View Full Version : Selling a computer at a garage sale--any way to do it safely?

07-11-2006, 03:55 PM
Inspired by all the garage sale threads, I am thinking of having my own later this month. One of the things I woud like to sell is an old (about 6 years old) computer. But I am worried about personal information on the hard drive, such as credit card numbers. Is there any reliable way to clear personal information off of an old hard drive? And if not, what should I do with the computer??


07-11-2006, 04:16 PM
Good question. I don't have any advice because the only other computer I've had we gave to the in-laws, but I'm interested in the answers in case I ever do get rid of this one. It is also interesting because there are usually computers for sale at Goodwill.

07-11-2006, 05:13 PM
Most computers sold today (and even six years ago) come with "restore" discs that will erase everything on the computer and put it back into the same state it was when you bought it. If you've got those, use them and you are in pretty good shape.

07-11-2006, 05:14 PM
If you have the system recovery disc you can turn off the computer- then boot it up with the disc in the cd-rom. You will have to go through the steps (like answering questions such as- "You will lose all data- are you sure you want to preceed?") and then your computer will not have any of your data or post-installed software.

07-11-2006, 05:22 PM
The only 100% safe way to safeguard your data is to take out the hard drive and drill hundreds of holes into the drive. :badpc: Even then there are techniques to lift data off that drive.

I use Darik's Boot and Nuke - http://dban.sourceforge.net/

Cheshire Figment
07-11-2006, 06:02 PM
First thing to do is go through Control Panel for add/remove and remove all programs other than the operating system and those necessary to run stuff such as device drivers.

Then go to Programs/Accessories/System Tools and run Defragmenter.

Then, if you have Norton Utilities or System Works run Wipeinfo (government rules) on the empty space. This will take all empty sectors, first wirte and confirm a "0", then write and confirm a "1" and then write and confirm the hex code for "F6". Or some similar disk wiping tool.

Note that just deleting files only removes the first character from the directory listing and it can be recovered.

07-11-2006, 06:36 PM
I would never trust myself to have gotten everything off. We let the kids pull out the hard drive, take hatchets and an axe to it. Then they got out the power tools and drilled holes through it. Following the drilling they nicked the edges with a saw. Then we soaked it in vinegar for about a week. I'm guessing it wouldn't have sold for much at that point! :)

07-11-2006, 06:40 PM
remove the hard drive completely

07-12-2006, 09:53 AM
Thanks for the replies. I think I am leaning in the remove-the-hard-drive direction. If I do that, should I then just take the whole thing to the dump or would someone (say the local vo-tech school) still be able to use the rest of the computer for something?

07-12-2006, 10:08 AM
Hi there! We just had our yard sale last weekend and we had a computer we were selling, 2 of them actually and we couldn't get rid of them, I think people were leary on weather or not they actually worked, even though we had them "up and running" for people to see. Maybe you should try selling them on ebay you may have better luck.?? I am no expert. Just thought I would share.
Good luck!

07-12-2006, 10:46 AM
If you use the methods that people have posted, you should be fine.

However, if you don't feel comfortable with that you shouldn't just take it to the dump. There are metals in the circuitry that are harmful to the environment. There are places you can take it to be recycled.

07-12-2006, 11:19 AM
I plan on DESTROYING mine. Like previous post--drill holes, sledgehammer, vinegar. I am going to try and sell mouse, keyboard & monitor at a garage sale. At least to get a little something--enough for a mickey ice cream bar! :woohoo:

07-12-2006, 11:32 AM
We destroyed the hard drive (like, the sledgehammer method) and donated the rest of the computer.

ETA: Once, I was told by a less-than-knowledgable person to use system restore to get my computer running, but that it would not "erase" my pictures that were stuck on the computer when it crashed. I could not get to my pics, but I took the PC to a techie and they recovered ALL my supposedly erased data - we're talking several years worth of lost stuff, during which time I had done system restore at least five times. It was all still there. So I don't take chances (but thank goodness I got my pictures back!!)

07-12-2006, 03:35 PM
I don't know where you live, but in NC there was a geekathon
where local businesses and college-level programmers
took donated computers, erased everything, and donated them
to low income students in the area. Try a google search if you're

07-12-2006, 04:54 PM
I destroy the hard drive and recycle the rest. I find no one wants an old computer.

07-12-2006, 11:03 PM
This does take some time and a bit of geekishness.

If you know where all or most of the sensitive information is, you can go in and delete it all except for one big not so sensitive file such as a junky picture from a digital camera. Now make copies of that one big file until the hard drive is full. Shortcut: Create a subfolder (subdirectory) and put ten copies of the big file in it. Then create another subfolder and put ten copies of the first subfolder, contents and all, in that. And so on until the hard drive is full. After filling the hard drive, delete all the nested subfolders you just created.

A computer that is up and running (has to have a working hard drive in it) will sell better at a garage sale than a computer that is not so up and running.

Disney hints:

07-13-2006, 07:00 AM
Here is a good discussion link from another message board that I belong to: