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I want to sell my desktop PC, and I will keep the hard disk so no one can recover my personal files, passwords, history or anything. But I was wondering if anyone can recover any private data like passwords or key-files from the RAM or motherboard? And if it is possible, how can I clean my RAM (or should I keep that, too)?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There's nothing that should be stored in the motherboard or the RAM that's of any value at all. I've not seen any forensics tools that can recover things off switched off RAM (the cold play attack wouldn't work on a system that hasn't had its RAM frozen in situ), or from BIOS.

Both recovery scenarios you're talking about are not viable and it's safe to sell on your RAM.

If you want to be "sure", make sure any motherboard passwords you set have been cleared, and/or reset the BIOS. Remove the memory modules, then put them back in place. This works since the RAM won't have anything stored once it's switched off.

That way you'd clear any information that probably isn't there anyway.

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is this the best answer or there are other opinions. –  illsecure Nov 15 '12 at 7:47
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Its the only answer. There's really nothing to worry about. But then again, thats what I'd say as a student of computer forensics ;p –  Journeyman Geek Nov 15 '12 at 7:54
    
thats it best answers going for u, thanks –  illsecure Nov 15 '12 at 8:11
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@illsecure You might as well wait more than a few minutes for other answers and opinions to come in before you choose to accept one or the other. Wait and see what the community thinks, how they vote on the answers, et cetera. –  slhck Nov 15 '12 at 9:56

Journeyman's answer is all you need for RAM, but I don't think you need to worry about selling on a HD either. For modern disks, even a single pass with zeros or random bits will make data effectively unrecoverable by anyone without some pretty serious equipment. See here for greater detail.

Note: This is assuming HDD. SSDs work differently. For general purposes two passes seems to be enough in most cases: see here, here. Ensuring that you've really securely erased SSDs is harder though.

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thanks for the link will look at –  illsecure Nov 15 '12 at 8:12
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Yeah, personally I'd just let dban run on it, its a lot less actual work, and it dosen't hurt to be through. –  Journeyman Geek Nov 15 '12 at 9:15
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A single pass with zeroes will make modern disks effectively unrecoverable for the best and brightest with the fanciest state-of-the-art equipment also. Let's say the probability of recovering a single bit is 60%. That's a very optimistic estimate and yet only slightly better than just guessing what it was. Based on that, chances of recovering a single byte degrade to under 2%. Probability of recovering a text message this size: about 10^-800. –  Marcks Thomas Nov 15 '12 at 10:23
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With SSDs the literature is a little uncertain. jdfsl.org/subscriptions/JDFSL-V5N3-Bell.pdf this study says it makes it nearly impossible to recover. I've read studies that say the opposite - cseweb.ucsd.edu/users/m3wei/assets/pdf/… –  Journeyman Geek Nov 15 '12 at 13:36

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