Wait! Before you sell or give your old computer away … read this!

By | January 28, 2012
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Michael is planning on giving his Windows XP computer to his church and wants to erase his hard drive securely
Hi TC & EB. I’ve finally got a new Windows 7 computer – my XP computer is eight years old and I’ve gotten my use out of it. It still runs well and I’m planning to give it to my church. A while back – some time last year – you guys had an article about how to erase your hard drive before you sell it or give it away. I wondered if you could tell me where I could find it. I really appreciate your honesty. I’m going to buy one of your repair keys here soon. I’d like you to clean the junk from my brand new computer — they come loaded with so much garbage on them. Thanks so much for all you do! Take care…Michael.

Our answer
Hi Michael. Thanks for all the kind words and for the support. We’re going to re-publish that article in answer to your question. With Windows 8 coming out later this year and with so many Windows XP users moving to Windows 7, we think your question is an excellent one.

Here’s what you need to do:

First make sure you have a Windows installation disk – or you have access to one. You’re going to need it when you’ve finished wiping the hard drive.

Whether you’re planning to give your old computer away or sell it, protect yourself by completely wiping the hard drive and then reinstalling the operating system. It’s not that you don’t trust people – it’s just that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Remember that everything you’ve ever typed on your computer is still there somewhere on your hard drive – including credit card numbers, bank account numbers, passwords, etc. And there are many forensic programs that can read data from hard drives which have been formatted and even from hard drives which have been formatted and on which Windows has bee reinstalled. And some of these forensic programs are cheap – some even free. You never know what someone is going to do with your old computer – curiosity sometimes overwhelms.

Here’s a program we found you can use to wipe your hard drive so that no data can be recovered from it – not even those using expensive professional forensic recovery tools. The program is call KillDisk.

Now you’re going to see on the KillDisk site that show all the features of KillDisk Pro (not free) vs. KillDisk free. You don’t need erase your hard drive to Department of Defense standards. In fact we read a review of KillDisk where the tester used the free version of KillDisk to wipe a hard drive then took it to a professional recovery service to see if any data could be recovered from the disk. The recovery service could recover nothing from the computer at all. So unless you’re going to be giving your computer to the NSA or CIA or some other spy agency, the freeware version will work just fine for you.

Now were going to issue you a STRONG WARNING. Do NOT use KillDisk on a computer you want to keep and use because it WILL wipe your hard drive and you’ll lose everything – including Windows. This program is only for erasing everything from your hard drive so you can reinstall Windows and sell or give your computer to someone. DO NOT USE IT ON A COMPUTER you want to keep.

You can read more about KillDisk Free from this page: http://killdisk.com/

KillDisk works with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 – all versions (32bit and 64bit).

And there’s another freeware program that does the same thing as KillDisk – it’s called Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN). Derek says: “Darik’s Boot and Nuke (‘DBAN’) is a self-contained boot disk that securely wipes the hard disks of most computers. DBAN will automatically and completely delete the contents of any hard disk that it can detect, which makes it an appropriate utility for bulk or emergency data destruction. DBAN is a means of ensuring due diligence in computer recycling, a way of preventing identity theft if you want to sell a computer, and a good way to totally clean a Microsoft Windows installation of viruses and spyware.”

DBAN works with all versions of Windows. You can download it or learn more about it from http://www.dban.org.

Do not use either of these tools if you don’t want to completely wipe out everything on your hard drive. These tools work and work well – you’ll lose all your data – you’ll have nothing left. After you run KillDisk or DBan — you can reinstall Widnows and your computer will have nothing on it but Windows. Be nice to the people you’re giving your computer to – and at least install Windows before you give it to them. Otherwise they’ll have a computer that won’t boot 🙂

Wipe your hard drive before you sell or give your old computer away — you’ll sleep better.

7 thoughts on “Wait! Before you sell or give your old computer away … read this!

  1. Judy Taylor

    I found this article very informative and interesting. I would like to know how or where one can get a Windows installation disk/CD ? None of my computers came with any disk or CD.
    Keep up the good work, I really enjoy your newsletters.

    1. infoave Post author

      You can buy one. If you’re looking for a Windows XP disk — good luck. You can download a Windows XP iso and burn your own installation disk — but this isn’t really legal – so I’m not going to tell you where you can download it. How resourceful are you?


    Thank you for all TC and EB does for us. Having said that, I have an old (old and heavy) laptop computer which is ready for the dump. One of the batteries (or the battery) is broken. It no longer will retain the current time and or date. Computer Tech says it will take more in cash to repair than to buy a new one. Anyway, planning on trashing it but I do not want to throw it away without either removing or wiping clean the hard drive. Which would you recommend? Thanks again.

    1. infoave Post author

      You should completely destroy the computer — if you’re going to throw it away. Or take the hard drive out and smash it with a hammer. Or if you like – use DBAN and wipe it.

  3. pATTY m-bRAY


    1. infoave Post author

      If you’re going to destroy the computer – you can simply remove the hard drive and smash it with a hammer (seriously). Once you ruin the drive’s mechanical parts, if you really don’t want anyone to recover data from it — smash it and then put it in water. You’ll be safe.

  4. Ron Warn

    Thank you for this great information!! I, too, need to get rid of my computer ‘safely’. I have been so impressed with the information you have shared with us all over the past years. I haven’t been brave enough to get and use one of your “keys” to help out my cluttered computer yet because I really don’t speak in ‘computer language’ like you are so able to do and do it so well! BUT, I want to send you a donation, uh, Ooops, I mean a gift but every time I go to a ‘Press here’ button for information to link up with you, my old computer freezes up and I have to log off or just start it again. The same thing happens every time I attempt to access ‘tabs’ for me from my kids on Facebook. I am truly a neophyte in computer activity. However, I still want to send you a ‘gift’ by cheque but I can find no address at your end to where I can send it. I have joined your subscribing group and do enjoy the free info you send we members. Could you email or even phone me an address to where I can forward to you a cheque toward your fine work please? Ron Warn (ronwarn@shaw.ca)


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