How to Clean Out an Old Computer So I Can Get Rid of it?


Clean out your old computer before disposing of it or giving it away to prevent data from being recovered. With identity theft a constant threat, the data on old hard drives is a prime target. Wipe your hard drive and all the files on it prior to giving it away, selling it or placing it in a recycling bin. You might also need specialized drive-cleaning software for computers that contain sensitive or personal information.

Things You'll Need

  • Operating system installation disc or system recovery disc
  • Back up any important files or settings on the computer using the backup utility built into the operating system.

  • Insert the original operating system installation disc or system recovery disc in the optical drive and restart the computer. Press "Enter" when prompted to boot from the CD/DVD drive.

  • Click the option to "Install Now" or "Install Operating System." The message will vary slightly by operating system.

  • Click the option to completely erase the hard drive and reinstall the operating system from scratch. The message will vary slightly by operating system.

  • Select the appropriate time zone settings and language and enter in the installation key code if prompted.

  • Select the advanced options when prompted to choose an installation destination.

  • Click on an existing partition and click "Delete" or the equivalent command to remove the partition from the drive. Repeat this for any additional partitions on the drive. Confirm any warning dialogs if prompted.

  • Click on the unallocated space on the primary drive as the destination for the operating system installation and proceed with the installation by following the prompts. These prompts will vary slightly by operating system, but the default answer will typically work in most cases to install the operating system to factory default settings.

  • Remove the disc from the optical drive and shut down the computer.

Tips & Warnings

  • If sensitive data or personal information was stored on the computer at any time, permanently wipe the drive clean using software designed for securely erasing hard drives, and then reinstall the operating system from the installation disc or recovery disc (see Resources).
  • Emptying the recycling bin does not permanently delete files on the hard drive; instead, it simply flags the space as available and allows the operating system to overwrite files as needed.

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  • Photo Credit Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
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