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Strangest thing found on harddrives

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First post, by Joakim

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So I have just started buying old hardware and realize people aren't even wiping their HDDs before a sale.

I usually check the hdds before wiping them, I guess I'm kinda creepy that way but sometimes you find drivers and stuff that might be useful.

Today I found someone's masters thesis and different job applications etc. Also a recipe for MDMA in a word document which I thought was kind of funny.

What's the strangest thing you've encountered on a hdd?

Reply 2 of 33, by chrismeyer6

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Not really odd. But I bought a used hard drive a few years ago off eBay and it must of belonged to a pool company. Their where hundreds and hundreds of pictures for vinyl pool liner patterns. A ton of pictures of in ground pool installs from marking the ground to the finished pool. And almost 60 gigs of PDFs for various pieces of pool equipment. The pictures of the construction and finished pools we're quite fascinating to look through. It was a 2tb WD Black drive for it for 20 bucks. It was almost half full

Reply 3 of 33, by Jo22

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Miphee wrote on 2021-05-04, 19:31:

Cats. Hundreds of pictures of various cats. No pussy though.

The cat of my grand grandfather was named Pussi..
Obviously, this was before the internet.
When "Pussy Cat" (ger. Miezekatze) still was an innocent term (commonly).

Edit: The Fixed Disk of my XT was infected with an ancient bootsector virus (FORM.A).
Luckily, I noticed this right away and was able to save it.
The virus, I mean. I "saved" it. It's history, you know. Would have been sad if it got deleted by some anti-virus software.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Form_(computer_virus)

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 4 of 33, by jheronimus

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I usually have luck with Macs.

One Mac (a Quadra 630) had articles written for a local newspaper in a small town near Kazan, Russia. Topics included: "local barbershop announces a special offer for elderly people, drops the offer when a lot of people show up", "owner of a local shopping mall rents the same space to several entrepreneurs" and also a weirdly poetic coverage of a subbotnik (that's a Soviet thing when a local community self organizes to clean up their neighbourhood/school/place of work — usually on a Saturday morning, hence the name).

Another Mac (a Mac Classic II) was configured for a German QWERTZ layout and contained scientific articles on literary theory written in Russian, but done in a German university. The computer also contained an obituary for the author of those articles. It's just weird that the computer was very likely used both by the author and somebody writing that obituary.

I also remember finding a Tandy 1000SX (a very unusual computer to find in Russia) that had a PC Speaker rendition of this song on the hard disk.

Pentium 166 MMX Overdrive, 32 MB RAM, Ark Logic ARK1000VL, Tekram DC-680C, Turtle Beach Tropez, Gravis Ultrasound Max
Pentium III 1000, 256 MB RAM, Matrox G400 MAX, Adaptec 19160, Yamaha YMF740B

Reply 5 of 33, by creepingnet

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Probably the most interesting I've had in the 20 years was the 1994 NEC Versa M/75 - This is the one that had that "Words+ System 2000" unit velcroed to the bottom, and had a cracked Digitizer (Which I"m restoring right now). That Words+ system was something amazing. First off was just the history - the guy who invented Words+ worked with STephen Hawking on his own AAC units - and he's from Auburn University, which is the college with the Draughton Library I used to sneak into for free internet back when I was 12.

Anyway, the software itself is called "Talking Screen" and the other piece is called "E-Z Keys". Both of these programs connect to the Words+ System 2000 via the serial port and tell it what to say in a digitized voice. I'm still figuring out E-Z Keys, I think I needs some "Switches" for it (mabye I'll rig some up of my own) - but the other one "Talking Screen", has PROFILES for users on it. Talking screen is what used the touch screen and is REALLY cool. Basically, there are a bunch of very terribly drawn artwork of a car, of food, of entertainment, or of needs. IDeally, you'd tap on the NEC's screen and it would send out the Words+ unit "I need..." or "I want to go somewhere...." or "I want to...." - then you could pick from another series of images on there. I'm also still figuring out the hardware because it uses the parallel port as well and has connectors for "Switches" and whatnot. Originally the Words+ had a NiCad battery pack inside (that tried to leak out but had good protection), and the Versa had the floppy removed and 2 batteries so this was definatley intended to be a full time mobile communication system - at least at one point.

Now the creepy part is I was researching the whole Words+ Company one night and I think I may have run into who had this laptop or at least used it previously in an article about Words+ changing hands sometime ago. One of the profile names matched the name and roughly the age of a lady in Louisiana who has been using this technology since 1995 - well guess when the Versa was made? December 1994. So I think I may have found the original user, maybe even owner of it. I also found out the whole setup was around $6,995 in 1994. They'll be happy to know this laptop now has a second lease on life singing songs on my home recordings through autotune as it's permanently attached to my docking station.

