related to the company.) Afterwards, she should obtain installation media for her operating system and wipe the disk before reinstalling and producing any backups she requires.

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Sounds odd. I dont see how it could take 4 hours to back up a brand new machine. Personally before I would use it I would reimage it myself with whatever OS it is.

Assuming it is windows reinstall windows and then you can back up the image for later recovery.

By backing up a fresh machine with an image using windows backup(another answer beat me to finding a link) you can then reinstall that image onto a computer to mimic the safe beginning state of the new pc. This is sometimes common practice for users who like to keep entire system images (and tnose who also have space).

Once you get familiar with the process you can perform a new image every so often. The image backs up everything including docs, music etc. This way when you get a nasty virus or a busted hdd you can restore the image on the pc or even on another machine.

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Yes, does sound odd. It is a large drive, but it is mostly empty. – eBeth Feb 27 '12 at 18:26
@eBeth As for the "fishy backdoor" comment under your question. A fishy backdoor wouldn't take up much space. I'd imagine if you knew the guy I'd hope he wouldn't so such a thing :) – sealz Feb 27 '12 at 18:43

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