One of the side effects of spending more time at home during the pandemic is the realization that I have a lot of old tech lying around. A lot. Then when I tried KonMari to declutter said technology, I discovered several things I had overlooked, including an old laptop that I stopped using years ago because it was too slow for my high-end computing needs.

While this laptop is no longer sparked joy for me it turned out to be a perfect fit for my mother. It just needed cleaning first, and I’m not just talking about removing dust and mysterious mud with a few swipes of a disinfectant wipe, although you’ll want to do that too. The type of cleaning I’m talking about is restoring the laptop to like-new condition inside and out. Cleaning the exterior is the easy part. Cleaning the computer of all your applications, files, folders and other personal information is not necessarily so simple. Of course, the amount of data cleansing you need to perform will likely depend on the recipient.

The steps to refresh a laptop are the same whether it is a Windows laptop or not. Apple MacBook or Chromebook – save your old data, delete all personal information, then do a factory reset. It is the step by step procedure which differs depending on the type of laptop you are dealing with. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know and do before giving your laptop a second life. And with supply chain issues, shipping issues and chip shortages making new devices harder to come by, passing on a brand new laptop can be a welcome holiday gift.

last thing first

I usually save the physical cleaning of the laptop until the end (why wipe your fingerprints twice?), but you might want to start there – especially if it’s got dust on the bottom. a closet/under a bed/in the garage for several years. The basic equipment required for a good laptop cleaning is a can of compressed air and disinfectant or alcohol wipes. For a bit more thorough cleaning, you can also grab a screwdriver and remove your laptop’s bottom cover (if possible) so you can carefully blow out any dust that has accumulated on the fans and vents.

Once the laptop is clean, you can also wipe down the AC adapter and all associated accessories. It’s also a good idea to make sure the power adapter is always in good working order. If you’re still not sure where to start cleaning, check out our complete guide to get your laptop running at its best.

Give a second-hand MacBook


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Before you even think about performing a factory reset on your MacBook, you should save all the data you want to keep. You might have done this at some point if you migrated data from that old MacBook to a new one using Apple’s Migration Assistant. If not, it’s time to plug in an external drive and use MacOS built-in Time Machine tool to create a backup. If you have an iCloud account, you can also back up your data there.

Disconnect from everything

You will also want to sign out of all accounts before erasing the drive from your MacBook. Get started with iCloud, Find My Mac, and iMessage. Next, find individual software accounts that you may need to unsubscribe from. If you are using a browser other than Safari, such as Chrome or Firefox, you should also log out of those. Basically, if it contains personal account information, you will need to log out. (Here’s how to find Account Settings in macOS.)

Two other things you should do before a factory reset: unpair all Bluetooth devices, especially if the MacBook is gifted to someone in your household, and reset NVRAM. The latter is a memory that holds the settings the MacBook needs before loading macOS. On startup, press and hold Option-Command-PR to reset NVRAM.

Perform a factory reset

If you’ve done all of the above, you’re ready to restore your MacBook to its original state. On an Intel-based Mac, restart the system and press and hold Order to enter recovery mode. (Access Recovery Mode on MacBooks Running on the Company’s Apple Silicon Chips is different, however.)

Read more: Before you sell your MacBook, you need to factory reset it

Once in recovery mode, you will see a macOS utilities window. Use the disk utility to erase your disk. Once this is complete, you can reinstall macOS. Once the reinstallation is complete, you will reach the Setup Wizard. From there, you can shut it down and shut it down or configure it for the recipient.

Give away a used Windows laptop


Screenshot by Josh Goldman/CNET

Like gifting a MacBook, start by backing up all important folders and files from your old laptop to cloud storage or an external drive. If you do the latter, go to Settings > Update & security > Backup > Add drive and select the external drive. Then click Backup Now.

Log out of all your apps

Many paid software require you to sign in with an account, product key, or both. Before clearing your laptop’s storage, log out of all accounts and unregister software licenses (if possible). If you need these product keys to re-register the software on a new laptop, be sure to save this information. If you are using a browser other than Edge, such as Chrome or Firefox, log out of those as well. Basically, if it contains personal account information, log out.

Reset laptop

Ready to clean the drive and reinstall Windows? Go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery. At the top of the window, you will see Reset this PC. Click Get Started and select Delete All in the box that appears. From there, you can choose to reinstall Windows from the local drive or download from the cloud. After that, Windows cleans the drive of all software, settings, and data. Once complete, the laptop will boot into setup wizard mode. You can then stop it and turn it off for a fresh out-of-the-box experience or do some setup, which is nice, especially if it’s going to be a family member so they can use it right away.

Unlink from your Microsoft account

If you used a Microsoft account to sign in to the laptop, the last thing you need to do is remove the laptop from that account. Log into your account from another computer and click the Devices tab at the top of the page. Find the laptop you are gifting in the list of devices, and at the bottom of the list you will see the option to remove the device. Click on it and you’re done.

Give away a used Chromebook

Asus Chromebook CX9400

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Chromebooks are the easiest to refresh for freebies. This is mainly because of their cloud-based design. Google also makes it easy to erase your data and securely wipe internal storage, as well as remove the Chromebook from your Google Account.

Check the WUA first

Before you even consider gifting an old Chromebook, check when its auto-update expires. Google only guarantees support for Chrome OS and browser features on non-Google hardware for that long. Each device has a date when it stops receiving updates, i.e. its AUE date. Current models receive updates for eight years; older models could potentially be a year or two away from reaching their AUE.

Google maintains an AUE list, so finding the date when your Chromebook will stop receiving updates is as easy as locating your model on this list. The AUE can also be found in your Chromebook’s settings. Here is how to find the WUA from Google and in your Chromebook.

Give it a Powerwash

Powerwash is Google’s built-in factory reset tool for Chromebooks. Once you have backed up any folders or files stored on the Chromebook’s internal drive, running Powerwash will safely clean the system and reboot. When it restarts, it will be like the day you unboxed it.

The actual Powerwash usually takes less than a minute. A simple search for “powerwash” in your Chromebook’s settings will take you directly to the feature, but here’s everything you need to know on the procedure.

Remove the Chromebook from your Google Account

Although you deleted your Account from the Chromebook, you have not deleted the Chromebook of your account. Start by logging into your Google account and go to security settings. If you’re using the Chrome browser, you can also click on your account avatar and select Manage your Google Account in the drop-down menu.

In the Security section, scroll down until you see a box titled Your devices, which lists all devices connected to your account. At the bottom of the box, click Manage devices and find the Chromebook you are gifting and select Sign out.

Give the Chromebook a good external cleaning, gather all the accessories, and it’s ready to hand over to your gift.

Read more: How to give back a game console


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