There are a few steps you can take now that will enable you to get maximum value when it comes time to sell your old computer. Yes, that bright shiny cutting-edge machine you have will someday be yesterday’s model and you will need to replace it.
What I’m going to talk about today centers on preserving your computer’s operating system. Computers can lose their operating systems if their hard drives fail, or if the restoration partition fails. If a computer goes on the market without a viable operating system, it immediately loses some $50 in value, maybe more. If you’re selling on eBay you will have to list the machine “For Parts or Repair” rather than Used, and that immediately eliminates a broad swath of potential buyers.
There are two keys to preserving your system’s operating system: having recovery disks and preserving the Windows product key.
Most modern computers are shipped without recovery disks, and instead use a dedicated recovery partition on the machine’s own hard drive. This way, the manufacturers can save the immense sum of maybe $2 or so. But they also figure that it’s easier for the end user to recover the system via an internal partition, accessible by a key sequence at boot-up, than to have him find and then wrestle with disks. And then, an increasing number of small computers – netbooks, tablets and the like – are being sold that do not even have the optical drives necessary for using disks. So a disk recovery in that case would involve purchasing a separate external optical drive. Though that’s not a bad idea anyway, most users will not want the bother or expense.
And so manufacturers usually opt to place the recovery files on the computer’s own hard drive. This is a fine system, except when your hard drive goes south. Then what do you do? And if you go online and shop hard drives, and check user reviews, you will find that an extraordinary percentage of modern hard drives do in fact retire south after an all to short working career.
This means that the first rule for preserving your OS is to make your own recovery disks. It’s a simple process that will take only a short while, and will pay big rewards if you ever need it – whether you want to sell the machine with a fresh install of the operating system, or reinstall the operating system for your own use after a hardware failure. To make the disks, on the Start menu, type “recovery” or look for a Recovery item, and your system’s maker should have a utility that will do the job for you. You’ll need a few blank DVD disks and maybe a half hour or so. This is something you’ll never be sorry you did.
But understand this very clearly: using recovery disks will take your system back to the way it was the day you walked out the store with it. All your data, all the programs you have installed, and all your configurations, will be lost. That’s just what you may want if you’re selling the system, but if the recovery is for your own use, even if you have data backups, plan on spending a massive amount of time to install, configure, and load everything back.
That is why recovery disks are not a substitute for taking a full image backup of your system, and for doing regular data backups. See my article HERE for how to do that. You should have both a system backup and recovery disks, because they perform different functions. If you do this, you’re operating system will be well-covered.
The other thing that many users don’t think of is protecting their Windows COA sticker. If you do a reinstall from a manufacturer’s restore partition, you won’t need the Windows product key. But if you reinstall from a disk, you will. This is where protecting the product key, which is printed on an external sticker on the machine, comes in. On desktops this is not much of an issue, because desktops are pretty much put in place and left there. But laptops are another story. The sticker is on the bottom, and the laptop is often moved around and rubbed against things. After a year or two, those stickers can easily become illegible. That means that if even if you can reinstall Windows, you will not be able to activate it. And that means you will need to shell out anywhere from $90 to $200 to get your machine working again.
The solution here is ultra simple. Take a small piece of clear shipping tape and cover the COA sticker with it. This will take you about 30 seconds to do. Do the manufacturer’s product ID sticker while you’re at it. This will extend the life of the stickers by years. Then copy the product key to a safe file, or to a piece of paper you can file away safely.
You want to get the recovery process down to a smooth and quick process, so you can get back up and running without an angina attack, or you can sell the machine for maximum value.