What To Do Before Selling Your Laptop

Updated on September 10, 2020
What To Do Before Selling Your Laptop

Is your laptop getting and you’re planning to get a new one? Well, if you are then it might be a good idea to sell your old laptop and get some cash in return. However, you can’t just sell your old laptop just like that because you need to make it more appealing to potential buyers and you need to keep your personal information secure. After all, if you sell your laptop right away, then the buyer can see all of your personal data and even old passwords to important sites like your bank accounts.

With this in mind, it shows that even if you’re excited to sell your old laptop, there are many things that you have to do in order to make it more convenient for both you and your potential buyers. Thankfully, in this article, we’ll be covering the things you need to do before thinking about selling your laptop. These steps range from reformatting, backing up files, as well as tweaking and refurbishing your old laptop so that it will look better.

The first and most important thing before you do anything to your old laptop is to back up important files.

Important Notes Before Starting: Back-Up

The first and most important thing before you do anything to your old laptop is to back up important files. You can simply do this by copying all the important files in your laptop and transfer them into a USB, Hard Drive, or even on the cloud.

A good way to this is by copying your hard drive files to an external drive. Before doing this, we recommend that you choose to transfer files to an external hard drive that has a lot of storage space. It’s even ideal to pick an external drive that has greater or equal memory to your hard drive since you might copy everything.

Transferring Files to an External Drive

  1. Identify folders you want to back up and highlight them.
  2. Drag them into your external hard drive and you should be good to go.
  3. If you don’t drag your files across the screen then you can simply go to the “Home” tab and click on the “Copy To” button.
  4. Select your external drive and the files should be transferred.
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You can also do this to a USB as well if you’re only planning to transfer small amounts of data. 

Using Onedrive to Backup Your Files

If you haven’t used your Microsoft OneDrive, then it’s the perfect time to do so. OneDrive will sync to your Microsoft account where you can safely transfer your files up into the cloud. Once your files are in OneDrive, you can easily access it anytime in your new computers saving you the hassle of buying an external hard drive.

You also don’t have to worry about downloading the Microsoft OneDrive service in our old computer since it came preinstalled in your Windows 10 operating system.  And since it’s pre-installed you can use it right off the bat, provided you sync it with your Microsoft account.

One thing to note before doing this method is that you need a good internet connection to do this so keep this in mind when transferring extremely large files since it might take some time to upload it. 

  1. Go to File Explorer and choose the files you want to backup
  2. Highlight those files then click on the “Home” tab and then choose the “Copy to” option.
  3. You probably won’t see  OneDrive on the list so go the very end of the list and click on “Choose Location”
  4. A new window will pop up and you can choose the OneDrive folder.
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  1. Click on “Copy” and it should transfer the selected files into the Onedrive Folder

Keep in mind that the free tier version of Microsoft OneDrive can only support up to 5GB of Data. You can temporarily increase the storage by subscribing to their higher tiers and thankfully you can upgrade it to 100 GB for only $1.99 per month. There are higher tiers but they’re a little bit expensive since they require you to buy other features in a bundle like their Microsoft 365 subscription and other services. 

In the end, it doesn’t matter where you transfer them, the important thing is that important files like personal pictures, work files, and documents are safely stored. However, this is easier said than done since it’s almost impossible to keep track of all of your important files and it’s very likely that you’ll forget a few files if you do it this way.

If you’re not confident about where you’ve stored all of your important data, then it might be better to backup your entire hard drive entirely. You can scrub your files later and you won’t miss accidentally deleting anything important.

Creating a System Image to Backup Your Files

Relying on external devices and third-party services like OneDrive will ensure that you backup your data safely but they are very limited since you have to manually select the files itself. Why not back up your entire system then?

You can do this by creating a system image that stores all of your data as well as the settings of your old computer. Think of it like a snapshot or an exact copy of your hard drive. 

