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I will give away my old laptop. It is double bootable: ubuntun and windows. Both OS ask for password at startup. Once I give it away I don't want that someone get some personal data stored in it. Formating hard drive is not an option. Do you known how difficult is bypass windows and ubuntu passwords? Could some read the data stored in the laptop?

Thanks.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Jan 12 '13 at 13:44

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If someone wanted to access your data, one would not even need your password. It is very easy to access a user's profile. All it takes is a click of a button to re-assign file and folder permissions, and one will be able to access any unencrypted files in the user's profile. –  XP1 Jan 12 '13 at 14:08
    
@XP1, how can you do that without root access? –  terdon Jan 12 '13 at 16:56
    
@terdon Sorry, I was talking about Windows. I have less experience with Ubuntu. –  XP1 Jan 13 '13 at 1:49
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3 Answers

If you don't want to expose any of your personal data, then formatting the drive is your only reliable option - it is trivial to boot from USB stick (using something like Parted Magic) and mount your Windows or Linux partitions and read the data without having to enter any password.

If you want to leave bootable Windows on it to increase resale value, you will have to painfully and very carefully remove all your personal data from Windows partition, but you will probably forget something.

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If someone got your laptop they do not need to bypass any password to get your data: it just needs to pull the drive out of the laptop, plug it and read it on another computer. The only solution is to format the hard drive...

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Have you considered simply deleting your personal data without touching the OS files? I assume you don't want to format because you want to give the laptop with a working OS installed. None of your personal data are in the system directories.

So, for Linux just run sudo userdel YOUR_USER to delete your user and then sudo rm -rf /home/YOUR_USER to delete your user's home directory. Unless the person you are giving the laptop to is both extremely curious, technically minded and has a lot of free time to mess around with your (presumably not terribly important, classified, life-and-death data) that will be enough to protect you. For windows you can do the same, just manually delete the folders you are worried about.

Finally, you can also uninstall specific programs that might contain your passwords and other data.

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