~The Creeping Network~
My Website - https://sites.google.com/site/thecreepingnetwork/home
My Youtube Channel - https://www.youtube.com/creepingnet

Reply 6 of 33, by darry

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I once bought a PC at thrift store and found that it apparently once belonged to a medical clinic in the USA . It did not have patient files per se, but it did contain correspondence addressed to patients . I wiped that disk quickly once I realized that. The PC was old enough that it predated HIPAA .

I found some CGA (or possibly Tandy graphics) animated porn on a Tandy 1000 I bought at a thrift store . Again, the disk got wiped quickly (sorry to those who think that was worth preserving for posterity).

Finally, I once bought a used USB hard drive that contained raw footage (without superimposed digital effects) for a car commercial that I had previously seen on TV .

Reply 7 of 33, by shamino

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A Compaq Pentium Pro server I bought came full of files from an insurance agency. Lots of form letters, also some Excel (maybe Access?) files. There were some spreadsheets with people's names and phone numbers and such but nothing real interesting. There was one file that was encrypted using the encryption feature of Microsoft Office '97. I suppose that had more confidential stuff in it but I didn't bother trying to break into it.
It also had a full copy of the Windows NT4 Server installation CD, so that was a nice addition to my OS collection but I never actually used it.

A Compaq Deskpro EN (Tualatin P3) from Goodwill had some slideshows and little animations to be displayed on a projector at the local theater (stage plays).

A Dell from Goodwill was in beautiful condition. It had files from a lawyer's office, vaguely I remember it talking about various "incidents" some clients had been involved in and what legal troubles or disputes they were in. That was a classic mis-specced Dell. It had a powerful upgrade optioned P4, a 3.0GHz/800 Hyperthreaded Prescott. And 256MB of RAM. I looked up the service tag and that was the original configuration, as ordered.
It was running XP with a bunch of stuff autoloading at boot and it was grinding the swap file like a mofo, absolutely miserable to use. So naturally the lawyer bought a new computer instead of finding somebody who had a clue to tell him he needed more RAM.

There was one computer I bought from Goodwill that had been nicely reinstalled with a clean copy of XP. That happened once.

Reply 8 of 33, by Cyberdyne

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Homebrew porn of course 😁

I am aroused about any X86 motherboard that has full functional ISA slot. I think i have problem. Not really into that original (Turbo) XT,286,386 and CGA/EGA stuff. So just a DOS nut.

Reply 9 of 33, by cyclone3d

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shamino wrote on 2021-05-05, 01:40:
A Compaq Pentium Pro server I bought came full of files from an insurance agency. Lots of form letters, also some Excel (maybe […]
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A Compaq Pentium Pro server I bought came full of files from an insurance agency. Lots of form letters, also some Excel (maybe Access?) files. There were some spreadsheets with people's names and phone numbers and such but nothing real interesting. There was one file that was encrypted using the encryption feature of Microsoft Office '97. I suppose that had more confidential stuff in it but I didn't bother trying to break into it.
It also had a full copy of the Windows NT4 Server installation CD, so that was a nice addition to my OS collection but I never actually used it.

A Compaq Deskpro EN (Tualatin P3) from Goodwill had some slideshows and little animations to be displayed on a projector at the local theater (stage plays).

A Dell from Goodwill was in beautiful condition. It had files from a lawyer's office, vaguely I remember it talking about various "incidents" some clients had been involved in and what legal troubles or disputes they were in. That was a classic mis-specced Dell. It had a powerful upgrade optioned P4, a 3.0GHz/800 Hyperthreaded Prescott. And 256MB of RAM. I looked up the service tag and that was the original configuration, as ordered.
It was running XP with a bunch of stuff autoloading at boot and it was grinding the swap file like a mofo, absolutely miserable to use. So naturally the lawyer bought a new computer instead of finding somebody who had a clue to tell him he needed more RAM.

There was one computer I bought from Goodwill that had been nicely reinstalled with a clean copy of XP. That happened once.

Uggghhhh. I used to have to deal with offices that had desktops with similar specs. They complained that their computers were slow and wanted us to clean them up to make them faster but they refused to spend a whopping $30-$40 to upgrade the RAM. Instead we would end up charging them for 2+ hours of work at $80 an hour to try to make their computers run faster. Absolute insanity.

Speaking of "strange stuff" found on HDDs, there is one system I bought on eBay that had a bunch of old source code that has to do with I think wifi routers... it has been a while and I have forgotten exactly what it is. Pretty sure I backed it up.

