If you got a new computer for Christmas, chances are you're ready to get rid of the old one.
Whether you're donating it to a family member or friend, giving it to the local charity shop or selling it on Trade Me you'll want to make sure that none of your personal data falls into the wrong hands.
How you do this will depend on what operating system the machine is running. If it's Windows 8.1 or its predecessor Windows 8 it's as simple as removing everything and reinstalling Windows and you can do that from the new look Start screen by typing "remove".
Click on "remove everything and reinstall Windows" and your machine will step you through the process by which it removes all your personal files and returns the machine to as factory new condition.
Before you do this you'll want to make sure you have copied all the files you want to keep to either OneDrive or external storage media such as a hard disk drive.
If you've deleted the recovery partition from the hard disk drive on your personal computer you may have to use recovery media to make your machine factory new. If you haven't created any and the machine won't let you create a recovery disk or USB stick the manufacturer of your machine should be able to help with recovery media.
If your machine is running Windows 7, Vista or XP you should be able to create recovery media from within the manufacturers own utility. If it's a Dell machine, for example, look for something like "Create recovery media" from within the Dell software on your machine. The same goes for any of the manufactures from Acer, Asus and HP through to Lenovo.
Once you have recovery media, clearly labelled, be sure you have backed up all your personal data before running the recovery media. What this will do will restore your machine to its factory settings, including all the free software that came bundled with it and trial software. This includes trial versions of Microsoft Office and personal computer security software like Norton Antivirus.
You can make things easy on the computer's new owner by uninstalling any of that free or trial software so that they are not constantly bugged to buy the full version just like you probably were when you first bought the machine.
The new owner will probably have their own favourite applications to install, some of which will be better than the pre-installed software that came with the machine.
If it's someone you know well, rather than someone you are selling to on Trade Me, you could sound them out on what they plan to do with the machine and offer to help them get it ready for their use. If your old machine doesn't come with the free suite of Microsoft Windows Essentials apps, such as Windows Essentials Photo Gallery and Movie Maker as well as windows Live Writer, Windows Live Mail and OneDrive.
If your old machine is going to be on the internet it will need to download all the free updates Microsoft has released to specific security threats. This is fine with Windows 7 and Vista machines but not with those running XP.
Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP last year which means none of the updates are available any longer and any machine running the operating system is vulnerable to all manner of internet nasties. If you're selling an old XP machine the best thing to do is upgrade to a newer operating system, if the hardware will take it, or opt for the free Linux operating system instead which you can get online.
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