If you are considering selling your laptop because you have upgraded to a newer model or make a system change (Apple’s new M2 chip sounds very exciting), you don’t want to give your device to the first to answer on Facebook Marketplace and call it a done deal.
While logging out of all your accounts and deleting your files might seem like a clean slate on your end, you can still hand over a lot of your personal data to a stranger if they have recovery know-how. of data. To really protect you and your data, you’ll want to completely factory reset your laptop.
How to Clean a Windows Laptop
We reset a running PC Windows 11 in this guide. The steps are quite similar for older versions of Windows, although some menus may exist in other locations. They will still be very close!
Backing up your files
The very first thing you need to do is back up the files on your laptop that you want to save. There is nothing worse than deleting everything on your device with reckless abandon only to remember those precious photos or important documents that you had only stored on its drive. There are three easy ways to make sure your data is backed up properly:
- Create a system image: A system image is a copy of all data on a disk volume, which is perfect for recovering your system after a crash or transferring everything (including the smallest settings tweaks) to a new PC. This process may seem daunting, but it’s quite simple. You only need an additional drive with enough space to store the system image.
- Use OneDrive: Microsoft’s cloud-based storage solution is great for backing up photos, documents, and more to a safe place before you wipe out your laptop. All Microsoft users get 5GB free storage space, and there are paid plans if you need more space. You can easily set up favorite folders that automatically sync with the cloud.
- Use an external hard drive: If you prefer to have your files on a physical hard drive (or don’t want to pay for cloud storage), you can use an external hard drive to save your files. It will be a bit longer process as you will have to choose the files you want to save manually and move them to your storage device.
Erasing your laptop
Now that you have everything safely stored somewhere else, it’s time to erase everything you don’t need and reset the device to factory settings.
- Open the start menu and search for Settings, either by clicking the gear icon in the Pinned apps section or by searching for Settings using the search bar.
- In the left sidebar, click “System”.
- Find and click “Recovery” in the “System” menu on the right.
- Under the “Recovery options” heading, click the “Reset PC” button.
- In the pop-up recovery window, click “Delete everything”.
- On the next screen, click “Local reinstallation”.
- On the “Additional Settings” screen, click the “Change Settings” button below the list of current settings. Make sure the toggles under “Clean data?” and “Delete files from all drives?” are switched to “Yes”. Click “Confirm” once you have made these changes.
- Back on the “Additional Settings” screen, click “Next”.
- On the next screen, once you are ready for a full reset, click on the “Reset” button to start the process.
The whole reset process may take a few hours, but when complete, your files, accounts, settings, and apps will be completely erased from the device and a fresh version of Windows 11 will be installed. Upon restarting the computer, you should encounter a ready-to-use configuration menu, which you can leave untouched for the next owner.
How to clean your MacBook
Wiping down a MacBook takes no time at all. Since Apple has regularly upgraded security and privacy features with each model, newer laptops will be easier to erase.
Backing up your files
Most methods of resetting a MacBook are going to give you plenty of reminders and opportunities to save your files before hitting the restart button, but it’s always a good idea to double-check these things. Make sure that anything you want to keep (photos, important documents, etc.) is saved somewhere other than your laptop’s hard drive. There are a few easy ways to make sure everything is safe:
- Use the Migration Assistant: If you are replacing your current Mac with a newer model, you can use Migration Wizard to move all your content to your new device without any hassle.
- Use TimeMachine: Time Machine is Apple’s built-in backup feature. If you have a large enough external hard drive, you can create a backup of your entire system that you can later access or install on a new Mac.
- Use iCloud: Most of your key files are probably already backed up to your iCloud storage anyway. Take a look and make sure it’s all there, or upgrade your storage if you need it.
Erasing your laptop
Like we said, if you’re using a newer MacBook, this process will be much easier. If you switched to macOS Monterey on a Mac with Apple Silicon or one Mac with the Apple T2 Security Chipfollow the steps below and ignore the following.
- Click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your screen and select “System Preferences”.
- Return to the same corner of your screen, click “System Preferences” and select “Erase All Content and Settings” from the drop-down menu.
- The Erase Assistant will open and prompt you to enter your Apple ID information.
- If you’re prompted to back up your Mac before resetting it, you can open Time Machine and back up to an external storage device from this menu. If you have already managed the backup of your files, click “Continue”.
- The following menu lists everything that will be deleted from your device. Review this list, then click “Continue.”
- You will be asked to enter your Apple ID password to continue.
- You will receive a final warning that everything on your MacBook is about to be deleted. Click “Erase All Content and Settings” to continue.
- Your Mac restarts and displays a black screen or progress bar while resetting.
- Once complete, you may be prompted to connect to a Wi-Fi network on a screen labeled “Active Mac”. Connect to your preferred network and click “Restart”.
Your Mac will restart again and return to a ready-to-use state. If you sell your MacBook or give it to someone else, leave it as is so that the next user can properly configure the device.
Erase an Old MacBook
If you’ve tried to find the menus above and can’t find them on your MacBook, you’re probably using a slightly older model that doesn’t have these easy reset features. No problem – you can always erase all traces of yourself from your MacBook. This will take a little extra effort. Here are some tasks you will need to do manually after backing up your files:
- Sign out of iTunes: If you’ve used iTunes to purchase anything, your account information will be stored there. In iTunes, find your “Account” menu > Permissions > Deauthorize this computer to sign out of iTunes.
- Sign out of iCloud: You are also going to want to delete your iCloud account. Click the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your screen, select System Preferences > Apple ID > Overview > Sign Out (near the bottom of the window).
- Sign out of iMessage: Finally, you need to sign out of iMessage. Open Messages app > Messages > Preferences > iMessage > Sign Out.
Now is the time to finish resetting your MacBook.
- Restart your Mac. Immediately hold down the “Command” and “R” keys to boot your laptop from macOS Recovery.
- If prompted, choose a user profile whose password you know and enter it when prompted.
- In the pop-up window, select “Disk Utility” and click “Continue”.
- In the left sidebar, select “Macintosh HD”.
- Click the Delete button on the toolbar. You may be asked to type “Macintosh HD” in the name form. The “Format” form should be left with whatever Disk Utility automatically recommends – it will be either “APFS” or “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)”.
- Click “Delete”. This button might also read “Erase Volume Group”.
- If prompted, enter your Apple ID and password.
- When the erase is complete, select any other internal volume in the sidebar, then click the delete volume (–) button in the toolbar to delete that volume.
- Quit Disk Utility to return to the Utilities window.
- You can click “Reinstall macOS” in this menu to restore the MacBook to working order, or you can leave this task to the person to whom you give the laptop.