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Regift that old game console if you got a PS5 or OLED Nintendo Switch

No, it's not a hand-me-down. It's a supply-chain shortage mitigation effort.

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Dan Ackerman/CNET

This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

Many new devices have been nearly impossible to find or to get shipped on time this holiday season. But if you're still looking to spread the holiday cheer, there's still an inexpensive and reliable way to give a gadget gift, it'll just take a little effort. Because supply-chain issues and chip shortages have taken the stigma out of regifting, I'm declaring that taking your old tech, cleaning it up and passing it along, wrapped up in gift wrap, is now completely acceptable.

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And to settle an internal argument, yes, this is better described as a hand-me-down, or maybe an upcycled gift. I like to think of it more like getting an inspected, cleaned-up, new-to-you car (in other words, used) -- still a great gift, no matter what. 

If you're one of the lucky gamers to have gotten your hands on a PS5, Xbox Series X or OLED Nintendo Switch (maybe by keeping up with our PS5 restock tracker), your previous game console could find a welcome home with someone else. Unlike some overly personal items like headphones or VR headsets that spend a lot of time touching your skin, game consoles are perfect for passing along, as they're easy to wipe, both physically and data-wise. 

Data deep clean

Every modern console has internal data storage that contains user accounts, login info, game content, save data and often billing and personal information as well. When you trade in an older phone or iPad, you're advised to wipe the system, and the same thing goes for game consoles. 

Fortunately, the PlayStation, Xbox and Switch ecosystems all support cloud saves, so your personal game data can be exported and moved to a new device. 

The procedure is slightly different for each console, but I recently gave both a PlayStation 4 and an Xbox One a full factory reset, and it took only a few minutes for each. 

For example, here are the steps to do this for a PS4:

  • Go to the Settings menu from the home screen.
  • From Settings, select Initialization.
  • Then choose Initialize PS4 (not Restore Default Settings, which won't wipe the hard drive). 
  • Select the Full option. 

The downside is that any preloaded games won't be on the reset system, but it's also going to give your giftee the same Day One experience as opening a new box. Regifting games, or passing them along to someone new, is much harder now that most games are downloaded, rather than on a disc. 

Wipe it down, air it out

While your regifted console may not be new, that doesn't mean it shouldn't at least look newish. When I reset my PS4 and Xbox One, first I wiped down the exterior with a Clorox wipe (which seemed harmless), then I blew compressed air into all the vents. 

For fine scratches and scuffs, which can show up even on consoles that have sat untouched in media cabinets for years, you can try a little plastic polish. I used this three-part scratch remover and polish system that did a pretty good job on my original PS4. 

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Even after a surface clean, this was the dust hiding inside the PS4's removable stand.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Check for accessories 

A regifted console will make a much better impression if you make sure to include the necessary accessories, like the power cable, HDMI cable and controllers. 

If you don't have the originals, they're easy to replace. I grabbed a pack of two AmazonBasics PS4 power cables for around $10. 

Depending on how weathered the controllers are, they could either get the same wipe down and plastic polish treatment as the console body itself, or you could treat your giftee to a fresh set. Generic replacements on Amazon run $25 to $30 each. 

And if you don't have a gently used game console to regift and can't find a PS5 or Xbox Series X, I've got a whole list of other suggestions to get over your new console FOMO

More gaming advice