I’ve stood quite aloof over the past few weeks. Lately I’ve been building up college supplies through second hand deals. However, at the same time, I’ve getting into the “buy low sell high” tactics in order to build up money. My process usually is buy using Craigslist and just sell for high on Ebay. Most of the time, I end up going to estate sales rather than individuals deals. I love visiting estate sales containing art supplies, electronics, and vintage accessories. Most of the time, you encounter sellers who have no idea what their lot is worth, or rather, the sellers are so much in a hurry to move or clear up their space that they price their items for unbelievably cheap. Estate sales are even better when you actually find items that you would actually use for yourself, but you should absolutely make sure you get a good look at your items before buying them.
Nearly a week ago, I got purchased a Thinkpad X201 laptop from an estate sale for just $100, of which is extremely cheap compared to getting the laptop for $600 used. Apparently, the seller wasn’t quite tech savvy because he decided to sell the computer off for cheap because he forgot his password to his windows user as well as the recovery key to his hard drive. I checked the computer, it was indeed locked under his admin account, of which was under his full name. The hard drive was also locked by bitlocker, so recovery options and password cracking aren’t possible. I thought getting this laptop to become usable was a simple process, as I could just wipe out the whole hard drive with DBAN, and so I just purchased the laptop with that idea in mind. However, I stupidly forgot to check the BIOS. When I got home, I noticed that the BIOS had Computrace enabled. For those who don’t know what Computrace is, it’s a root kit-like security measure that literally lives in a computer’s BIOS. If one uses the internet on a Computrace-enabled computer, Computrace sends the ip address of the internet user to Computrace’s security server. This means, if one loses a Computrace-enabled computer, he/she can track the computer’s whereabouts once the thief connects to the internet. Also, once enabled, Computrace becomes enabled permanently and can’t be removed from the computer’s BIOS via flashing or CMOS resetting. So, even if one wipes out the hard drive, Computrace recreates it’s tracking files back into the internals of the newly installed operating system.
Just the fact that my recently purchased laptop had Computrace enabled onto it made me quite skeptical. What if the estate seller just sold me the laptop just to claim that I’ve stolen it once he use’s Computrace’s services? Keeping that notion in mind, I’ve researched constantly on ways to bypass Computrace. There were methods suggesting that I change Computraces files to read only and render the file’s internals with nothing but unusable text; however, if the files are too drastically changed or deleted, Computrace recreates the files. After two straight days of researching, I found two methods to bypass Computrace. One method was to restore Computrace back to factory settings, dumping the BIOS code to the disk, and finally changing the Computrace service server path to a server of my choice. This method is the most complicated and has the most risk, but it allows me to use Windows properly. The other method was to install Linux as opposed to Mac or Windows. Because Linux doesn’t can’t run .dll files and doesn’t have similar operating paths like Windows’ System32, Computrace can’t create and run files off Linux. In the end, I chose the Linux route. Linux is probably the least user-friendly system because it’s quite restricted due to no admin privileged and blacklisted programs. If one wants to install custom programs or access Linux OS folders (admin-like privledges), you have to use Linux’s terminal (command prompt). I spent most of my past few days just learning Linux scripting. Linux almost forces you to script if you truly want to customize your computer the way you want, yet the process feels rewarding when you get your whole Linux system all up running. Anyways, yeah, back to my point, check before you buy. However, don’t let the idea of getting scammed through second hand deals prevent you from actually doing second hand deals. After all, one’s junk is another one’s treasure.