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

Person sitting in a chair working on their laptop and tablet.
The process of wiping your PC is quite different from wiping a Mac or Chromebook.
  • You can wipe your Windows PC in the Recovery section of the Settings app.
  • To wipe a Mac, shut it down first, and during startup, use Disk Utility to erase your drive.
  • You can also wipe a Chromebook in the settings – this is called Powerwashing.

Whether you're preparing to sell or give away your computer, or troubleshoot a problem after all else has failed, you can easily wipe it clean. Doing this can help you free up all your hard drive space and return your computer to its factory-fresh performance.

Here's how to wipe your computer, whether it is a Windows PC, Mac, or Chromebook.

Why you should wipe your computer

How you wipe your computer depends on what you plan to do with it afterward. If you are keeping it, you can simply reset its hard drive and install a fresh copy of Windows, macOS, or ChromeOS

But if you plan to sell or give the computer away, you'll want to take extra precautions to make sure the data stored on the computer is inaccessible to the next owner.

If you have a hard disk drive (HDD), it will be thoroughly erased when you install a fresh copy of your operating system of choice. But if your computer has a solid-state drive (SSD) — virtually all computers sold in the last few years do — you should encrypt it to ensure your old data can't be recovered even after it's erased.

How to encrypt your SSD

You don't need to download any extra software to encrypt your Windows, Mac, or Chromebook computer. All of them have built-in encryption tools that you can use.

On Windows

To encrypt your SSD on Windows, you can use Device Encryption or BitLocker. However, not all SSDs support these features. To find out if your does, do this:

1. Right-click the Start button and select Settings in the menu.

The menu that shows up when you right-click the Start button on Windows, with the Start button and the "Settings" option highlighted.
Open the Settings app on your Windows device.

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, or if you're using Windows 11. Under Related settings, click BitLocker settings on Windows 10 or BitLocker on Windows 11 and follow the instructions to enable it. If the link takes you to the Microsoft Store to purchase the Pro version of Windows, you won't be able to use BitLocker until you pay for the upgrade.

On a Mac

To encrypt your Mac's SSD, you'll have to enable FileVault. To do this:

1. Click the Apple logo in the menu bar at the top of the screen to bring up the Apple menu.

2. Click System Preferences.

3. Click Security & Privacy.

4. Click on the FileVault tab, and then click on the lock icon in the bottom left corner to unlock the panel for editing. You might need to enter your password to proceed.

The "System & Privacy" window on Mac, with the "FileVault" tab and lock icon highlighted.
Click this lock icon to open up the FileVault panel for editing.

5. Click Turn on FileVault. You might need to enter your password again.

The "System & Privacy" window on Mac, with the "Turn on FileVault" option highlighted.
Click "Turn on FileVault."

6. In the pop-up, tick the "Create recovery key" and "do not use my iCloud account radial button," and then click on Continue.

7. You will then see a recovery code that you can write down somewhere or save a screenshot on your Mac. However, you don't need to since you're just going to wipe the data from the drive anyway. Click Continue to encrypt the SSD.

A pop-up on Mac with the FileVault recovery code. The "Continue" button has been highlighted.
Click "Continue."

On a Chromebook

You don't need to do anything extra to encrypt your Chromebook's SSD. All data is a part of your profile and stored on your computer, including your user data, browsing data, and downloads, will all be encrypted automatically.

ChromeOS uses hard-to-crack tamper-resistant hardware to keep your data safe from unwanted access.

How to wipe your Windows computer

After your hard drive is encrypted — or if you don't need to encrypt it — you can use the built-in tools in  Windows to wipe your computer, setting it back to its factory defaults.

On Windows 10

1. Right-click the Start button and select Settings in the menu.

2. Click Update & Security.

3. Click Recovery.

Windows Settings app, with the "Recovery" option highlighted.
Go to the "Recovery" page in the Windows settings.

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

The Settings app's "Recovery" page on Windows, with the "Get Started" option highlighted in the "Reset this PC" section.
Click "Get started" in the "Reset this PC" section.

5. On the Choose an option page, click Remove everything

6. Follow the instructions to complete the process, and Windows will reset the computer back to its factory default settings.

On Windows 11

1. Right-click the Start button and select Settings in the menu.

2. Select System on the left menu, and then select Recovery on the right.

3. In the Recovery options section, click the Reset PC button next to the Reset this PC option.

4. On the Choose an option page, click Remove everything.

5. Follow the instructions to complete the process, and Windows will reset the computer back to its factory default settings.

How to wipe your Mac computer

While the steps to reset a Mac computer are quite different from wiping a PC, they aren't that hard to pull off. However, how you go about factory resetting your Mac depends on whether it has an Intel or Apple silicone processor. 

On Macs with an Apple silicone processor

1. Shut down your Mac computer.

2. Press and hold the power button. Keep holding it even when the Apple logo appears – it will say "Continue holding for startup options" below the logo.

3. Release the power button when the text below the Apple logo says "Loading startup options."

4. Click on Options, and then on Continue.

5. Select your user account or any account you know the password to, and then click Next.

6. Enter the password to your user account, and then click Continue.

7. Select Disk Utility, and then click on Continue.

8. Select your drive in the left side menu, and then click Erase at the top.

9. In the pop-up, click Erase to completely remove everything from the drive.

On Macs with Intel processor

1. Shut down your Mac computer.

2. Press and hold Command + R, and then press the power button on your Mac to turn it on.

3. Continue pressing Command + R until you see the macOS utilities window.

4. Select Disk Utility, and then click on Continue.

5. Select your drive in the left side menu, and then click Erase at the top.

6. In the pop-up, click Erase to completely remove everything from the drive.

How to wipe your Chromebook

Compared to Windows and Mac computers, resetting a Chromebook is much easier.

1. Click the tray – the section with the Wi-Fi icon, battery icon, and time on the Shelf (the ChromeOS equivalent of the Windows taskbar) – in the bottom left corner of your screen.

2. In the pop-up, click Settings – the gear icon – on the top right to open your Chromebook's settings.

3. On the left side menu, click Advanced to expand the menu, and then click on Reset settings.

4. In the right panel, click on the Reset button on the right side of the Powerwash option.

5. Finally, click Restart in the pop-up to confirm that you want to reset the Chromebook back to factory settings.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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