Before selling an old computer, all your personal data should be thoroughly wiped and the machine returned to its original factory state. This is important not only for the convenience of the new owner, but also to prevent fraud, identity theft and other serious problems.
It is crucial, for the sake of your security, that this process is done correctly, which is why we’ve broken down the process into 3 steps. These will ensure that your computer is fully blank and all your data is completely safe.
Step 1: Back up your data
Before you start deleting anything, all your data on the computer needs to be fully backed up. Remember: when information is fully deleted from the hard drive using this process, it will be unrecoverable – so it’s imperative that all your files are saved elsewhere.
Luckily, Cloud-based storage is easily accessible. In fact, most personal cloud services can be configured to automatically back up your data.
Alternatively, or as an additional precaution, you could choose to store your data in an external hard drive. However, this is slightly riskier as a standalone method: if the hard drive is lost, stolen or damaged then all your data will also be lost. If it is stolen, then you could face security threats.
Step 2: De-authorise any software
Once you’ve ensured your personal files are safe, you need to secure your software. This includes iTunes, Adobe Creative Suite… any program that you pay to use.
Paid programs are often limited in terms of how many devices you can download to. If you fail to de-authorise your old computer, it will still count as an active ‘user’ even after being wiped – that meaning you may not be able to access the program on your new device.
Make sure you keep a note of any other details you may need to re-activate any paid software – such as the serial number if there is one.
Step 3: Check which type of hard drive and Operating System you have
After the first two steps you will be ready to start wiping the hard-drive.
A few years ago, to properly wipe your hard drive, a third-party program was required because some computers, especially older models, used magnetic hard drives. It is still possible to recover files on magnetic drives even after deletion. Using a third party wiping program can safeguard against that, typically by over-writing the data several times with meaningless information.
Many computers now use a different type of hard drive (called an SSD), where it is impossible to recover files after deletion – but most standard computers still come with a magnetic hard drive.
Nowadays, all computers with up-to-date operating systems (Windows 8 and Mac OS Snow Leopard and above), come with an inbuilt program enabling you to wipe your hard drive thoroughly, eliminating the need for third-party programs even for magnetic drives.
In Mac, this option can be found on the ‘Utility Disk’ program. If you have Windows, simply go to ‘Settings’ and click on ‘Update and Security’, where you will find the option to completely wipe your PC.
These operating system features will safeguard your data and safely wipe your entire hard drive, leaving the Operating System and original programs intact and ready for a new owner!
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