Tech Tip Thursday: What to Do Before Selling Your PC

There comes a time in the life of every PC when you find that you want or need to move on. Whether your computer needs a repair that’s too costly, or it’s getting older and outdated, or a shiny new model just catches your eye, eventually you’ll find yourself with a computer that needs a new home. At Phone Medics + PC, we want to give you the tools and knowledge you need to make the transition to your new PC as smooth and painless as possible. That’s why we’ve prepared this guide to the things you need to do before selling your PC.

Backup Your Data

The first thing you need to do before selling your computer is backup your stuff. There are a few different methods for doing this, but for the purposes of selling a computer, the best and simplest way to backup your data is to simply transfer it to an external hard drive. Make sure you have a drive large enough to store the files you want to save, plug it into your PC, then you can just copy the files and folders you want to keep from your old PC to the external drive. If you maintain an onsite backup like the ones we talked about in our guide to backing up your PC, then this process should be pretty easy. You just need to make sure your backup is current.

In addition to backing up your data, it’s also probably a good idea to make a list of the software on your current PC that you’ll want to install on your new PC, and make sure that you have any physical installation media and license keys that you’ll need to reinstall the software.

Resetting Windows 10

Now, the next step is to reset your computer, but this process varies a bit depending on what version of Windows your PC is running. If you’re using Windows 10 or Windows 8.1, the process is pretty straightforward. For a Windows 10 PC, open Settings, then click Update & Security. On the left side of the window, you should see a list of options. Click Recovery, about halfway down the list. At the top of the screen you’ll see Reset this PC, and a button underneath that says Get Started. Click on that. This will open a separate window where you’ll have the option to keep your files or remove everything. Since you’re selling your PC, you need to remove everything, so click that option. Next you’ll see another set of two options. One says “Just remove my files,” and the other says “Remove files and clean the drive.” The first option resets Windows back to its original settings and deletes the files, but in such a way that someone skilled enough could still access them. The second option deletes the files, reformats the drive, and then completely reinstalls Windows. This is much more secure.

Resetting Window 8.1

The process for Windows 8.1 is similar: open Settings, click Update and Recovery, then click Recovery. Again, you’ll see the option to either keep or remove your files. Click the option to remove everything and reinstall Windows. Next you’ll be asked whether you want to erase your data quickly or erase it thoroughly. As with Windows 10, erasing it quickly deletes your files in such a way that some of them could still be recovered, while erasing it thoroughly reformats the drive before reinstalling Windows. Now, with Windows 8.1 there are a couple of important things to be aware of. First, if you have installation media that came with your computer – a recovery disc or USB drive – you’ll want to have that handy in case Windows needs any of the files from it. Also, if you upgraded to Windows 8.1 from Windows 8, this process will revert the PC to Windows 8, so you’ll need to redo the upgrade to 8.1.

Unlink Your Microsoft Account

Once you’ve reset your PC, all you need to do is remove it from your Microsoft account. Head over to, sign into your account, and remove the computer from your list of devices. That lets Microsoft know that the PC isn’t yours anymore.

Time To Sell It

After you’ve reset your computer, it’s a good idea to gather up any peripherals, accessories, cables (including the power cable) and, if it’s a laptop, any spare batteries you might have so that you have everything together when it’s sold. It’s also not a bad idea to clean it up as best you can, especially if you’re planning to post pictures online. Once that’s done, you’re all set. Your PC is ready to be sold (or donated).