  1. Connect your computer or laptop to an external hard drive that has a large enough storage space. We recommend getting an external hard drive with similar storage space to your HDD or SSD.
  2. Go to the Control Panel, then click on “System and Security”. Then go look for the “Backup and Restore (Windows 7)” option and click on it.
  3. On the left side, you’ll see an option called “Create system image” Click on it and it will open up a new window.
  4. Choose the  “On a hard disk option” and scroll down to find your external hard drive. Press next.
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  1. Then click on the “Start Backup” option and your computer would start creating a system image that completely copies the state of the hard drive you are using.

How Do You Wipe a Computer Clean to Sell It

Now that you’ve properly created a backup or backups of your important files, it’s time to remove everything and wipe your computer clean of any personal files or personal information that might be inconvenient for the new owner, 

But before you get started, you must know that the process to remove everything in your laptop varies depending on the operating system. So windows 10 and below computers will differ from how you would wipe a Mac completely.

How to Reset and Remove Everything in a Mac

Macs are probably one of the easiest operating systems to factory reset and wipe clean. They have a very intuitive user interface and their options are very easy to follow and understand. But with that being said, there are things you need to do first before resetting a Mac since it might cause problems later on.

  1. Sign out of all the apps and licenses currently on your Mac laptop or computer. This is to prevent authentication issues later on which can be a hassle to deal with.
  2. You can do this by going to iCloud and click on “Sign Out”. Make sure to disable “Find My Mac” on iCloud as well.
  3. Uncheck all of your apps so properly sign out of all of them. Press “Continue”
  1. If there are programs and apps not covered by iCloud then make sure to sign out of all of those respective programs as well. We’re talking about programs like photoshop, messaging apps, and other apps that need you to log in to use their service.
  2. Now that you’re done signing out you can now start resetting and wiping your Mac.
  3. Restart your Mac laptop and hold the “command + r”  buttons while it’s booting up. It will open the “macOS Utilities” window.
  4. Choose the “Disk Utility” option and click  on “Continue”
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  1. Choose the hard disk you want to be erased and press the erase “option” on the upper side of the window. 
  2. Choose the format “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” before pressing the erase button to prevent any compatibility issues.
  3. Your Mac computer should start to erase all of your personal files.
  4. Go Back to macOS Utilities and choose the “reinstall macOS” option. Press continue and your Mac computer should start reinstalling the macOS.

How to Get Started in Resetting Your Windows 10 Laptop

  1. Press the Windows button and type in “settings”. A new window will popup showing multiple options.
  2. Search for  “Update & Security” and click on it.
  3. Look for “Recovery” on the left window pane and click on it.
  4. The look for “Reset this PC” text and choose the option under in called “Get started”
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  1. A new window should pop up. You’d want to click on the remove everything button since you want to delete all of your personal files on your laptop or computer.
  2. To ensure that all files will be removed, click on “Change settings” and turn on the “Data erasure option.”
  3. Press Confirm > Next > Reset buttons accordingly and your laptop should start the resetting process.

Resetting a Windows 8 Laptop 

Now since you’re using an older computer or laptop, then you might not necessarily be using Windows 10 but an older version of Windows. If this is the case, then know that the steps are similar with some minor changes.  

Here are the steps for resetting Windows 8:

  1. Go to settings in Windows 8.
  2. Search for “Update and Security” and click on it.
  1. It will take you to a similar screen to the Windows 10 option and all you need to do is got to Recovery and choose the “Get Started” option similar to Windows 10.
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  1. Follows the options and choose the second option “Remove files and clean the drive”
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Resetting a Windows 7 Computer

Now if you really have an old computer, then you might want to know how to do a factory reset with Windows 7 or below. Now you’ll need to download an installation file from Microsoft itself since Windows 7 isn’t as advanced as Windows 8 or 10 where they can simply reinstall windows without relying on a disk. 