Yamaha YMF modified setupds and drivers
Yamaha XG resource repository - updated November 27, 2018
Yamaha YMF7x4 Guide
AW744L II - YMF744 - AOpen Cobra Sound Card - Install SB-Link Header
Epstein didn't kill himself

Reply 10 of 33, by chinny22

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I like going though drives, gives you an idea of it's history plus seeing an install of Windows is like a snapshot of time with things like Napster, MSN or whatever installed

I got 3 PC's off someone on Freecycle about 2 years ago. He had removed the 2 HDD's from the XP era machines but the P3 Dell I was most interested in was still complete. I guess he thought everything was over 10 years old so not worth worrying about. He was mostly right just a few saucy pics and MSN chat's.

Most useful was from an add for 5 Amstrad's and a 486 off Freecycle last year, Bloke was helping clear out his deceased neighbours house so it was given "as is" lots of word docs showed he was a retired ship captain.
Few months later an Amstrad PCW came up from freecycle. I asked about it's history and the guy said it came from a retired Captain, (I did suspect this would be the case) so those 2 machines are reunited 😀

Most interesting though was one of my own drives from the 90's had some useful game patches on it 😀

Reply 11 of 33, by Big Pink

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When I started work as a postman in 2007 I came across enough PCs tossed on the street that I started carrying a screwdriver with me so I could 'techraid'. In one rough area I stripped a low-end turn-of-the-century Dell system of what I could carry (CPU, RAM, HDD). Seems the local youth gang had legally acquired/stolen a digital camera and were working on a portfolio of images of their membership for a 2005 nascent social media presence. I saved the photos before dismantling the drive for the magnets - it was only 3GB and I never thought I'd ever need a drive that small post-filesharing. Simply search for 'Glasgow neds' for a taste of what it looked like: teenagers in tracksuits giving the finger.

I thought IBM was born with the world

Reply 12 of 33, by ODwilly

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There was a Athlon 64 Compaq I picked up from Value Village that had a full Athlon ii x2 260, matx am3 Asus motherboard and a 4gb stick of ddr3 1600 with a fresh and activated Windows 7 install on a 320gb sata drive from about 2010. A neat and welcome surprise!

Main pc: AsRock x370 Killer SLI a/c, Ryzen 5 2600, 1tb WD black nvme ssd, 24g ddr4 2400 @2933mhz, rx 480 8gb reference card, 2tb Hitachi Deskstar.
Retro PC: Soyo P4S Dragon, 3gb ddr 266, 120gb Maxtor, Geforce Fx 5950 Ultra, SB Live! 5.1

Reply 13 of 33, by Woody72

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Not a hard drive but 'vintage' kind of. I got called to a report of a keyboard not working properly back in the late nineties when fixing keyboards was still a thing. It was at a nurses station in a hospital and when I took it apart to clean it out, it was chock full of biscuit crumbs and pubes 😲... The mind boggles 😂.

Modern PC: i7-9700KF, 16GB memory, RTX 3060. Proper PC: Pentium 200 MMX, 128MB EDO memory, GeForce2 MX(200).

Reply 14 of 33, by creepingnet

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More of the odd stuff I've found....

- Skunny Kart installed on a 386SX that I had....and it had AutoCad (and no 387)....not sure what the person was thinking they had, 🤣
- Computer owned by a Rabbi that had a Christmas Windows 3.1 screensaver on it
- Dell 325SX with an entire Dentist's Office worth of WP51 files including PAitient Data - WIPE time
- Way way back.....Got a box full of CD's of Software, in that box I found Porn DVDs, not a good hiding spot, 🤣
- Gateway Essential 550C - got from a co-worker, had software for performing "acts" on a Webcam, another WIPE
- NEC Versa 40EC had Ford Motor Company documents on it, kinda cool since I own a Ford from the time that laptop was new
- My Core 2 Duo Desktop's motherboard was once owned by Patterson Dental, been wanting to change that boot screen for awhile

Before I was retrocomputing I did not find a "hard drive" per se, but I was at school. At this point it was around 2001 and we had a mix of IBM EduQuest 486's running Windows 3.1/DOS over the network, some IBM PC-330 and PC-350 machines running 95 or 98SE, and a few PC-300GPLs running Windows Me. Anyway, in our video productions class we had a 486 EduQuest that I decided to make a floppy disk and run A26 2600 emulator on during a break in that class - well, I put in the floppy, went to A:\, and suddenly up pop's files with EVERY student's name on them, found my own, found my classmates, people I knew, girls I liked, the whole shebang. LIttle did I recognize I'd basically got into the student records - talk about lax security!

