How to decommission or sell an old PC


How to sell or dispose of an old system safely, without compromising your personal data

When a PC is nearing the end of its useful life, it’s crucial to decommission it safely and securely. It’s a simple process, and once it’s done you can dispose of the PC, or sell it on, without worrying about what else you may be giving away. If you do plan to sell it on, there are steps you can take to encourage buyers and help achieve a quick sale at a good price.


Personal data


The most important part of decommissioning an old PC is securely erasing your personal data, to ensure that nothing can be recovered by whoever gets their hands on your PC, or its hard disk, after you’ve finished with it.


Before you start the decommissioning process, therefore, make sure you’ve collected all the data and information you need from the computer. For a PC you plan to sell or strip for parts, it’s always good to have a full specification list to give to buyers. If you don’t have the original documents, or if the computer has been upgraded over the years, go in to Control Panel | System & Security | System and note down the processor model, the amount of RAM and – if you plan to sell it with the operating system – the version of Windows it’s running.


Next, if there’s data you want to keep, be sure to transfer it to an external hard disk or upload it to a cloud storage service such as Dropbox or Google Drive.


If you intend to sell off the PC’s individual components, it’s also a good idea to take a few photos of them in action before you erase the hard disk, as we discuss below.


Selling the whole computer


If you plan to sell on the computer in one working piece, you’ll definitely want to securely clean off the hard disk.


Wiping your hard drive of data.


The easiest way to do this is to create a new user in the control panel making sure its set as an Administrator type user.

Then login as this new user and returning to the control panel remove your user account. This method will ensure all data, settings, logins etc are removed.


Next you need to wipe the free space on the hard drive to stop anyone recovering the data you’ve so carefully removed. Ccleaner has a function on the Tools menu you will find the drive wiper, set as Free space only, with  an advanced overwrite (3 passes) and the tick the local drive C, then wipe.


If you have any other hard drives or partitions then you can wipe them too, this time however you want to wipe the Entire drive.


Selling individual components


If your PC is no longer functional, you can still sell off the bits that do work. Indeed, even if your PC does work, this approach may be more lucrative than selling it of as a complete system. That applies particularly to custom-built and upgraded PCs – perhaps you’ve supplemented a standard PC with a beastly graphics card, for example.


You’ll have to use common sense here. Check the prices at retail and on eBay for the components you want to sell, making sure you’re using the exact product codes/descriptions.


Please remember that there is very little value in parts that are more than 2 years old, if the computer is more than 5 years old then might have to pay to dispose of it there is absolutely no value in it.