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How Do I Remove My Information From A Computer Before Donating It?

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013 by | Filed Under: File & Disk Management, I've Always Wanted To Know...

Steve writes: 

How can I remove my name from a computer that was built for me so that I can donate it?

Removing personal information from a computer before donating or selling it is a smart move, as many programs save information you may not want freely available. Removing only your name from the operating system is a start, but frankly you should instead wipe the hard drive entirely to protect any personal data you may have stored – such as passwords or bank account information.

If for some reason you do only want to prevent your name from showing up, you can change the name by accessing the “Control Panel” in the Start menu. In Windows 7 this is your only option, as that operating system actually won’t let you fully delete the primary administrator account, even if you first make a secondary administrator profile. To change the name, click the “Add or Remove User Accounts” link listed beneath the “User Accounts and Family Safety” heading.

Accessing User Accounts

Click the name of your account and then select the “Change The Account Name” link at the left side of the window.

Changing Account Name

Type the new name you want to be associated with the computer in the text box and then click the “Change Name” button. Restart your computer to finish the process.

Entering a New Name

Changing the name on the computer won’t prevent the new owner from accessing all your various text and music files, web browsing history, etc. Rather than deleting files one by one, the best method to clean your computer of personal info is to simply reinstall Windows, which reformats the hard drive. Return to the Control Panel and type “recovery” in the search box at the top-right corner of the window. Click the “Restore Your Computer or Reinstall Windows” link in the list of search results.

Computer Restore Link

Click the “Advanced Recovery Methods” link at the bottom of the window to bring up a new set of options.

Advanced Recovery Methods

Click the “Reinstall Windows” heading and insert the recovery disc that came with your computer into the disc drive. Follow the prompts on the screen to completely wipe the hard drive and return the computer to its original factory condition.

Reinstalling Windows

When you delete files on your computer (or even wipe the entire contents of the hard drive) they may not be readily available anymore, but they aren’t actually gone until the location on the hard drive originally containing the file is written over with new data. While it’s difficult and time consuming, it is technically possible to reconstruct deleted data using various recovery tools, although it’s unlikely anyone will go to this level to retrieve your data.

Simply reinstalling Windows should be more than enough for most people, but if you have serious security concerns, you could download and run a tool such as Hard Disk Scrubber, DBAN, or Eraser. These programs will repeatedly write over all the locations on the hard drive so nothing can be retrieved by the computer’s new owner.

~Ty Arthur

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One Response to “How Do I Remove My Information From A Computer Before Donating It?”

  1. Mike says:

    I would very much like to remove all information on my computer before giving it away.
    I read your process for accomplishing this. Here’s the problem. My computer is a HP with windows 7 home preinstalled. I was not given a ‘recovery disk’ when I purchased the computer at COSTCO.
    What can I do without the disk.
    Thank you,

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