How to wipe a computer if you want to sell it or give it a fresh start



a man sitting at a table using a laptop computer: The process of wiping your PC is quite different from wiping a Mac — here's how to do both. Yagi Studio/Getty Images


© Yagi Studio/Getty Images
The process of wiping your PC is quite different from wiping a Mac — here’s how to do both. Yagi Studio/Getty Images

  • You can wipe a computer’s hard drive and return it to its factory conditions with just a few clicks. 
  • If you are not keeping the PC, you should be sure it’s impossible to recover any old data from the solid-state drive by encrypting the data. 
  • When you reset your PC, be sure to choose the option to remove everything.  
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Although older versions of Windows didn’t make it easy to wipe your computer clean of personal information, that’s pretty simple to do with Windows 10. You can do this if you’re preparing to sell or give away your computer, or you might do this to troubleshoot a problematic PC. Wiping it and starting fresh can help you reclaim all your hard drive space and return your PC to full, factory-fresh performance. 

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Why you should wipe your computer

How you wipe your PC depends on what you plan to do with it afterward. If you are keeping the computer, you can proceed directly to resetting the hard drive back to a fresh version of Windows. But if you plan to sell or give the computer away, you’ll want to take extra precaution to make sure the data stored on your PC is inaccessible to the computer’s next owner. 

If you have a hard disk drive (HDD), it will be thoroughly erased when you refresh Windows. But if your computer has a solid-state drive (SSD) — and virtually all computers sold in the last few years do — you’ll have to take an extra step to ensure your old data can’t be recovered even after it’s erased — you should encrypt it.

How to encrypt your SSD

The easiest way to encrypt your PC is to use the built-in encryption option in Windows, but not all SSDs support this feature. To find out, do this:

1. Click the Start button and then click “Settings.”

2. Click “System” and then click “About.”

  • If you see an option for “Device Encryption,” click it and follow the instructions to encrypt your hard drive. 
  • If Device Encryption isn’t an option for your PC, you might be able to turn on BitLocker, depending on which version of Windows 10 you have. Click “BitLocker settings” and follow the directions to enable it. If the link takes you to the Microsoft Store to purchase Windows 10 Pro, BitLocker won’t be an option without paying for the upgrade. 



graphical user interface, text, application, email: BitLocker is an easy option if your version of Windows supports it. Dave Johnson/Business Insider


© Dave Johnson/Business Insider
BitLocker is an easy option if your version of Windows supports it. Dave Johnson/Business Insider

  • One other option: If you can’t use either of Windows’ built-in encryption options, you can install a third-party encryption tool. There are several free ones to choose from, including TrueCrypt and VeraCrypt. 

How to wipe your Windows computer

After your hard drive is encrypted — or if you don’t need to encrypt it — you can use Windows to wipe your PC, setting it back to its factory defaults. 

1. Click the Start button and click “Settings.”

2. Click “Update & Security.”

3. Click “Recovery.”

4. On the Recovery page in the “Reset this PC” section, click “Get started.”

5. On the “Choose an option” page, click “Remove everything.” Then follow the instructions to complete the process, and Windows will reset the computer back to its original configuration with a fresh install of Windows. 



graphical user interface, application: Choose the option to "Remove everything." Dave Johnson/Business Insider


© Dave Johnson/Business Insider
Choose the option to “Remove everything.” Dave Johnson/Business Insider

How to wipe your Mac computer

The steps for wiping a Mac computer are quite different from wiping a PC. Whether you’re trying to sell your Mac or just start fresh, read our article to learn how to wipe a Mac computer.

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