Get your old PC ready to sell for as much cash as possible

With a little bit of tech savvy and effort, you can turn that old laptop or desktop into some extra cash.

Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
5 min read

Turn that aging laptop or desktop into some cash.  


If you're dealing with working from home and remote learning for the foreseeable future, you may find yourself dealing with an old, and very slow, laptop or desktop. While there are steps you can take to improve performance, there's only so much you can do. To help offset the overall cost of a new Windows 10 PC, consider selling your old one. 

Though it may run slow and feel outdated, you might be surprised at how much money your trusty laptop could nab. Even a couple hundred dollars can be worth it to you to sell rather than recycle, repurpose or shove in a drawer to be forgotten. 

Before turning that sluggish PC into cold hard cash, though, you'll need to do some housekeeping. From backing up your personal files to wiping the hard drive, set aside some time to ensure that your PC is ready for its new owner. 

Read more: These are 7 used tech items you never want to buy or sell

Back up your personal files

Nobody wants to lose important work documents or pictures and videos you've stored on your PC for safekeeping. Before factory resetting your PC, remember to take a few minutes -- or hours, depending on how many files and folders you have -- and move it all to an external hard drive

If you don't have an external hard drive, you can always upload them to a cloud storage service like OneDrive, Dropbox or Google Drive


Sign out of your accounts on Windows 10. 

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Sign out of all your accounts

Take a few minutes to sign out of all your email accounts, apps and services on your Windows PC. Doing so will ensure that whoever ends up with your computer won't be able to access any of your personal info after your rig changes hands. While that's unlikely to happen, it's an extra security step you can and should take, especially since the new owner could decide to sell it to someone else. You never know where it'll find up.

Open each app you're signed into and log out. To remove any accounts from Microsoft Mail, open the Windows 10 settings panel, go to Accounts > Email & accounts > click on each account > Manage > Delete account from this device


Take the time to properly wipe your PC's hard drive. 

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Erase the hard drive

With all of your files and folders safely backed up and accounts removed, it's time to wipe all of your information and data off of your PC. If you're working on a laptop, make sure it's connected to a power source. The process of erasing the hard disk can take a while, especially if you have a lot of information stored on your computer. 

1. On your Windows 10 PC, click on the Start menu icon in the lower-left corner of your screen. 

2. Click on the Settings gear icon.

3. Find Update & Security in the list of options. Click on it. 

4. Locate and click on Recovery in the list of options on the left side of the window.

5. Click on Get Started under Reset this PC.

6. Select Remove Everything.

7. Select how you'd like to reinstall Windows 10 as part of the process. Cloud download will install a fresh new Windows 10 image after the hard drive is erased, while a Local reinstall will use a Windows 10 image that's stored on your PC. Either method will work, with the local reinstall option being the faster of the two. 

8. Click on the Change Settings option and slide the switch under Clean data. This will force Windows 10 to clean the hard drive after deleting your files, making it harder for others to recover your personal files. 

9. Click on Confirm, and then follow the rest of the prompts, which basically require you to verify you truly want to reset your computer. 

Once the process starts, just leave your PC alone. It could take several hours, and your computer will restart a few times. You'll know it's done when you see the initial Windows setup screen or hear Cortana start talking. 


Sometimes the model number is hiding or can't be found. On the Surface Go 2, for example, it's on the back of the kickstand. 

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Find your systems' specifications

Before you list your PC for sale somewhere, you'll need to know exactly what it is you're selling. The quickest way to find the model number is to look on the bottom of a laptop's housing. There's usually some text and the device maker's logo. You'll find the model number in that section among all of the tiny text. 

Make note of it, as it's a quick and easy way to tell someone exactly they'll be buying. 

For example, it says "Model 1927" on the kickstand of the Surface Go 2. That doesn't mean much when you look at it, but a quick Google search of "Surface Go 2 1927" reveals reviews and the exact specifications for that model. 

If your model number can't be found or searching for the name doesn't turn up your system specs, right-click on the Start menu icon and then click on System from the list of options. Under Device Specifications you'll find the processor and installed RAM or memory. Click on Storage on the left side of the window to view the size of your hard drive. 


You have a few different options when selling your PC. 

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Where and how you can sell your PC

You have a few different options for selling or trading in your old PC. You can list and sell it yourself on services such as eBay, Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, but be prepared to field questions and haggle with potential buyers who will surely try to convince you to give them the best deal possible. 

And with Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, you have to plan to meet the buyer in-person for the exchange. That can be stressful enough during normal times, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic only complicates matters. 

Meeting a potential buyer can be stressful, even in normal circumstances. Some best practices to keep in mind include meeting in well-lit public places, bringing sanitizer wipes so the person feels comfortable inspecting your computer (and you feel comfortable if they decide to pass), and wear a mask

If you opt to list your item for sale, make sure to include well-lit photos, indicate any defects or scratches, and list everything that's included -- such as the charger or original box. 


You may be surprised at how much you can get for an old PC.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Rather not deal with negotiating? Trade it in. There are plenty of websites where you can answer a few questions about your PC and its condition, and then you'll be presented with an offer. If you accept the offer, you'll have to pack up the PC and ship it to the vendor, who then will look it over and verify its condition before sending your payment. Trading in a device is a fairly painless process, but one potential downside is you may not get as much as you would by directly selling it to someone. 

We have a list of places that will take trade-ins for a bunch of different gadgets , including computers. 

If you're not quite sure you want to sell your PC yet, there are some things you can do to try to extend its life. If it's running slow, we have some troubleshooting steps for you to try. Running out of drive space? Here are 8 ways to free up space. Charging issues? We try to help you with that, too.