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Removing personal stuff from iMac

Posted on 2011-10-14
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Last Modified: 2012-05-12
I need to return my iMac to have it replaced with another.  I'm new to Macs and very familiar with Windows.

Could you please talk me through the steps of where I could be leaving data behind and how to remove all logins, passwords, newly installed software, customisation, documents, etc.

Thanks.

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Question by:abdb469
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by:
Govvy earned 336 total points
ID: 36970138
Insert system DVD and boot from that, holding down 'C' after the chimes. Go into Utilities in the menu bar, select Disk Utility and then the Erase option. For extra extra cleaning you can click on security options and run Zeroing the Hard Drive
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Author Comment

by:abdb469
ID: 36970415
Dont have the time or inclination to do that.  How can I manually uninstall or remove settings.  I could probably do most myself, but maybe there are some I might forget because they are hidden or not easily accessed.
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by:abdb469
ID: 36970420
also what is the easiest way to transfer settings, docs etc from one iMac to another.
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by:strung
strung earned 668 total points
ID: 36970520
If you keep the old Mac until you get the new one, you can use Migration Assistant to copy everything from the old Mac to the new.
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by:jhyiesla
jhyiesla earned 996 total points
ID: 36970534
If you really want to get rid of stuff the other expert's advice is probably the best.  If you don't want to take the time to do the full secure wipe, you could follow his instructions, except just erase the drive and repartition it with the disk utility which really doesn't take that long and then reinstall Lion. You'll be presented with a new system in it's default state.

Beyond that, you could enable the root user (http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1528) and log in as root and go to the system preferences for accounts and remove all user and then uninstall the apps. Check to see if the app has an uninstall routine (should be listed with the app in the Applications folder) and if not just drag it to the trash from the Applications folder and then securely dump the trash. This will get 99% of the stuff off. Sometimes little tidbits are left behind, but they should not be a concern.
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by:strung
strung earned 668 total points
ID: 36970535
I agree that the best way to remove everything from the drive so it can't be recovered would be to erase and zero from the install DVD.

If you are not prepared to do that, the next best thing is to create a new administrative user in the Users Preference panel, log in as the new user then delete the old user and Secure Empty the trash.
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Author Comment

by:abdb469
ID: 36974116
I'm using  a Lion operating system, I dont have a DVD/CD with this new computer.
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Author Comment

by:abdb469
ID: 36974122
Also, I spoke to Apple care today in the UK (well, Indian call centre actually).  They said the simplest solution is to create a new user account and then remove the old one and this will remove all documents, settings etc assocated with my old user account.  Not quite the same as a total wipe and clean but is this advisable?

Finally, unlike Windows which installs DLL files after an installation, if I migrate the settings and application, will it actually transfer the app and work?  Is it not like Windows, which requires you to run an install on each machine rather than copy it to another machine and trying to run it?
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Author Comment

by:abdb469
ID: 36974123
I'm sorry, also how to undelete a file on a mac?
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Assisted Solution

by:jhyiesla
jhyiesla earned 996 total points
ID: 36974255
For future reference, it is possible to make a Lion disk. During the Lion install after the software is downloaded from the Internet and before the wizard starts, you can break out of the installer and then follow the following steps:

http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-20080989-263/how-to-create-an-os-x-lion-installation-disc/

Now, this mostly holds if you are upgrading a Mac with a lower OS. If you don't have the disk or are not in a position instal-wise to make one, you can start up the Lion Recovery partition http://www.apple.com/macosx/recovery/

From there you can reinstall Lion over the top of what's there.  By default it does NOT do a wipe and reload, but you should have access to the disk utility that would allow you to wipe and repartition the disk.

But to get back to your original question. You can create another account, make that account an admin and then you should be able to delete your original account. This will delete any data you have there, but as you have noted, it's not a secure dump. Still, unless you have lots of really personal info, it might not make a difference. Then you can also delete any applications that you have installed.

As I mentioned above, Mac apps can be deleted in one of two ways. Some have uninstallers, most do not. And for those that don't you just fine the app in the Applications folder and drag it to the trash. once it's all done, you can simply empty the trash and it's gone. Sometimes an app will leave some debris behind doing it that way, such as plist files and the like.  These are config files similar to a Windows ini file. The only way to really find and delete them is to use an app like app zapper. But for all intents and purposes once you put the app in the trash and then dump the trash it's gone.

To undelete a file on the Mac you can recover it from the trash as long as you haven't dumped the trash or if you are using a backup utility like Time machine you can get it back from there.

Most Mac apps are contained with in a package and you can simply move the package from one Mac to another and it will work. It's kind of like the old DOS days where pretty much everything you needed for an app lived in a single folder. Having said that you should follow proper licensing policies and if there are extra things like Plist files lying around, the app may not work once you get it to the new mac.
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Expert Comment

by:strung
ID: 36974335
You can also undelete using a commercial utility like Data Rescue III.

If you still have the old Mac when you get the new one, when you first start the new one, it will ask you if you have an old Mac you want to copy data, settings and applications from. If you answer "yes", it will tell you how to connect the two Macs, then will copy over EVERYTHING from the old Mac, including, apps, settings and data.
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Author Comment

by:abdb469
ID: 36974497
jhyiesla,
Good to know that mac works like the old dos days of containing an application in one folder rather than like from windows 95 when dll files could be placed anywhere and simply copying a programme from one computer to another meant that it would not work without a full installation.

Just out of curiousity, but if what you say is true about being able to copy apps like MS Office for mac from one folder to another mac, doesnt that make pirating very easy?

The old data I have on my old mac that I wish to return is simply MP3s and possibly Firefox passwords and bookmarks.  Perhaps reinstalling is a bit of an overkill as all my personal stuff is still on a windows machine, and therefore removing the user account might be sufficient.  Then again, it might be good practice for me.
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Author Comment

by:abdb469
ID: 36974887
Ok I need some urgent help please.

I have followed the first suggestion, and found the install DVD for snow leapord.  Remember I upgraded this mac recently after downloading the free lion update.

I have wiped the mac by using the erase function in the disc utility, but I need precise instructions for every step from there please.  I am a windows user not a mac, so pls go through the basics.  After I erased it, I just dragged the install to the destination drive, and it copied the dvd to the hard drive...I think.  Now when I switch it on, it goes to the purple type starry intro screen and asks where to install OS X - but there while box is empty with no list of drives to select from.

I need to return this mac tomorrow, my last chance to do so.
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Author Comment

by:abdb469
ID: 36974893
So just to clarify, when I install the DVD again, should I be dragging the max HD to the destination folder to something else?
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Expert Comment

by:strung
ID: 36974900
Insert the DVD and restart while holding down the c key and follow the instruction.
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Assisted Solution

by:jhyiesla
jhyiesla earned 996 total points
ID: 36976385
As far as pirating goes; not really. First, if I have the disks and the license key, unless the app checks with some server somewhere, I can theoretically install any Windows-based program on as many PCs as I want. Second, some apps will install extra files that aren't in the package so you'd have to go through the reinstall anyway and so refer back to number one. Office is one of those apps that probably installs things elsewhere; although as of my last encounter with Office for the Mac, unlike Office for Windows MS doesn't make you register with their server farm when you install the app.

With the App Store for the Mac, Apple, along with the app manufacturers,  is in effect giving you the right to install your purchased Apps on any Mac that you own under your Apple ID. Theoretically by doing this it might help hold down on pirating. When was the last time MS offered a major upgrade to their OS that could be installed on as many computers as you own for $30?
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