Back in ye olde England, people used to buy things like suckling pigs at the market. I guess they still do, but this was different. A poke by the way was a burlap or other cloth bag used to store items for sell.
Some unscrupulous street vendors were quite happy to sell the unsuspecting a cat in a bag, rather than the expected suckling pig. Hence the term, don’t buy a pig in a poke, or caveat emptor; let the buyer beware. This was also the origination for the term to “let the cat out of the bag.
Now that we have that bit out of the way, let’s talk about the opposite of my previous post; coming into a possession of a used computer rather than disposing of one.
There are lots of ways to get a used computer; from a store that sells used computers; Craigslist, via the newspaper want-ads, from a family friend, from your company, or even out of the dumpster I suppose. The point here is that, unless you know the computer was cleaned up, how can you be sure that what you are buying does not contain contraband of some sort.
And how do you know if the computer was cleaned properly, effectively destroying all data from the previous owner? I know that if I come into possession of a used computer, the first thing I do is forensically wipe the entire hard drive and then reinstall the operating system and applications.
There is no way I want to have anyone else’s stuff on a machine that I own.
I am not against used computers, since they provide an econmic way to purchase computers that might otherwise be out of reach for consumers, but the reality of it is that many times that used computer was not cleaned up properly and in effect you are buying a pig in a poke.
It’s worse than that, since you can’t tell by simply “opening the bag”, i.e. browsing the files on the hard drive, since you cannot see deleted files without special software. And many of the people who purchase these used computers do not have the minimum level of skills needed to even check things like the internet history folders.
My advice if you are considering buying a used computer is to make sure that you get the operating system and application CDs, or better yet, if it is a brand name like a Dell or Gateway, get the original system restore CDs. Then when you get home, perform a full destructive restore on the computer.
That will at least give you some confidence that the computer is now cleaned up as good as you can make it.