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How to Prepare Your Laptop to Sell

Our laptop selling guide helps you protect your data, compare buyers, and get more money for your laptop

Have an old laptop to sell? Naturally, you’ll want to get the most money for it. You also want to protect your private data from identity thieves and other prying eyes. Here, we show you how to prepare your laptop for sale.

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How to prepare your laptop for sale

Your laptop stores sensitive data like your bank account information and private family photos. It’s critical to back up your data and wipe your laptop hard drive before you sell it so you don’t have to worry about that sensitive data falling into the wrong hands. You also need to revoke any DRM (Digital Rights Management) rights so they can be used on your new machine, and you may need to transfer your Windows license. Follow these step-by-step instructions to prepare your laptop for sale.

NOTE: These instructions assume you have a Windows laptop to sell. If you’re selling a MacBook, refer to this guide to selling a Mac computer and view “Related Help” below.

How to back up your laptop

Before you begin, you should create a backup of your laptop so you can transfer software and documents to your new laptop. Since you’re selling your laptop, you probably don’t want to create a system image, which backs up your entire system. All you really need to back up are your personal files (your new laptop will have its own Windows license key, and you’ll need to reinstall software on it anyway).

Backup options include:
  • File History (Windows 8-10)
  • Backup & Restore (Windows 7)
  • Manual backups to external drives
  • Third-party software and services (Carbonite, Mozy, etc.)
If your laptop is running an OS older than Windows 7 or if you’re selling to a buyback company, you can simply wipe the hard drive, since the buyer will probably install their own OS.

How to revoke DRM rights


STEP 1: Make a list of all the software you’ve purchased and installed on your laptop.
STEP 2: Go through the list and open any programs you want to keep or install on a new computer.
STEP 3: Revoke DRM rights (license keys) for each program. Consult the documentation for each program if you’re unsure how to do this. You can often find this information under “settings,” “options,” or “about.”

How to wipe your hard drive and reinstall Windows

It’s important to wipe your hard drive before selling your laptop. This will ensure no one has access to your personal files and data. Note that most trade-in companies will wipe your hard drive when they receive your laptop. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth the risk to send your laptop to strangers without erasing your data first.

On Windows 10 and Windows 8, use the “Reset your PC” feature and select “Remove everything.” This option will wipe your hard drive and reinstall a clean copy of Windows (without your personal programs and files). Check out PC World’s guide for more information.

On Windows 7 and earlier versions, you’ll need to start by creating an installation disc. Then, use a third-party tool to wipe your hard drive. Finally, you can reinstall Windows – or, if the buyer doesn’t need an operating system, you can simply leave it as-is.

How to transfer your Windows license

If you’re selling to a private buyer and the operating system is part of the sale, you’ll need to transfer your Windows license.

If Windows came pre-installed, the license stays with your laptop; thus, once you’ve wiped your hard drive and reinstalled the OS, the license will be recognized when the buyer first runs the laptop.

If you purchased your Windows OS separately, however, you might need your original installation disc. If you do not have one, you can download the operating system from Windows Installation Media or Windows Software Recovery, depending on which version of the OS you have. Make sure you have your license key handy. Then, install the OS on your laptop.

Again, if the buyer isn’t expecting your laptop to have Windows installed, you can simply wipe the hard drive before selling.

How to prepare your laptop listing

Find your laptop model

The location of your laptop model number depends on the manufacturer, but it can typically be found on a product label found on the bottom of your laptop or inside the battery compartment.

You can also find it using Windows System Information. Search Windows for “System Information,” then find the “System Model” and “System Manufacturer” to identify which laptop you have. You’ll need to do this before you wipe your hard drive.

Prepare for listing

  • Take time to clean your laptop, which can help it appear well-kept and more valuable
  • List your laptop’s attributes, including hard drive type and capacity, RAM, screen size, CD/DVD drives, USB ports, and other features buyers will want to know. If you’ll be including any accessories, like a mouse and charger, add those to your list
  • Use this information along with photos to create an attractive listing
  • Depending on where you sell your laptop, you should take several different photos: of the laptop closed, open, and open and turned on. Not all selling options require photos
Your laptop is finally ready to sell! Before you jump in, it pays to compare your laptop selling options.

Where to sell your laptop

Flipsy Trust Verified Stores Buying Laptops

The following Trust Verified Stores provide cash quotes for your laptop. Let them know your serial number, condition and any included items. You’ll get a quote delivered to your inbox in about 24 hours. Be sure to describe your laptop’s condition to get the most accurate price. Some of the stores have winnowers or serial number look ups to find your value but many have incomplete serial number databases, so while they may buy your laptop they won’t show a price. By contacting them with your serial number they can do the look up to provide the most accurate quote.

Related Help

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