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Archive for March, 2018

Mac Won’t Boot After High Sierra Upgrade, ugh.

broken_apple_mac

It is a Mac. It is supposed to just… work! One of my friends came to me with an issue. They had a perfectly good Macbook… I think it was a 2014 or 2015 model, aluminum unibody, gorgeous of course. It was working just fine until they updated it to OS X High Sierra and then it just wouldn’t boot. They let it run for hours but it would just stay at the loading screen with the grey background, Apple logo, and a progress bar that would fill completely, but the OS (operating system) just would not start.

I followed all the instructions in this article to no avail. I ran the disk checkup, I cleared the NVRAM, I did an internet recovery (which is a super awesome concept). I even tried to reinstall the OS using internet recovery and for whatever reason it wanted to reinstall OS X Lion, which is not what we want.

Luckily, in my side hustle I run a small business of computer repair and stuff, which is how I post all my secrets here. I have a small collection of OS X install files that I was able to gather just for this purpose! Lo and behold, I have a High Sierra install file (the legit one, not one from some sketchy website). I obtained this install file from a working Mac previously by downloading it from the App Store and not installing it and copying it to external media.

I am a Windows person and when you reinstall Windows you are taking a chance that it is going to write over top of a lot of your personal stuff, and you will lose it. I didn’t know if Mac OS did the same, so I made sure to make a backup of my friends personal files to an external hard drive. I took out the hard drive, connected it to a hard drive reader, and connected that to another Mac and was able to copy all of his files to a backup location, just in case.

The next thing I had to do was use that same working Macbook to create a bootable USB version of High Sierra since the bad Mac was not starting. I downloaded the application Install Disk Creator and used that to create the bootable USB High Sierra update. You could also create the bootable USB drive via command line stuff in Terminal, but that takes time and patience and a lot of correct typing. I will just use the app.

After putting the High Sierra install files and installing Install Disk Creator, I created the bootable USB drive, connected it to the Mac, turned it on and immediately held down the Option button and was able to select the USB drive. Once it loaded I selected to Install High Sierra and it started, and ran, and ran, and I started playing Horizon Zero Dawn, and it continued installing with me looking to make sure the progress bar was moving… and it was… and FINALLY, it loaded up a very custom screen with a picture of my friend and his wife which told me the install happened without deleting all of his files. HOORAY!

All in all, it wasn’t bad, but I wanted to run through the whole list of options before resorting to reinstalling the OS if it didn’t have to happen because I didn’t want to risk losing his files. In the end, I learned when reinstalling Mac OS X it doesn’t erase your files! I’m just glad I didn’t have to pull the nuclear option and completely erase the drive as I have previously discussed, because that would be annoying.

Categories: Computers, Technology

Restore your Computer to Factory Settings – Windows 10

March 3, 2018 1 comment

factory_reset_computer

Are you selling your computer to a close friend or relative where you know they won’t do whatever they can to get your files? Then you probably don’t have to use a ‘scorched earth’ method of erasing your computer as we discuss in Completely Erasing Your Computer. Instead, you can simply use a built-in Windows 10 feature to restore the computer to factory settings! It is incredibly easy to do. It will erase all of your files, programs, and any settings and make it just like the day you brought your computer home so you can sell it to your close friend/family with minimal effort.

Step 1: Back up all your stuff

It goes without saying that your computer will be erasing everything. Make sure you have all of your stuff backed up to an external media (flash drive, DVD, CD-really??-, online storage space such as OneDrive, Google Drive, or Dropbox (disclaimer: I have referral links in those, use them if you want… or not).

Step 2: Start the refresh!

Select the Start Windows logo button, then select Settings Gear-shaped icon > Update & security Circular icon > Recovery. Under Reset this PC, select Get started.

You will then see a window pop up:
Windows 10 Refresh

Select the Remove Everything option and then it will continue and do some scanning and whatnot and then have another screen titled “Your apps will be removed, ” click Next.

Then you will be waiting a little bit longer and finally:Windows 10 ready to reset

Click Reset and let the computer do the rest! It will remove all your applications (except default ones that are installed by Windows 10) and also remove all of your personal files.