Funny enough later that day I opened up Pitfall! in English class on the PC-300GPL - nobody cared, except a small few who thought I was a "god" because I managed to get something "interesting" on that computer (even though it technically never was on that computer, I ran EVERYTHING off a Floppy disk).

~The Creeping Network~
My Website - https://sites.google.com/site/thecreepingnetwork/home
My Youtube Channel - https://www.youtube.com/creepingnet

Reply 15 of 33, by DaveJustDave

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a friend of mine picked up a box of drives at a garage sale. On one drive he found a copy of a term paper that he wrote (at the time) twenty years ago

I have no clue what I'm doing! If you want to watch me fumble through all my retro projects, you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/user/MrDavejustdave

Reply 16 of 33, by Joakim

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creepingnet wrote on 2021-05-05, 18:28:
More of the odd stuff I've found.... […]
Show full quote

More of the odd stuff I've found....

- Skunny Kart installed on a 386SX that I had....and it had AutoCad (and no 387)....not sure what the person was thinking they had, 🤣
- Computer owned by a Rabbi that had a Christmas Windows 3.1 screensaver on it
- Dell 325SX with an entire Dentist's Office worth of WP51 files including PAitient Data - WIPE time
- Way way back.....Got a box full of CD's of Software, in that box I found Porn DVDs, not a good hiding spot, 🤣
- Gateway Essential 550C - got from a co-worker, had software for performing "acts" on a Webcam, another WIPE
- NEC Versa 40EC had Ford Motor Company documents on it, kinda cool since I own a Ford from the time that laptop was new
- My Core 2 Duo Desktop's motherboard was once owned by Patterson Dental, been wanting to change that boot screen for awhile

Before I was retrocomputing I did not find a "hard drive" per se, but I was at school. At this point it was around 2001 and we had a mix of IBM EduQuest 486's running Windows 3.1/DOS over the network, some IBM PC-330 and PC-350 machines running 95 or 98SE, and a few PC-300GPLs running Windows Me. Anyway, in our video productions class we had a 486 EduQuest that I decided to make a floppy disk and run A26 2600 emulator on during a break in that class - well, I put in the floppy, went to A:\, and suddenly up pop's files with EVERY student's name on them, found my own, found my classmates, people I knew, girls I liked, the whole shebang. LIttle did I recognize I'd basically got into the student records - talk about lax security!

Funny enough later that day I opened up Pitfall! in English class on the PC-300GPL - nobody cared, except a small few who thought I was a "god" because I managed to get something "interesting" on that computer (even though it technically never was on that computer, I ran EVERYTHING off a Floppy disk).

Now that's lax security.. could you also change your grades as in the movie Wargames? 😀

It kind of reminds me about when the union representative at my workplace accidently sent out information on everyone's salary in a linked excel document about ten years ago.. we joked about that for years. 😁

Reply 17 of 33, by creepingnet

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Joakim wrote on 2021-05-05, 18:48:
creepingnet wrote on 2021-05-05, 18:28:
More of the odd stuff I've found.... […]
Show full quote

More of the odd stuff I've found....

- Skunny Kart installed on a 386SX that I had....and it had AutoCad (and no 387)....not sure what the person was thinking they had, 🤣
- Computer owned by a Rabbi that had a Christmas Windows 3.1 screensaver on it
- Dell 325SX with an entire Dentist's Office worth of WP51 files including PAitient Data - WIPE time
- Way way back.....Got a box full of CD's of Software, in that box I found Porn DVDs, not a good hiding spot, 🤣
- Gateway Essential 550C - got from a co-worker, had software for performing "acts" on a Webcam, another WIPE
- NEC Versa 40EC had Ford Motor Company documents on it, kinda cool since I own a Ford from the time that laptop was new
- My Core 2 Duo Desktop's motherboard was once owned by Patterson Dental, been wanting to change that boot screen for awhile

Before I was retrocomputing I did not find a "hard drive" per se, but I was at school. At this point it was around 2001 and we had a mix of IBM EduQuest 486's running Windows 3.1/DOS over the network, some IBM PC-330 and PC-350 machines running 95 or 98SE, and a few PC-300GPLs running Windows Me. Anyway, in our video productions class we had a 486 EduQuest that I decided to make a floppy disk and run A26 2600 emulator on during a break in that class - well, I put in the floppy, went to A:\, and suddenly up pop's files with EVERY student's name on them, found my own, found my classmates, people I knew, girls I liked, the whole shebang. LIttle did I recognize I'd basically got into the student records - talk about lax security!

