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It’s time to ditch the old laptop. You need more power, hate the wretched battery life, or just want to take advantage of all the features of the newest operating system. Don’t trash it. That old laptop might be worth a few bucks. At the very least, it should be properly recycled. Caution: even if you plan on just recycling your old laptop, make sure to effectively wipe clean all your data. This is explained below.  

Back Up

Cloud services are so prevalent these days that the process of backing up our files onto a physical hard drive now seems unnecessary. Wrong. It’s always a good idea to have a physical backup. You’re in luck. Backup drives are incredibly affordable these days, and most are plug-and-play. A 2TB Western Digital My Passport Ultra is just $70 on Amazon. Just plug them into your laptop’s USB port and move your files. Before you get rid of that old laptop, backup all your files.  

Clean and Restore

You may be tempted to simply drag all your old files and folders into trash. Resist the temptation. Wipe that disk clean. Both the Windows 8.1 and Mac OS X include utilities that let you delete your files and restore the machine to its original state.  

To Reset a Mac

As Apple notes, this will erase your hard drive and reinstall a copy of OS X, so do have a backup of your files.
  1. Make sure the machine is plugged in and you are connected to the Internet.  
  2. Restart the Mac.
  3. Hold down Command + R as it boots.
  1. Select “Reinstall Mac OS X”from the menu that pops up.

To Reset a Windows 8.1 or 10 Laptop

If you have a laptop running Windows 7, the process of deleting files and restoring the machine to its original state can be tricky. Worse, it may vary slightly from vendor to vendor. Dell has a handy guide. If this is too intimidating, at the very least, make sure you use a utility of application that erases all your data. If you have Windows 8.1, as I do, the process is very straightforward.
  • Swipe down from the right edge of your touchpad to reveal Settings.
  • Click Change PC Settings.
  • Click Update and Recovery at the bottom of the list.
  • Click Recovery.You aren’t really trying to recover anything. Ignore Microsoft’s poor word choice. This reveals the “Remove everything and reinstall Windows” on the right side of the page.
  • Click Get Started because  you want to remove everything.
  • Click Next when prompted to Reset Your PC
  • Select “Just remove my files” if you plan to give the computer to someone you trust because that process is much faster. If you’re going to sell or recycle it, click “Fully clean the drive,” which takes a lot longer.
  According to Microsoft, this process deletes all your files and settings. However, if you want to wipe your hard drive data to government standards, you might want to try Active KillDisk, and Softpedia DP Wipe. Both are free. For the Mac, Paragon’s Disk Wiper is free, and also in compliance with government erasure standards.

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