How to Clean a Computer for Resale

By Rebecca Mecomber

Selling your used computer offers several benefits: you may make a little profit as well as offer a buyer the advantage of a discounted machine. However, be aware of the threat of identity theft. Your computer stores information about you and your usage on the hard drive. Your passwords, banking information, private email and even the websites you have visited are all readily available. Follow the steps to eradicate your personal data and prepare the computer for its new owner.

Things You'll Need

  • External hard drive
  • Original operating system software CD
  • Vacuum with attachment parts
  • Warm, soapy water
  • Cloth for cleaning
  • Cloth for drying

Step 1

Upload your data to an online storage server or transfer your files onto an external hard drive. Remove your personal data and important files from the drive. Delete files to the Recycle Bin.

Step 2

Obtain hard drive disk wiping software. A number of free software utilities are available such as Disk Wipe, Eraser and After Work. Install the disk wiping software on your computer and allow the program to run. The Department of Defense recommends running the disk wiping software a minimum of three times for adequate deletion of data.

Step 3

Do a fresh installation of the operating system software. Insert the installation CD into the CD drive and reboot the computer; follow the on-screen instructions. Alternatively, activate the recovery option from the partition if you have no operating system software disk. Access to this utility may vary depending on the computer manufacturer. Select "Windows Complete PC Restore" from the options and follow the on-screen instructions.

Step 4

Clean the unit: open the case and carefully vacuum out dust and debris. Be careful not to strike any wires or internal components, as this could damage the system. Thoroughly wash the outside of the unit with warm, soapy water. Do not allow any water to seep into the internal section of the computer. Wipe dry.