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If I perform a factory reset on my laptop and sell, is it all possible for the person to whom I sold the laptop to access my files; in other words, are any traces of old files left behind, which the person could access somehow?

EDIT: I have Windows Enterprise (at least, I believe I do; all I know is that I have the most expensive version of Windows there is), and am wondering if performing such a factory reset will cause me to loose my version of Windows.

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"factory reset"? Do you mean to perform a restore to it's original state using whatever recovery mechanism was provided by the vendor? – joeqwerty Jan 5 '14 at 18:00
Yes, I desire to restore the laptop the conditions it had upon my purchasing it, the factory settings. Also, the laptop came with Windows Enterprise, will the factory reset cause me to loose this? – Mack Jan 5 '14 at 18:08
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Yes, when Windows deletes files it does not zero out the space that the files occupy, but it just tombstones the entry in the MFT. Unless a "non-quick" format is selected during install, drive space is not zeroed out during reformatting. It's possible to run recovery or undelete utilities which may turn up old deleted files or traces thereof.

I'm assuming by "factory reset" you are talking about the Reset option in the Update and Recovery menu described here.

You should first, make sure all your data is backed up to an external device. Then make sure all data is deleted and the Recycle bin is emptied. Then, run Sysinternal's SDelete or a similar tool (such as the "Drive Wipe" option in CCleaner). This should render any deleted files unrecoverable. You can then proceed with the reset. If you are extra paranoid, run one of these utilities after the reset, and perform another reset.

This shouldn't change your version of Windows. Windows 8 OEM versions get the key from the BIOS so it's nothing you have to worry about.

I don't know the exact details of how the rest works, but it's likely it depends on a recovery partition on your system, so don't use something like DBAN which might erase that.

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