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I just recently bought a refurbished laptop. I have seen stories of refurbished phones being sold with spyware, trojans etc installed on them. My question is, what steps should I take (outside of running a virus protection scan) before i start using the laptop to ensure there is no spyware, trojans, keylogging, etc? And this second part question may be harder (or impossible) to answer, but is there a way to be absolutely certain it's a clean laptop?

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    Nuke it from orbit. – J.J Jun 21 '18 at 16:05
  • Who did you buy it from? The OEM or a third party? – Xander Jun 21 '18 at 16:16
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    I would follow the advice of this post: security.stackexchange.com/questions/138606/… – CaffeineAddiction Jun 21 '18 at 16:18
  • I got it from a third party, a "registered microsoft refurbisher"... not sure the credabilty of that but it sounds nice – DBroncos1558 Jun 21 '18 at 16:38
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    No one in particular, but with technology one must always stay vigilant and cautious :) – DBroncos1558 Jun 27 '18 at 18:34
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Update the motherboard firmware, manually, and reinstall the OS, reformatting the drive. It's not a complete guarantee of security, but it will get rid of 99% of the likely threats.

By "refurbished", not just "used", do you mean a proper manufacturer refurbished item? In that case your risk is somewhat lower than with a plain used item, as the manufacturer won't deliberately install malware.

There is no way to be absolutely certain. Theoretically, if you were a high value target, someone could even install a hardware chip to spy on you.

  • It's not considered used but refurbished, I got it from a third party, a "registered microsoft refurbisher" – DBroncos1558 Jun 21 '18 at 16:39
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@Therac got the basics - wipe and reinstall. Hardware malware is less common but exists, so reinstalling firmware isn't crazy but may not be necessary depending on your experience/risk acceptance level.

I'm mainly just adding one note: your question implies that "new is safe" but this isn't actually true either. There have been cases of new hardware/systems coming with malware pre-installed too! Example:

https://www.zdnet.com/article/malware-found-on-new-hard-drives/

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