When it finally reboots your computer, it will be asking you to set up your computer as a new user. Here is where you stop, because the close friend/family that will be purchasing the computer will fill all that stuff out when they get it.

You’re done! In only two steps! Now have a cup of coffee and celebrate how easy that was.

Categories: Computers, Technology

Completely and Securely Erasing Your Computer

March 3, 2018 3 comments

Completely and Securely Erasing Your Computer

This is the scenario where you are selling to a third-party person who you don’t know and don’t want them to be able to ever see what you had on your computer. This method does a GREAT job for most users… however since we know about the NSA and there are insane forensic scientists that can do almost anything… its not 100% guaranteed that it will destroy everything. But it will render your data useless and irretrievable for anybody who is reading this web article and wants to do a good job removing their private information from their computer.

Again, remember this will impossibly remove all your data and your complete operating system (OS) (Windows, Mac, or Linux). You will be able to re-install those OSs later though since they remember your computers model number, in its most simplest explanation. Basically this means you don’t have to worry about Windows product keys anymore, which is nice. Before you do all these steps, be sure you have a copy of your Windows on flash drive or DVD for re-installation!! Luckily, I found an AWESOME program that lets you download ANY Windows files from Heidoc. You can use either link to download the program, I just listed my copy on Onedrive just in case the Heidoc link ever goes down. Download your Windows and install it to a USB drive just like we do DBAN Boot and Nuke below. For all this to happen, you will need a total of two (2) USB drives. One giant one (8gb or more) for Windows and one tiny one for DBAN.

Step 1: Download Dban Boot and Nuke

Go to DBAN Boot and Nuke and download DBAN, or click here for the direct download link. You have just downloaded an ISO file. This is basically an image of external media, like a DVD or CD disc. ISO are kind of like zip files where they contain all the files within them. So now we need to install the ISO file to an empty  flash drive.

Step 2: Download Rufus

This program installs the ISO file to an empty flash drive. You can’t erase your hard drive when you are running the software from that same hard drive, so installing it to a flash drive solves the problem. The flash drive does not need to be big, it can be just a 1gb flash drive, it just needs to be empty. Now go here to download Rufus.

Step 3: Run Rufus

You have DBAN Boot and Nuke, you have Rufus, let us use them! Plug in the flash drive and start Rufus by double click it. RufusYou will then be greeted by a small window of options as seen in the Rufus program image here. Make sure Device is set for your flash drive. My flash drive is named Annoyed. Next, leave Partition scheme and target system type, File System, and Cluster size as the defaults. Name the New Volume label whatever you want. My flash drive after it is done will be called DBAN.

Then, click on the dropdown that I circled in the Rufus image and change it to ISO Image, and click the little hard disk picture to the right of it, browse to where you saved DBAN Boot and Nuke (probably in your Downloads folder), and select that.

When you have it selected, click the Start button! It will give you a warning that all data on the flash drive will be destroyed. That is why it needs to be empty because it will use up the entire flash drive, click the OK button.

wait…

wait…

wait…

DONE! Click Close.

Step 4: Run DBAN from the flash drive

Next is the hardest part and it is extremely computer manufacturer specific. You will need to leave the flash drive in your USB port and reboot your computer. Immediately after you reboot your computer, you will have to start button mashing on one of the buttons. When I say button mash, I mean press the key repeatedly until something happens (tap tap tap tap tap tap tap). Some computers allow you to directly access boot order without messing with BIOS, which is awesome, do that if you can. Here are my best representations of what you might need to do:

  • Dell: button mash F2 key, or F12 for boot selection
  • HP: button mash F10 key, or F9 for boot selection
  • Asus: button mash DEL key
  • Compaq: (really??) button mash F10 or F1 key (try one, if it doesn’t work try the other)
  • Toshiba: button mash F2 key
  • Google the term: “Computer Brand” bios and look at the top hits. If you have trouble, leave me a message in the comments and I can help you find it.

