Windows desktop / laptop / tablet
Your PC should meet the minimum hardware specification for Windows 10 as published by Microsoft. In practice, most PCs running Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 can be upgraded to Windows 10 so should also be supportable.
If your PC does not meet the minimum hardware specification for Windows 10, it may be possible to extend its life by converting to ChromeOS (see How to turn an old laptop into a Chromebook from PCWorld).
You will need to securely erase the disk on a Windows PC, and this will remove all licensed software including Windows itself, so there are no further licensing issues.
How to securely wipe a Windows 8 / 8.1 or Windows 10 device
If you have applied a firmware or BIOS password then reboot your PC, access firmware setup (usually by pressing or holding F2 or Delete after turning on) and locate settings to remove the password
Start Windows. Tap or click on the login screen, select Power in bottom right, then press and hold Shift while selecting Restart . If you are prompted "Someone else is still using this PC. If you restart now they could lose unsaved work" then select Restart anyway.
If you are already logged into Windows then you can also begin this step by selecting Start > Power and holding Shift while selecting Restart
- Your PC will enter recovery mode. Select Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Command Prompt and wait while your PC restarts
- If you are prompted to enter a recovery key then click Skip this drive, otherwise select your user account and enter your password
- In the black command prompt window type dir c:\ and press Enter. Make a note of the drive volume label which is displayed on the first line of output (for example "Volume in drive C is Windows", in which case the drive volume label is Windows). If you were prompted to enter a recovery key on the previous step then the command output should say that the drive is locked by BitLocker - this is OK and you won't need to enter the drive volume label in the next step
- Now type format c: /p:3 /fs:ntfs and press Enter. You will be asked to type the drive volume label and press Enter to confirm. Note that this is an intensive format and could take many hours, or even days, depending on the drive type and capacity
How to securely wipe a Windows 7 device
- Start Windows, but press and hold F8 just before the Windows logo appears
- Your PC will display the Advanced Boot Options menu. Select Safe Mode with Command Prompt using the up/down keys, then press Enter
- Follow steps 4 to 6 of the method above for newer versions of Windows
How to securely wipe a device with a broken Windows installation
This method can be used to wipe a device where the hardware is OK but Windows won't start.
- If you have applied a firmware or BIOS password then reboot your PC, access firmware setup (usually by pressing or holding F2 or Delete after turning on) and locate settings to remove the password
- Erase all data and software using the guide at How to erase a hard drive using DBAN
Check that your Mac is not listed under "Mac products obsolete worldwide" on Obtaining service for your Apple product after an expired warranty.
Your Mac should be running one of the three newest versions of the OS (Find out which macOS your Mac is using).
There are no special licensing requirements. Every Mac is licensed to run a copy of macOS.
How to securely wipe an Apple Mac
- Open System Preferences and select iCloud or Apple ID depending on your version of macOS. Make sure that Find My Mac is not selected. You will need to provide your Apple ID password if you change this setting
- Shut down your Mac. Boot into macOS recovery by restarting whilst holding the Option-Command-R keys. Release the keys when the progress bar under the Apple logo appears
- Erase all data and software from your disk (see How to erase your Intel-based Mac). Then, close Disk Utility and choose Reinstall macOS or Reinstall Mac OS X. This will install a fresh copy of the most recent version of macOS for your Mac
Android phone / tablet
Manufacturers of Android devices often modify the operating system features and appearance, so menus and fields may vary from the typical examples shown here.
Remove any additional storage
Make sure you remove any storage devices such as SIM cards or SD cards before passing the device on.
Your device must be capable of running Android 8.0 Oreo or newer. Open Settings > System > Software information and check the Android Version. Available updates will normally be shown under Settings > System > Software update.
How to securely wipe an Android device
METHOD 1: SYSTEM SETTINGS
- Open Settings and tap Search (usually in the top-right). Type factory and select Delete all data (factory reset) or the equivalent option from the results
- Tap Erase all data or the equivalent option and enter your PIN or other unlock mechanism to confirm
METHOD 2: FASTBOOT RECOVERY MODE
This alternative method is available on some devices that cannot be accessed via the normal login. This would be suitable if the device doesn't start up properly or you are not able to unlock the device.
- Power off the device fully. This can usually be done by holding the screen on/off button until a power options menu appears, and selecting Power off
- Start the device in fastboot mode. The method to do this varies by manufacturer and even by device, but in most cases you hold Volume down + On/off until the device starts. Another popular combination is Volume up + On/off. If neither of these work then you will need to find details for your device
- Select Recovery from the fastboot menu using the volume up/down and power keys. Wait for the device to boot into recovery mode
- Select Wipe data/factory reset (or equivalent option) from the recovery mode menu using the volume up/down and power keys
- Confirm this action and choose Reboot system now if prompted
Chromebook / ChromeOS
Open Settings > About Chrome OS > Additional Details. In the Update schedule section, you’ll find when your Chromebook will receive its last update. If this is not available, or is in the past, then your device is not supported.
How to securely wipe a Chromebook or ChromeOS device
Follow Google's instructions to reset your Chromebook to factory settings. Stop when you reach point 5 in the process, after the Powerwash is completed, and simply turn your Chromebook off at this point.