How to Get your PC Clean Before you Sell


Buying a new computer is tons of fun; the shiny new case, the quiet fans, the satisfying “dun dun, da da” of the start up noise. Not so much fun can be the getting rid of an old computer. We may not get attached to our computers, but they certainly do become a fixture in our lives. They house emails, papers, receipts, address books, and even credit card numbers. It can be, for good reason, more than a little nerve wracking to send a machine carrying so much data off to some guy named “Naston2”, who lives in Alabama, that bought your PC off eBay. Here are a couple of quick tips on how to clean up for your computer for sale so you can send your old clunker off in safety.

A complete computer cleansing can be done in three different ways: Reformatting, swapping, or wiping.


This is the cheapest and simplest of the choices, because it’s absolutely free and is a function already built into most computers. Reformatting is like pressing a big reset button on your computer, restoring it to the way it was when you first took it out of the box. When this is done, the PC first wipes your drive completely clean and the re-installs Windows from scratch. Reformatting your hard drive will keep your data safe from anyone but the CIA.

To do this, you’ll need the system recovery disks your computer came with and around a half-an-hour. Make sure you’ve copied off all the data you want to keep, pop in your disks, and follow the instructions. If you don’t have any recovery disks, try restarting your computer and accessing your start-up menu (watch the black start-up screens for prompts to hit a key for start up options, usually F10 or Esc); there will usually be a system restore or recovery option here.


Swapping is the absolute safest choice, but it costs a bit of money. This one involves physically removing your old hard drive and installing a new one before you sell the computer. No one can scrape data off a hard drive they don’t have. Installing a new hard drive is one of the easiest changes to make on a computer, requiring only a few minutes and a Philips screwdriver. Here’s a quick how-to video in any case:

The new drive won’t have Windows or anything else installed on it of course, so unless you install a new version of Windows, you may not get as much when you sell them as you would otherwise.


Wiping is like reformatting, but without the re-installation part. This is probably not the best choice for your primary boot drive, since it will leave the drive completely barren of any useful data. Wiping is a great choice for if you’re just selling or chucking a hard drive. The secret to wiping a drive is that it doesn’t just erase your data, but writes over it, filling the drive with zeros or random patterns. Here’s a link to a free program called “Killdisk” that will complete this operation for free.

For other information on how to keep your computer up to speed, check out my post on the best bang for your buck PC upgrades. If you’re ready to buy your new computer or a new hard drive, browse OutletPC for great deals on both.

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