How to Remove Personal Information to Sell a Computer

By Joshua Thomas

Most people do not realize the sheer amount of sensitive personal information that remains on a computer even after deleting the files. Someone with the right skill sets and bad intentions can inflict lasting damage on the person who did not completely erase private data before selling a computer. There's no perfect method of erasing data, but you can make it much harder for someone to access the data on your drives.

Step 1

Insert the operating system's boot-up disk into the computer. Reinstall the OS to overwrite all the data files on the computer and return the computer to factory defaults before selling a computer. This works in most cases, unless the buyer knows how to use third-party software to retrieve deleted files.

Step 2

Use a wiping program such as Active@ KillDisk or WipeDrive that operates by overwriting information multiple times to make it even harder for even the most elite information thieves. These software programs are not free, but might be a good investment if you use your computer for very sensitive financial and personal information.

Step 3

Install an encryption program on your computer as soon as you can. These programs work best when installed at the time of a computer purchase. Encryption software works by scrambling data and only making it readable if the person has the encryption key. Theoretically, cracking encryption keys can be done, but is still next to impossible.

Tips & Warnings

  • Because no method erases data 100 percent, never give away hard drives.