Once you are in the bios… its continues to stay complicated. DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING EXCEPT WHAT YOU NEED TO TOUCH. Bios is where you can really mess up your computer. If you are to categorize the computer as a person… the computers processor is the brain and BIOS is the spinal cord. Mess up the spinal cord and it all falls to sh!t (all my love to spinal cord injury victims and congenital spinal cord complicated people–I am a huge advocate for public accessibility requirements).

In the bios, you are looking for an item termed “Boot Order” or something along that line:BIOS boot order

After you find this screen, you will want to set your USB drive to the first position. Using the directions from the above image, you would use the + sign on your keyboard to move the “Removable Devices” line up to the top. After you get it to the top, push the F10 key. Your computer will then reboot and start straight into DBAN Boot and Nuke!

Step 5: Using DBAN

The first screen you will see is this:
DBAN start screen

Its ugly, yes, but effective. Push your Enter key. It will then do a bunch of stuff:
dban loading

Just keep your fingers off the keyboard while its doing that thing. The weird marks in the “……” above was where I was pushing keys when I shouldn’t have been. Don’t do what I did. It won’t hurt it, but just don’t.

Next, you will be at the decision screen:
dban decision

Make sure the Method above is set for DoD Short. That means it is using Department of Defense Short method, which it goes through each bite and changes it from 1 to 0 or 0 to 1 for 3 passes. This will be just fine for 99.9% of you readers out there. If your method is correct, just hit your space bar to change the box from blank to “wipe”.dban wipe

Once everything is good, push the button F10 on your keyboard to start!dban boot and nuke running

Now, go do something else because this will take about 3-5 HOURS depending on how fast your computer runs and how big your hard drive is.

Step 6: Reinstall Your Operating System

Like I said way earlier, you should have Windows or Mac OS on a separate flash drive ready to go for re-installation. Take out the DBAN USB drive and plug in your Windows/Linux/Mac OS USB drive. Your computer is already set to boot from the USB drive from your efforts earlier when you changed the BIOS, so it should launch right into installing Windows! You will need to reinstall Windows otherwise you are selling someone a non-usable computer and that is just not nice. Reinstall Windows using very generic username and passwords since you will be selling this to someone. Make the username “user” and password “password” for your windows installation and give that info to your buyer.

Tada! You have successfully erased your computer using government-grade erasing technology and it is ready for selling without giving over all your precious files/information. If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer as thoroughly as possible.

Categories: Computers, Technology

Before Selling Your Computer — Erase It!

sell_your_computer

You have done a ton of personal stuff on your computer. I’m not going to judge what you’ve done, nor will I ask because I just don’t want to know. However, something you should be aware of is that your computer retains small bits of all this stuff that you do in its brains. Web history, applications installed, documents, etc. Even if you erase these files, they are not gone. If you commit a crime, forensic scientists can confiscate your computer and retrieve all of your documents even if you deleted them. When you delete a file, the file itself is not gone, just that piece of storage space is declared to be available (I’m oversimplifying, but I mean the title of this blog is “That Was Annoying to Learn,” if you want more detailed stuff, read a white paper). When that space is declared available, it can be overwritten by something else, like a document. So if a document is 5,000 bits long of 1’s and 0’s (binary data), then deleted, and a new document is made and it happens to only be 2,000 bits of data, this leaves 3,000 bits of data of your old document left over that can be retrieved and pieced together by those forensic scientists… or even a casual user who is interested in computers and know how to use Linux tools!

There are all kinds of free options available to erase your computer. You just have to decide, do you want COMPLETE erasing or just setting back to how it was when I first bought it?

If you have intensely personal stuff (you be the judge), completely erasing it with a free program called Dban Boot and Nuke is a great option. I frequently do this because I have the resources immediately available to reinstall Windows. But if you are selling to a friend and don’t need government-grade erasing software and just need to reset to factory settings to get ride of all your personal stuff, Windows has a super easy built-in solution. So we will break this article into two separate posts… I guess three if you include this page. So, lets get started!

Completely and Securely Erasing Your Computer

Restoring Your Computer to Factory Settings

If you are reading this part, you’ve gone too far, go back up and make your selection!

 

Categories: Computers, Technology