Question How do I safely donate a computer to a friend without removing all software?

Erasculio

Junior Member
Jun 12, 2011
10
1
71
I would like to donate my old computer to a friend. She is going through finantial difficulties, so I would like to keep the existing software on the computer (Windows 7 and Microsoft Office). The thing is, those programs came pre-installed, and I don't have their activation key.

Searching around, most of the ways I have found to safely remove my personal data consist on deleting everything in the computer, something that wouldn't really work in this scenario.

The only other suggestion I have found would be to create a new user account with Administrator privileges and then delete my older account. Would this be enough? Does anyone have a better idea?

Thanks!
 

EXCellR8

Diamond Member
Sep 1, 2010
3,236
548
126
You could download and run a Windows 7 ISO and do an "in-place upgrade" or repair install of the operating system--removing personal files in the process. Typically, most users wish to retain personal data when performing this operation but since you're giving the computer away you can simply tell Windows to remove all personal files and settings. All of the programs should remain installed after it is done.

You may need to re-enter your existing Windows 7 product key as part of the repair install so make sure to have that handy if need be.
 

VirtualLarry

Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
44,749
3,812
126
If this is a branded OEM system, consider using a 3rd-party utility, called "Activation Backup and Restore". I think that it was originally written for Vista, but later modified to work with Windows 7.

It saves the activation data, certs, keys, pem, etc. to a flash drive.

Once you have the activation backed up, then using DBAN to wipe the entire HDD out.

Then download a Windows 7 ISO of the same edition (OK, do that before wiping the PC, if you know that you don't have a virus.), and make a USB install stick, or burn it to a DVD disc if you have an optical drive in that PC.

Then do a fresh install of Windows 7, onto the freshly-wiped HDD.

Then use AB&R to restore the Windows activation.

I don't know about activations for Office and such, or other application software.

You could try extracting the keys using a key-extractor program. Beware of ones that are trojaned.
 

mindless1

Diamond Member
Aug 11, 2001
4,697
278
126
I don't get it. How hard can it be to delete your "personal data"? You should already know where anything sensitive is on your HDD/SSD because that is where you have chosen to save things or go to them to open files. You can also delete your browsing history and the cache that flash player makes (folders with "#" at the front of the name), and clear out the temp folders. This should only take a few minutes if that.
 

Chiefcrowe

Diamond Member
Sep 15, 2008
4,735
70
101
I have done this before for someone I was helping who got a new computer and wanted to donate the old one to someone else.

Basically you delete their user profile. Instructions on that is here:
https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/69127-delete-user-profile-windows-10-a.html

Then, make sure no data files are saved in other folders on the HD. Delete anything there that you may find.

Once that's done, then I securely deleted all free space with a program such as Eraser.

This way you don't have to reinstall windows or software...
 
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ElFenix

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Mar 20, 2000
98,387
1,379
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I don't get it. How hard can it be to delete your "personal data"? You should already know where anything sensitive is on your HDD/SSD because that is where you have chosen to save things or go to them to open files. You can also delete your browsing history and the cache that flash player makes (folders with "#" at the front of the name), and clear out the temp folders. This should only take a few minutes if that.
emptying the recycle bin leaves recoverable data all over the place. you have to use something like DBAN (for magnetic drives) or Secure Erase (for SSDs, assuming the drive supports it, and not all do) to wipe the drive back to 0s. for magnetic drives something like eraser or ccleaner's free space wiper can, potentially, get rid of the data without erasing data you want to keep, though to be sure you'd want to make sure eraser also wipes unused portions of blocks (a file may not take up a whole block, leaving other info on the remainder, which is potentially readable). i'm not sure if ccleaner does that.

for OP: if you have an extra hard drive laying around you can test installing windows 7 from an ISO on it on that computer - if it's an OEM job it almost certainly has the key embedded in the BIOS. afaik they don't do that for office so there should be a key on a card somewhere. if you don't have it, try a key recovery or see if it's linked to a microsoft account.
 
Last edited:

potato masher

Member
May 15, 2019
25
3
16
Nuke the drive from orbit with a sledgehammer. Its the only way to be sure.

Ah dang didn't even read the original post.. I'll leave it to the more skilled replies above. But then again an SSD is like $20 these days, and It'd probably make the old system run better.
 

VirtualLarry

Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
44,749
3,812
126
But then again an SSD is like $20 these days, and It'd probably make the old system run better.
That being said, perhaps the best route, would be to simply remove the HDD, and install a fresh, inexpensive SSD ($25 for a 250GB), and install an OS and office suite that doesn't require paying for a license for?

Install Linux Mint or Ubuntu, and LibreOffice.
 

Red Squirrel

No Lifer
May 24, 2003
52,301
6,724
126
www.uovalor.com
There is no safe way, that said since this is going to someone you know and not just being sold on ebay or other random place, and if you never did anything remotely embarassing (ex: watch porn) on that computer, you're probably safe to just delete your personal data, clear caches etc. Run a defrag for good measure to help overwrite deleted data. Anything like past piracy or any other such illegal activities that may have left traces behind would probably be on her if that drive eventually finds itself in the wild in the future after she's used it for a while.
 

potato masher

Member
May 15, 2019
25
3
16
Porn is what built the web. Since when is watching porn embarrassing? double click and grab your... hows that song go again.

But on topic, I'd personally completely wipe the drive as due diligence even if you have to leave it in there. Windows reinstall usually isn't that tough. If you want to get rid of the little warning message in teh corner you can call in with the windows serial number thing on the sticker. I personally don't even do that. the warning thing doesn't bug me. Open office and you're set.
 

Oyeve

Lifer
Oct 18, 1999
20,873
302
126
Create new user with admin rights, log in as new user, delete all old users, delete all profiles. Find and delete misc file. Done. Unless the person you want to give this to knows how to recover data I don;t see why this would be too difficult.
 

vailr

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 1999
5,337
48
91
Windows 7 security updates will be ending in January, 2020. The free update to Windows 10 is apparently still active, so it would be a good idea to do a fresh install (using a bootable USB thumb drive) of Windows 10 onto an SSD, re-using a saved copy of the Win 7 product key. Click on "Don't have a product key" during the Win 10 fresh installation, and after successful boot to desktop, the Win 7 product key then can be typed in. Replace the MS Office with a free alternative, such as Libre Office.
Note: be sure to only install the exact same Windows 10 version as the Win 7 version that was factory installed, such as Home or Pro, & 64 or 32 bit.
 

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