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Donating Computer: Wipe Data Without Losing Windows?

Gary from Australia writes:

I have a Toshiba Satellite Laptop (Centrino) which was originally preloaded with Vista. A few years ago I upgraded to 7.  I am now giving away the laptop and would like to wipe the hard drive clean. If I format the drive will I lose the operating system 7? Thanks


Donating an old computer when you upgrade is a great way to help someone out, but you’re right to be concerned about wiping your hard drive. You don’t want to donate your personal information with the computer. By doing a complete hard drive wipe, you’ll lose everything including Windows. So, what options do you have?

The first option is to go through step-by-step and delete all of your personal files, clear the cache and saved passwords on all of your web browsers, uninstall any programs that are licensed to you and then run a free space wiping tool. This will let you keep the installation of Windows 7 while removing your personal data. The problem with this option is that unless your very thorough, you can miss files.

The second option is to wipe the hard disk using a bootable disk wiping program and let the new owners worry about Windows. If the certificate of authenticity with your Windows key is still on your laptop (usually on bottom or under the battery compartment) they can reinstall Windows vista using that key. Once Vista is installed, if you provide them your upgrade Windows 7 key, they’ll be able to upgrade. This option leaves the person receiving the laptop with a non-functional computer until they reinstall Windows.

The third option is to use a bootable disk wiping program then use the restore CD’s that came with the computer to reload the computer to factory default. Once this is done, you can install Windows 7 and hand the computer off to its next owner. This would be the most time-intensive of the options but the best overall.

If you need a program to wipe the hard drive I recommend Active Killdisk, which can be downloaded by clicking here [1]. You can access the guide & FAQ for Active Killdisk by clicking here [2].