Disposing of a laptop

My son gave me his daughter’s laptop to fix a problem. After trying software fixes, I’m pretty sure there is a “short” of some kind in the keyboard. The mouse acts on its own and the screen switches window and blanks on its own. I attached a wireless keyboard and a usb mouse. The laptop now seems to behave. But, he wants to replace it for her anyway.

When I was first introduced to suse, many years ago, I got a program called “bobnuke” to completely and irretrievably erase everything on the hard drive. This laptop has no disk drive. So, I can’t use my bobnuke disk. What do you suggest to completely erase the hard drive? He has Windows 10 installed.

As an aside: trying to get a student a laptop in today’s environment is a monumental task. Everything but the very high end is “out of Stock.”

SSD’s offer a challenge… see https://www.usenix.org/legacy/events/fast11/tech/full_papers/Wei.pdf boot from a live USB and identify the SSD manufacturer and see what tools are available.

Some of the devices are removable, well HP’s I have are, have a place for a full drive but have a small board based SSD with a ribbon cable. Might be worth popping the keyboard out and check the ribbon cable connection to the motherboard… clean with isopropyl alcohol and reinsert.

I would use a Opensuse Bootable USB and sudo dd if=/dev/zero to the drive on the laptop of=/dev/sda or /dev/sdb or /dev/nvme0n1 (I assume you will make sure you have the right one).

As a side idea - I have a spare Dell E7470 with 16GB ram and a 512GB SSD with a new battery - It was OpenSUSE 15.2 but I loaded Windows 10 Pro 2004 back on it. It is FHD.
If you need that PM me. I can ship it UPS or FedEX.

That’s why I use disk encryption. To erase, I just forget the encryption pass phrase.

The only sure way (or at least as sure as possible) is to use a sledge hammer until it’s in pieces.

But, if you are instead being a good citizen and donating to a charity for re-use, then

  1. For several versions now (10 years?) there is a Windows “setting” that returns it to factory condition, ie before any User has even logged in and the software is unregistered. I would recommend doing this as the first step.
  2. I would also recommend wiping the hard drive of any User data. If you’ve done the above, then you may want to log in and wipe the free space in the file system using a free Winternals app called sdelete which is similar to what dd does in unix and then again return to factory condition.

Or, if you prefer not to preserve the original OS on the machine (the charity won’t thank you for removing the OS), you can mount the drive in a Linux system and dd the drive as described. Depending on how many passes and what you write, you may be only 95%+ effective, so keep in mind if you think you have anything sensitive on the drive, physical destruction is still the best solution.


Regarding suitable laptops, yeah… The pandemic totally crushed Chinese sources for parts for awhile and is still recovering. I bought mine just at the beginning of the pandemic so seems to have barely missed the biggest parts shortages and was likely one of the first assembled as people were returning to work.

You may want to consider an interim machine.
I don’t know what your requirements are, but for strictly student homework (little entertainment or other use), I still see low end 15’ machines with good reviews at Big Box stores (I’m intentionally trying to avoid specific names).
It might struggle a bit to compile code or other heavy workloads, but should be fine as a glorified typewriter which can also do Internet research.


These are excellent tips! Thanks to all.