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I recently got a new desktop computer. I transferred all of my files, installed all of my software, adjusted all of my settings and I've been using this computer to do everything (work, play, pay bills, buy stuff, etc. etc. etc.).

Turns out the computer has a problem, and the problem requires it being shipped back to where I bought it for repair.

Problem is, I don't feel comfortable shipping back a computer with all of my data on it. Pictures, work stuff, bill stuff, personal info.

I'm sure the techs are probably lovely people who wouldn't snoop around and do evil things. And sure there probably wouldn't be any issues during shipping where the computer ends up in the wrong hands.

I'm sure all of this has a low probability, but that still ain't good enough.

So my question is, what can I do here? Is my only option to just wipe it clean and start from scratch when they send it back?


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Ask them if you can send it in without the hard drive ;) – slhck Jul 22 '12 at 2:38
If you have (and you should have) a backup of your data, shred the data on the drive and send it in, and when it gets back, restore your backup. This presumes that the problem is not software-related, in which case you'll have to trust them. (Disclosure: I work part-time in a computer shop. We don't snoop because mostly we're afraid of what we'll find, and also we see so many computers a day, there's no time or inclination to snoop.) – user3463 Jul 22 '12 at 2:43
Just to add to @RandolphWest's suggestion: Make sure your backup actually works after you've created it. – slhck Jul 22 '12 at 2:45
please specify if it is a hardware or software issue. – Kendrick Jul 22 '12 at 3:37
Often, part of the diagnostics is to wipe and reinstall Windows. Your data is not their problem and won't be covered by any warranty or guaranty. EXPECT to lose everything on there, and prepare for that before sending it in. We often get computers in for repair with no HDD in them because of this same reason. – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Jul 22 '12 at 14:54

3 options depending on what the issue is.

  1. Hardware failure, I would discuss with them about not shipping the hdd. I personally would not ship my own drives. when I have drive failures I prefer to wipe them before sending back for replacement.

  2. Software failure, you can backup your drive, verify the backup is good and then wipe data on the pc before shipping.

  3. Software Failure, You can add a 2nd hdd to the system and have all of your profile data, documents etc. on that drive. This will be a bit of work to make it happen properly but wold be the easiest if further issues occor. You would make a local account for the techs to use that would be normally disabled and have its profile data on the c drive. you could also use that account to verify the software issue is not tied to your normal login as well. all of your regular data would be on a drive you could pull before shipping and still allow the tech's to do most any repairs. This option would take a bit of planning and setup so most people are not excited about it. Once set up though would just be a matter of a min or 2 to pull the hdd out of the system and you are ready to ship. laptops are a bit more of a pain to do this way as most dont have 2 drives, virtual drives and or always having a 2.5 external drive do make it possible though.

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Please note, there's no reliable way to remove data from a drive except for running the secure erase commands which render the whole disk scrambled. – Ben Voigt Jul 22 '12 at 4:26
Sorry, forgot to mention that it's a hardware issue, not software. – in10 Jul 22 '12 at 12:12
@BenVoigt I dont ever send my own in so havent looked close at the multiple rewrite over files cleaners out there, I thought I had seen some that were nsa approved. – Kendrick Jul 24 '12 at 1:39
@Kendrick: No such thing as NSA-approved disk wipe software. The companies make a big deal of using the same algorithms as NSA-approved secure disks. but the problem is that the software can't overwrite spare and failed sectors (or for flash, wear levelling). Only the drive's only logic can do that, any secure erase must be done inside the drive, not from the outside. – Ben Voigt Jul 24 '12 at 3:32

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