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Windows 7: Windows 7 Installation - Prepare PC to be Sold

Windows 7 Installation - Prepare PC to be Sold

How to Prepare a Windows 7 PC to be Sold
Published by Kari
14 Nov 2011
Published by

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Giving away or selling your old PC with OS can be tricky. Should I leave my software, do I lose my licence, can the buyer see my files even if I delete them, is it OK to install some extras for that cousin of mine I'm giving this rig as a Christmas present?

This tutorial shows you how to prepare a PC to be given away or sold. My main purpose is to show what to do when selling / giving away a used Windows 7 computer, but you can also use this method if you (like me ) got some nice laptops or PC's almost free to be given as presents but they came without OS.

Giving away or selling a PC with everything intact is -sorry to say it- dumb. Not only can it bring a lot of problems and annoyances due to wrongly named user profiles and folders but it's also a security risk. Whatever you think, however careful you think you have been, there's always enough personal information available on a used PC to really make you suffer, if the new owner so decides. If you are giving away a used PC please wipe the hard disk first to ensure your privacy. Then install Windows 7 without any personal user related information.

This is what you need:
  • A Windows 7 Install Media of your chosen edition
  • A disk wipe utility. If you do not know any, I recommend using Windows 7 built-in DISKPART command line utility
  • A PC, of course
  • Windows 7 Product Key, which you can normally find on a sticker at the bottom or back of the PC. This, of course, is up to you: you can also sell or give away a PC with preinstalled Windows 7 without product key, in which case the buyer / receiver has to produce one
Skills / tutorials needed to manage this procedure:Phase 1: Wiping the disk
  1. Backup your personal files and folders to an external destination
  2. Use DISKPART Clean All command as told in this tutorial to securely erase (wipe) your hard disk(s)
Phase 2: Installing Seven
  1. Begin installation of Windows 7 as told in this tutorial. If preparing a used computer which came with a pre-installed Windows 7, remember to use the original edition to ensure OEM product key can be used to activate it
  2. When you reach step 11 in above mentioned installation tutorial, DO NOT ENTER USERNAME AND COMPUTER NAME! Instead press CTRL + SHIFT + F3:
    Windows 7 Installation - Prepare PC to be Sold-audit_1.png
  3. This boots Windows 7 in so called Audit Mode using built-in administrator profile. There's no need to set up user accounts for now
  4. Finally Windows 7 starts again in Audit Mode. Click Cancel to close System Preparation Tool for now:
    Windows 7 Installation - Prepare PC to be Sold-audit_3.png
  5. Install all the drivers and software you want to. When installing software remember to use only valid, legal installation media
  6. If selling or giving away the PC equipped with Windows 7 Ultimate, install language packs needed if PC is going to be used in another language than that of your install media
  7. When done, browse to and right click C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep\Sysprep.exe and choose Run as administrator to open System Preparation Tool (sysprep):
    Windows 7 Installation - Prepare PC to be Sold-audit_2.png
  8. Select Out-of-Box Experience in System Cleanup Action
  9. Select Shutdown in Shutdown Options
  10. Click OK
Computer shuts down, and next time it is booted it is so called first boot (Out-of-Box Experience), stopping to ask initial user profile name and computer name. If language packs are installed (Ultimate or Enterprise), initial first boot also asks user in what language he / she wants Windows to be set up.

This way you can prepare the PC without creating any user accounts or naming the PC, letting the end user to do that.

Easy and quite fast (not counting DISKPART ).

14 Nov 2011   #1

Windows 7 Professional SP1 - x64 [Non-UEFI Boot]

Excellent Tutorial!

This method is a killer thread for thieves (Out-of-Box Experience)!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Nov 2011   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient


Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by NoN View Post
Excellent Tutorial!

This method is a killer thread for thieves(Out-of-Box Experience)!
As so many other things around software in general and Windows in particular, it can also be used with criminal intention.

However, thieves do not need this method. They simply clean install new OS, not caring if new owner can recover old owners files.

Method described in this tutorial is legal and valid. Using the argument I highlighted in your quote we could also say we should not have tutorials describing the installation process in general because the criminals can also learn how to install a new OS on a stolen PC.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Nov 2011   #3

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Ult x64 - SP1/ Windows 8 Pro x64

Great tutorial Kari, thanks.

Will use this if I can ever manage to part with my older machines.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

15 Nov 2011   #4

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Microsoft Windows 10 Pro Insider Preview 64-bit

Great Job as always, Kari !

I should have waited for this tutorial to be published before I have sold my older PC as hardware a couple of months ago
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Nov 2011   #5

Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-Bit

Thanks a lot Kari, I'm about to get rid of a Dell desktop I no longer use. :)
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Nov 2011   #6

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient


Thanks, geeks. I find this method of preparing a computer to be given away or sold quite practical and wanted to share the know-how.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Nov 2011   #7
Microsoft MVP

Windows 10 Pro x64 ; Xubuntu x64

Very nicely done Kari. A very valuable tutorial.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Nov 2011   #8

Windows 7 x64

Kari, excellent tut. Been looking for this forever. I had no idea how people did it.

Question though. I'm selling to an elderly lady... and don't know if she'd be capable of inputting the activation number herself. Can I, during audit mode, activate windows with the key on the bottom of the computer?

Also, wireless networks that are connected to during audit mode - are the passkeys remembered after creating a new user and logging in?

Last question: If I change the wallpaper in Audit mode, does the customer see that wallpaper when they finally log in as their new user? :)

My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Nov 2011   #9

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient


All modifications on appearance like wallpaper, theme, sounds etc. done on Audit Mode do of course only apply to the built-in administrator account, the user account used when in Audit Mode. If you want to set Windows completely up to someone else, you need to create user accounts and modify those accounts. In this case I recommend you ask the old lady which username she wants to use and go through OOBE welcome phase, creating that account.

Activation can be done on Audit Mode. Also the network or domain credentials are saved but, as with wallpapers, only to built-in administrator account. Each user account most have the initial first time login to network or domain to set and save credentials.

My System SpecsSystem Spec

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