Funny enough later that day I opened up Pitfall! in English class on the PC-300GPL - nobody cared, except a small few who thought I was a "god" because I managed to get something "interesting" on that computer (even though it technically never was on that computer, I ran EVERYTHING off a Floppy disk).

Now that's lax security.. could you also change your grades as in the movie Wargames? 😀

It kind of reminds me about when the union representative at my workplace accidently sent out information on everyone's salary in a linked excel document about ten years ago.. we joked about that for years. 😁

Apparently I could have. A classmate of mine who was way more savvy than me at computers at the time actually almost got expelled because he made a copy of the teacher's grading program off the server. What's funny is he did not change anything, he just wanted to play with the application at home and see how it worked. Looking back It's almost laughable how low security they were. And they thought I was a "computer whiz" because I could do some gorgeous pixel art for our server login screens - using LInkway - maybe I'm one of the original PIxel Artists, maybe not, but that's East Alabama at the turn of the century for you.

~The Creeping Network~
My Website - https://sites.google.com/site/thecreepingnetwork/home
My Youtube Channel - https://www.youtube.com/creepingnet

Reply 18 of 33, by PcBytes

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Strange stuff I encountered, more or less:

- DTK PRM-27IV (VIA 693/596) w/ a totally different BIOS (identified as Shuttle AV11)
- ECS K7VZA (KT133A/686B) w/ a Haruhi Suzumiya BIOS splashscreen for reasons absoultely unknown to me. Unfortunately the BIOS was buggy enough (and not because of bad caps because I recapped the board as soon as I got it - the bugs were actually because of the BIOS itself) that I had to overwrite it with a Chaintech 7AJA2 BIOS (which works much better than the ECS BIOS, or Matsonic and Shuttle AK12 for that matter.)
- ASUS A7V600-X (KT600/8237) w/ a basically BLANK splash screen. Took me a while to find that out after bashing my head as to why I was getting a blank screen and then the summary screen.
- ASUS P4P800-VM(865G/ICH5) that would literally run any kind of 865PE/Winbond W83627HF/ ICS PLL BIOS combo you'd throw at it. Found out that the P4P800-E Deluxe, SE and P4C800 also work the same way (to a certain degree).
- same board, but from some government PC. It had a XP install that, much to my surprise, detected it was not on the govt network and literally self destructed itself by formatting the drive (a run of the mill WD800JB IDE)
- Gigabyte GA-8IPE1000(865PE/ICH5)... with no LAN port installed from the factory. WTF Gigabyte?
- Gigabyte 7N400E(nF2 400 SPP/MCP) with the same story. Seriously, what's the point in not adding the LAN port??

As for drives:

- Quantum LCT15 - Windows XP SP1 Home Edition that hadn't seen the light since at least 2003.
- WD Caviar 2850 (I think that's the model) - Windows 95B and DOS 6.22 w/ lots of accounting stuff for a small village grocery store, surprisingly also had Ontrack installed (lots of headaches with that Ontrack thing)
- Seagate 850MB - Windows 98 SE with enough networking components to rival at least NT4.0 Server. Surprisingly used for accounting at a construction equipment company named SIRIN SAFETY (I bought some of their boots, they're high quality.) Sadly drive seems to be on its last legs as it corrupts itself after being unplugged/powered off for a long time.
- WD400BB - came with a retro Luckytech P5MVP3/K6-2 500/SB Live 5.1 kit, seems to originate from some hospital, as I've found CT scans of people, scary stuff enough for me to run it through the fiercest DBAN routine ever, and it's a surprise the drive still works. (I've had WDs of that era usually die while running DBAN)
- WD800BB - came with a ASRock 775i65G Rev2/Celeron D 347 combo I got for cheap. Was split in half (40GB for WinXP SP3, and the other 40GB was for various stuff). Found some joke pics that were shared during the early Facebook days as well as (probably) on Yahoo Messenger, along with a Win95C SETUP folder (named WN95 instead of WIN95) and a 98SE SETUP folder (simply named Win98SE), as well as a old Mario Forever release (4.1, which I think is before Buziol turned into Softendo?) that I've saved. Oh, and various boring PDFs, as well as some drivers meant for a ASUS P4P800 SE mobo.
- Samsung HM160HI - came with a HP Pavilion DV9650ea laptop that I thought was clean (it had a pretty bare Windows 7 Pro x64 SP1 install), until I found porn in the browsing history.

Last edited by PcBytes on 2021-05-05, 21:07. Edited 1 time in total.

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