What to do when selling an older PC (desktop or laptop)

Nov 27, 2020
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So we all get to that point when we buy or build a new PC desktop, or purchase a new laptop. You've got your old one lying around, and know you could make back a few bucks if you sell it or part it out. But what about the hard drive that has all your info on it? What about the OS that is registered in your name?

I'm not sure how this would work. If you sell the used system complete, is there a way to make sure that all your personal information is erased? And what about the OS (assuming a Windows version)? It's officially registered to you with Microsoft, is there a way to delete your info & transfer the registration to the new owner?

I've been thinking about this because I have an old, old, old I3 laptop that I haven't used in years, and thought I could make a few bucks if I sold it on Ebay. But the info on the hard drive worries me, as well as all the info that Microsoft has through my registration of that copy of Windows. How can I safely sell this old laptop?

As far as desktops go, I usually buy a new gaming PC about every 3-4 years (maybe longer now with all the shortages), and when I do, I keep my older one as a backup PC. Eventually when I upgrade again, I'll part out that 3rd desktop and sell the parts on Ebay, or elsewhere. But never the hard drive (C drive), because of the info that might be gleaned from it even if I erase it, and because of the copy of Windows is registered to me. What's the best way to go about this?

Moderators: I wasn't really sure what category to put this question in, as it's not actually a "gaming" question, but a hardware related question. Hopefully this category is okay, but feel free to move it.
 

Kaamos_Llama

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Jan 31, 2020
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I tend to buy new hardware fairly regularly, and I always sell the old parts on locally to help fund my habit. I havent ever sold a complete system because I'm always using the rest of it still. When I was younger and poorer I would just use a system until something blew up.

Not entirely sure how it works with laptops, they come with OEM copies of Windows that cant be used on other machines, so I don't know if you cant just log out of your personal MS account on the machine somehow? I know you can use Windows legally without a license indefinitely, so it wouldnt hurt to format and fresh reinstall it and not register it.

For HDD's I usually just give them to someone I know for cheap, or keep them in the cupboard. I've got a few in cases I use for backing up pictures etc. My dad used to take his to work where they had some sort of MRI machine for scanning engine parts for micro fractures, he'd run it through the magnet a couple of times and then just put them to electronic waste there.

I sold an old SSD recently that was my OS drive for quite a long time. Samsung has a secure erase option in their software that I used, after normal formatting. Not sure if its possible for the CIA to recover data through that but I guess I'll take my chances.
 

Colif

Moderator
I have given a friend my old PC every time for the last 4 computers until last year. But I didn't give him my hdd, its still in my drawer. It won't ever be used again. I still have my last PC as I didn't want to let go of its case just yet. Its sitting at the base of my bed. It works still. I just have a newer one. I should plug it in and upgrade windows.

Just as I have never sold a hdd, I wouldn't buy one 2nd hand. HDD are the most likely things in PC to die so buying a 2nd hand one just sounds like Russian Roulette for my data. SSD are almost as bad in that regard (worse really as you can't hear a change in them before they stop... hdd can start clicking)

take the drives out if you can. Keep them and then its up to person buying to get windows.

If its a Windows 10 PC, and they are smart, they could just put win 10 on and when they get to screen asking for licence, click "I don't have one" and win 10 will check activation servers once installed and could just reactivate. Its not linked to you in anyway, just the PC. You generally can't link OEM win 10 to an email address. Its linked to PC
 
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Nov 27, 2020
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@Brian Boru - I do have an older desktop PC that's about 8 or 9 years old that I use for that purpose. Fortunately, it's got 6 hot swap bays that I can plug in my older HHDs and just use for data storage of photos, screenshots, ect.

@Colif & @Kaamos_Llama - I've never bought used PC parts, as I'm just leery of how hard they've been used, especially any kind of HD or video card. And while I've parted out older desktops and sold the parts, but not the "C" drive which I just wipe and then use as a backup drive in a hot swap bay, I always keep my previous gaming PC as a backup just in case.

It was mainly that old laptop I was thinking of getting rid of (as my apartment is starting to look like a warehouse) because it's not really something I use anymore. It's not viable as a gaming laptop, as it only has integrated graphics, just something I used for work back before I retired. So maybe I'll just wipe the HD on it and try to sell it as is, or if it's not worth anything on the market, I'll just give it away.

Thanks everyone for the responses.
 

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