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I still have an old good laptop from my ex employer that they never requested at the time I left (i assume it was old already by then)

I would like to reuse this computer and not have the risk of being monitored (they had spy software to monitor employees). Which of the following options will prevent me from that risk:

  1. Use the option to reinstall Windows and not remove the files (it will remove all programs, drivers installed)
  2. Use the option to restore software and remove all data.

Or if there is another option.

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    Based on the current question posted, is there anything that is stopping you from doing a fresh install, leaving no files, no software behind? Commented May 16, 2020 at 19:12
  • Reformat and reinstall. Why are you trying to "keep" some of the old data/programs?
    – schroeder
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 19:28

1 Answer 1

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At a minimum, I would suggest you wipe the disk clean, then reinstall Windows from scratch from a verified ISO. You can wipe the disk clean by booting from a bootable USB drive containing a live OS (such as linux), that includes a tool (such as dd) that you can use to wipe the drive clean. Alternatively, you can simply opt to replace the drive with a new drive.

Either of the above would ensure that any malware or spyware that was previously installed on the drive would be wiped-out. By re-installing Windows on the clean drive from scratch using an ISO whose integrity has been cryptographically verified (via a checksum hash or digital signature), you can be fairly certain that the new installation does not contain any nefarious programs (other than the ones that may be there by design from the manufacturer of the OS).

But, none of the above address the possibility that insidious programs may still be persistent in the hardware, or firmware, or BIOS of the computer. These can be much more difficult to remove. If you suspect that your previous employer may have installed malware or spyware at this level, then I would suggest that it might be more cost effective to simply replace the computer.

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  • It might be worth mentioning Computrace / LoJack as a practical example of system level persistence. These are potentially relevant to the question if the previous employer was using these types of techniques to track assets.
    – David
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 22:32
  • thank you so much for all suggestions. I appreciate it
    – Jack Olson
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 0:02

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