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Windows 7: Does a system image save "deleted" data on the hard drive

13 Aug 2012   #1

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
Does a system image save "deleted" data on the hard drive

I'm trying to wipe/secure erase my computer hard drive and put it back to factory settings--the computer is getting sold. From reading the forums, I realize I can use clean all or other programs to write over the "deleted" data with ones or zeros.

However, my plan of action was to:
1. Use system recovery to put the computer back to factory settings
2. Create a system image
3. Use clean all from the command prompt to wipe the drive
4. Reinstall Windows 7 via installation CD
5. Restore via system image

The one problem is that I don't know if a system image saves absolutely everything, including data that had been "deleted" and is still present on the hard drive but is designated by the computer to be written over. I'm worried that if I do this, I'll just be undoing my attempt at securely erasing my hard drive and the "deleted" data will still be available for people to find if they tried.

Does anyone know? If this is true, I'll just do all of this and just reinstall the HP drivers and software that came with it manually and the hard drive won't have a recovery partition for the next person.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Aug 2012   #2

Windows 7 Professional 64 bit

I'm not sure I follow your steps. I'm missing why you'd install Windows 7, then restore. Do you have a Recovery Disk ?? If not can you still make one ?? If either is yes, then I'd wipe the drive and restore and be done with it.

On the other hand, if I was that concerned I'd probably just put another HDD in it and restore to it.

In answer to your question though, it depends on what you use to capture / apply the image. Imagex, by nature, simply gets the "meat" of the OS install and leaves behind anything else. Other stuff may well carry the "ones and zeros" of deleted data as well. I seem to recall once using a utility that grabbed the entire partition to apply elsewhere. I quit using it because it was more trouble than it was worth.

But by far the most secure method is to replace that hard drive and keep the drive that "might" have recoverable data and use it yourself as a spare or external drive.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Aug 2012   #3

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit

Sorry, by restore, I meant applying the system image I made so that the recovery partition and all of the drivers and software HP originally put on the computer would be available.

And no recovery disk--I dropped it recently, but I have the Windows 7 installation cd? I could make another if needed.

Do you know by chance what the Windows system image creation program grabs by chance?

You're right though, if I really wanted to be secure about it, I would just keep the drive, but the data isn't that important.

Thanks for your help by the way.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

14 Aug 2012   #4

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1, 64-bit

I'm not sure what imaging app you will use, but Macrium Reflect Free Edition provides 2 choices when making an image:

1: Intelligent sector copy. Only those sectors in use by the file system become part of the image.

2: Exact copy. ALL sectors in the partition are included in the image.

Macrium recommends using Intelligent sector copy for the reason you mention--greater security.

But I don't think I would use an image restoration if I were getting rid of a computer. Images don't always restore. I'd want something more foolproof.

You could:

1: make new recovery disks from your recovery partition. Then wipe the drive and restore from the recovery disks.


2: wipe the drive and reinstall Windows from a Windows disk. Then download and install any necessary HP-specific drivers.


3: Just do a system recovery (your step 1) and be done with it.

Here is a pic of the Macrium screen regarding the 2 imaging choices:


Attached Thumbnails
Does a system image save "deleted" data on the hard drive-untitled-1.jpg  
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Aug 2012   #5

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit

Thanks a lot for your help. I think I'll just reinstall and then download the drivers.

Good to know about the Macrium Reflect imaging app though. I'll probably start using that for my personal stuff.

Thanks a lot guys.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Aug 2012   #6


If your goal is to sell the computer, this tutorial might be useful to you: Windows 7 Installation - Prepare PC to be Sold

My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Does a system image save "deleted" data on the hard drive

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