  1. Go to the Control Panel.
  2. Click “Back up your computer” under System and Security
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  1. Click “recover system settings”, then click on “Advanced Recovery Methods”
  2. Then click on “Reinstall Windows (Requires Windows Installation disc)”
  3. You need a Windows installation disc for this and thankfully you can download it from Microsoft here. You can also save this file in a USB or External drive as well so you don’t have to worry about buying a disk.
  4. Click yes, then click on “restart”.
  5. Windows will now be reinstalled using a new OS and all of your files will be deleted. Just follow the installation steps and you should be done in a few hours.

Is My Data Really Safe (ie. Can it Be Retrieved After Reset)

Resetting and wiping your hard drive will ensure that the average laptop user won’t be able to see your files. They won’t be able to access your personal information either.

However, if the person who bought really wants to see your personal data, they can with the right tools and software. This is because formatting a hard drive does not technically delete the file itself. Instead, your files are no longer actively indexed in the computer making your files essentially invisible.

However, there are tons of file recovery programs out there that can recover a formatted hard disk as well as special hardware that extract and recover lost information. Using these programs takes time and money and the average laptop user won’t use these programs just to access your formatted files.

In short, your data is still recoverable but it will take a lot of time, effort, and money to do so which means that your average person won’t necessarily probe and recover your formatted data. However, If someone really wants to do it, then there is always a chance that they can recover your personal information and files but they have to be crazy to invest in a lot of time and money for it.

But if you’re really paranoid about your data, you can use “Data Destroyer” programs like CBL Data Shredder and DBan to completely wipe your hard drive. It will make your hard drive’s data less recoverable but there’s a small chance that recovery programs can still get a few files out of it given enough time and effort. 

What Else Do I Need to Know Before Selling My Laptop

Where Do I Sell My Old Laptop?

Now that you’ve properly prepared your laptop for selling, the question remains, “Where do I sell it?” Well, the answer is easy: there are tons of online resources that allow you to sell old computers and computer parts such as Amazon’s trade-in feature as well as Best Buy’s trade-in features as well.

You also don’t have to rely on big companies as well since you can simply sell it on Facebook groups as well. There are tons of local Facebook groups that do selling and trade and all you need to do is search for those groups near your area. 

What Should Be My Selling Price?

Before you start selling your old laptop, you need to know how much it’s worth in today’s market. There are many ways to do this like:

  • Asking online forums
  • Searching shopping sites for the same model and build and comparing the prices
  • Using online resources like Gadgetvalue to determine your laptop’s selling price

Knowing how much your laptop’s worth will help prevent you from overpricing it which would discourage people from buying it in the first place.

You Don’t Have to Sell It If You Can Recycle it

Just because a laptop is old doesn’t mean that you can’t use it for something else. Rather than selling your laptop to a random stranger, you can opt to use it as an additional storage device. If you don’t want to buy an external hard drive or resort to subscribing to cloud storage then this is a viable option.

You can also use your laptop as a security camera as well. There are tons of programs to do this and it will help keep your home safe as well as help the environment since you are recycling an old piece of hardware.

There’s also no need to convert your laptop into another piece of hardware since you can also use it as a Chromebook. If your laptop is so old that it can’t handle basic Windows 10 processes, then don’t worry because it might still be a usable dispute having outdated specs. This is possible since you can change the laptop’s OS into something lighter than Windows 10 like Chrome OS. 

There are many more ways you can use your old computer or laptop and you don’t need to sell them if you can find better uses for it. You can find more uses for it right here.


Selling an older laptop or computer can help give you some extra money in buying for its replacement. You just need to make sure that the laptop you are selling is formatted properly so that the average buyer won’t be able to see and access your old files.

Of course, there are ways to recover your personal data through special software and hardware but the average buyer won’t know they exist in the first place. You can also recycle your old computer as well so you don’t really have to sell it. 

We hope that this article is helpful and if we missed any suggestions or tips, then feel free to comment down below.

Article by:
Kenny Trinh
While he’s not editing articles on the latest tech trends, he likes to discuss business and entrepreneur. His writing has been featured in national publications such as Forbes, RD, Yahoo Finance, HackerNoon among others.

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