How to Clean a Computer for Sale

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Putting your old computer up for sale is a good way to help invest in a newer machine or get rid of a system you no longer use. Before selling, however, it's important that you clean it up properly to prevent anyone else from seeing your old files and information. A simple way to prepare your computer for a sale is to reformat it, wiping all its information and reinstalling the operating system to how it was when you first purchased it.

Things You'll Need

  • Windows install disc
  • Windows product key
  • Place your Windows boot CD into your computer's CD drive, then restart your computer. When prompted, press any key on your keyboard to load from the CD.

  • Choose your language, time and keyboard format, click "Next," then click "Install Now" on the following screen. Accept the license terms, then click "Next" to arrive at the installation options screen.

  • Click "Custom (Advanced)." On the following screen, select the disk on which you want to reinstall Windows. This needs to be the partition that you already have Windows installed on, and it should be easy to identify; the size is much larger than others, which are often recovery partitions.

  • Select the correct partition, then click "Drive Options (Advanced)" at the bottom. Click the "Format" icon, then click "Yes."

  • Wait for the formatting to complete. This may take some time, and in some cases may take over an hour. When it is complete, the computer restarts by itself and begins the Windows installation process. Do not press any key to boot from the CD when prompted; wait for the Windows installation to load. This process again takes some time.

  • Complete the Windows setup process. This is where you choose security settings and network settings, as well as your username and password. The username can be changed at any time, so call it whatever you want; since you're selling it, you might want to call it something simple, like "User." Do not choose a password. The new owner can set that up at her convenience.

    At the end of the process, Windows is ready to use. It needs to be updated and customized, but that can all be taken care of by the new owner.

Tips & Warnings

  • Reformatting is one of the effective tools to clean your hard drive and works for most users, but more tech-savvy people may still be able to recover data. Data is only unrecoverable after it has been written over, so consider looking into data wiping programs such as Darik's Boot and Nuke or Disk Wipe if you want an extremely thorough job.

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