Dear Forum User:
Please carefully read through these steps and determine if you need to reinstall Windows after erasing your personal files before reselling, transferring, or sending your PC (desktop, laptop, tablet) back to Seller or Tech Support. If you don't need (or want!) to reinstall Windows -and you probably do not want or need to reinstall Windows, ignore the following preparatory step (A - H) and skip to: "Erasing Personal Data".
If you want to reinstall Windows after erasing all data from your PC, you can use a Windows installation disk or USB drive to reinstall Windows. Here are the steps you can follow:
A.) Retrieve your Windows Product Key:
a.) Check the sticker on your PC: If your device came with Windows pre-installed, there may be a sticker on the bottom/side of the device that includes the product key. Look for a sticker with the Windows logo and a series of letters and numbers.
b.) If you purchased Windows separately or received a product key via email, check your email inbox or the documentation that came with your purchase.
c.) Retrieve the key from the Windows registry: If you have already activated Windows on your PC, you can retrieve the product key from the Windows registry. To do this, open the Command Prompt and Run as administrator and copy/paste/enter this command:
wmic path softwarelicensingservice get OA3xOriginalProductKey
The Windows Product Key will be displayed on your screen, write it down.
B.) Create a Windows installation media: If you don't already have a Windows installation disk or USB drive, you'll need to create one. You can do this by downloading the Windows Media Creation Tool from Microsoft's website and following the prompts to create a bootable installation media: Create installation media for Windows - Microsoft Support.
C.) AFTER you have erased all files and data from your device, insert the installation media: Once you have created the installation media, insert it into your PC and restart your PC.
D.) Boot from the installation media: To boot from the installation media, you may need to change the boot order in the BIOS or UEFI settings. Look for options like "Boot order," "Boot sequence," or "Boot priority" and set the installation media as the first boot device.
E.) Follow the prompts: Once you have booted from the installation media, you'll be prompted to choose your language, time zone, and keyboard layout. Then, follow the prompts to install Windows.
F.) Enter your product key: During the installation process, you'll be asked to enter your Windows Product Key. Btw, if you don't want to use a product key, you can choose the option to install Windows without a key, but Windows will have to be activated later.
G.) Finish the installation: Once you have entered your product key (or chosen to install Windows without a key), the installation process will continue. You'll be prompted to create a user account and set up your preferences.
H.) By following these steps, you can reinstall Windows on your device after erasing all files. [Make sure to back up any important files before erasing them, as this Windows reinstallation process in and of itself will permanently delete all data from your hard drive.]
The above probably doesn't apply to you but wanted to include it anyway to cover all the basics, so to speak.
Erasing Personal Data:
Before selling, transferring or returning a PC (desktop, laptop or tablet), back up any important data: Before you erase your personal information, make sure to back up any important data you have stored on your device on a flash drive or external (USB) drive
Next: sign out of all accounts: Sign out of all accounts, including email, social media, and other online services.
Then: erase personal files: Delete any personal files and documents stored on your PC.
You can either manually delete these files or by resetting your PC to factory settings: Warning: resetting your device to factory settings will erase all data and restore the device to its original state by reinstalling the operating system: Windows has a built-in feature called "Reset this PC" that can be used to reinstall Windows. This option resets your device settings to their original defaults.
To access this option, go to: Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Reset this PC.
Or you can use a freeware disk-cleaning tool to securely wipe the hard drive, such as (not in any order of importance):
1.) DBAN ("Darik's Boot and Nuke"): This is a free, open-source program that can securely wipe the entire hard drive of your laptop. It can be run from a bootable USB drive or CD/DVD and supports multiple wiping methods: https://sourceforge.net/projects/dban/files/dban/dban-2.2.8/.
2.) Eraser: "Eraser" is a free and open-source program that allows you to securely erase individual files and folders, or wipe an entire hard drive. It supports multiple wiping methods, including the Gutmann method, which overwrites the data 35 times: https://sourceforge.net/projects/eraser/.
3.) CCleaner: "CCleaner" is a very popular freeware program that can help you clean up your system and securely erase files. It includes a "Drive Wiper" tool that can erase the free space on your hard drive, making it more difficult for anyone to recover deleted data: https://www.ccleaner.com/ccleaner/download/standard.
4.) Disk Wipe: "Disk Wipe" is a free, open-source program that allows you to securely wipe the entire hard drive of your laptop. It supports several wiping methods, including the Gutmann method, and can be run from a bootable USB drive: https://www.diskwipe.org/download.php.
These are just a few examples of the many freeware erasing programs available. It's important to follow the instructions carefully to ensure that your data is, indeed, securely erased.
Next (optional) reinstall Windows as discussed.
By following these steps, you can ensure that your personal information is completely erased from your PC before you return it.
Hope this was helpful.
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