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T410 with Computrace, now disabled. Is the hard drive safe to use?

T400/T410/T420 and T500/T510/T520 Series
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hughmungus
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T410 with Computrace, now disabled. Is the hard drive safe to use?

#1 Post by hughmungus » Sat Jan 16, 2021 3:57 pm

I recently bought a cheap ThinkPad T410. When I went to check the BIOS setup I found out that Computrace anti-theft was enabled. It came with a hard drive with a clean installation of Windows 7 (no Lenovo software, not even a recovery partition). I did not connect it to the Internet.

Then I replaced the HDD with an SSD, installed Windows 10 and connected it to the Internet. I saw rpcnetp.exe running, the process that works with Computrace. My idea was to leave it online for a while, just in case the seller did disable Computrace but the change takes a while to apply.
Thankfully that was the case. After leaving it running for a few hours while it was installing drivers and updates, I went back to the BIOS setup and the Computrace alert was gone. I could go to the Computrace settings and set it to Disabled. So I did not have to contact the seller or Absolute Software. This T410 seems to be running fine now, and there is no rpcnetp.exe running. Intel Anti-Theft is also disabled.

But now I am concerned about the original hard drive, which may still have traces of Computrace because obviously Windows was installed on it while Computrace was still enabled, and I never connected to the Internet with that drive to have it disabled.

I would like to fully wipe that drive and put it in another ThinkPad (T60), but I read in this forum thread that putting a drive with Computrace in another ThinkPad can enable the anti-theft anyway: viewtopic.php?t=121913

So far, I have only connected the drive to a Mac (with an external USB enclosure). I checked it with the command
hdparm -N /dev/sda
on a Linux virtual machine and saw that HPA (Host Protected Area, where Computrace could hide) is disabled.

Right now I am in the process of wiping the drive with Darik's Boot And Nuke (quick erase, one round). Maybe that is overkill.
After that, do you think it is safe to put this blank drive in another ThinkPad and use it freely with any operating system without fear of Computrace? Thank you.

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Re: T410 with Computrace, now disabled. Is the hard drive safe to use?

#2 Post by TPFanatic » Sat Jan 16, 2021 6:40 pm

Just about every ThinkPad I've laid hands on has Computrace by default set to Enabled but "Not Activated". From my understanding if the only install of Windows in that machine is clean then you don't have to worry about Enabled "Not Activated".

If it is Enabled "Activated" then you'd need to call Absolute Software to disable it.

The worst thing I've read of happening is a machine with Computrace Activated on it, moving a drive from that machine to another machine will auto activate Computrace in the second machine. So if you ever get a machine with Computrace Activated, do not share drives with it to the other machine until Computrace is purged.
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Re: T410 with Computrace, now disabled. Is the hard drive safe to use?

#3 Post by RealBlackStuff » Sun Jan 17, 2021 1:14 am

Read more here about CT (CompuTrace): viewtopic.php?f=12&t=114641
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hughmungus
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Location: Udine, Italy

Re: T410 with Computrace, now disabled. Is the hard drive safe to use?

#4 Post by hughmungus » Sun Jan 17, 2021 5:10 am

Computrace was Enabled/Activated, even while I swapped the HDD to SSD. But after installing the SSD and connecting to the Internet, I went back to the BIOS and saw it was Enabled/Not Activated, so I set it to Disabled. That T410 is running fine without Computrace now, so that problem is solved.

I would like to know if the HDD that was in there before (while Computrace was still Enabled/Activated) is safe to use in other ThinkPads without re-enabling Computrace, even if HPA is disabled on that drive and I wiped it with DBAN.

Edit I wiped the drive with DBAN (the quick erase took less than two hours) then put it in a ThinkPad and installed Windows and connected it to the Internet. No sign of Computrace in Task Manager or BIOS. So I think it's safe to say that hard drive is safe to use now. Just make sure HPA is disabled and every single bit is zeroed out.

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