With most new laptop purchases or holiday gifts, the question arises: What do you do with your old laptop?
As a responsible inhabitant of the planet, you can’t in good conscience toss your old laptop in the trash. Plus, if it’s in some semblance of a working condition, you might be able to offset the cost of your new laptop by selling your old device.
Just because you ran your laptop into the ground doesn’t mean it need to end up in the ground. Instead of throwing it out, donate it to a local recycling center or find one online. Staples and Best Buy accept laptops for recycling, while Dell operates its Dell Reconnect recycling program through Goodwill retail locations. All three are free. And Apple has its Reuse and Recycling Program that provides free shipping and might in pay you with an Apple gift card should your laptop have some value.
If you upgraded to a new laptop while the old one still has a little life left in it, there are a number of options for selling it online. You could, of course, turn to eBay or Craigslist, but finding the right buyer may prove time consuming, requiring lengthy email chains about the laptop’s condition while trying to find someone.
Instead of selling it to another end user, you could try a trade-in site that will buy your old laptop and then turn around sell it on the used market. Amazon’s Trade-In service, for example, is quick and easy and pays you via Amazon gift card. And there is no shortage of other trade-in sites, including NextWorth, SellaLaptop.com, and YouRenew to name three. Gazelle is another popular trade-in site for Apple MacBooks, along with phones and tablets.
You could also turn to social media to find a buyer among your group of friends or followers, where the right local group or hashtag might find you your laptop’s next owner. Using innocent social connections for a commercial venture, however, comes with its own perils and decorum.
We will explore the above options in more detail, but before you choose a sale outlet for your old laptop, you must take stock of the machine to find out what it’s worth.
Know your specs
How much can you get for your old laptop? There are many resources online to help you answer that question. You could look on eBay’s completed listings to see for the sale prices of your model or those similar to it. You could also take a sampling of a handful a trade-in sites, all of which are happy to give you a quick online sale estimate.
Because most laptop models offer various configurations and customizations options, pricing can vary widely for a particular make and model. Not only can the internal components differ, but so too can the size of the display, all of which affects the price. It’s also helpful to know your purchase date; buyers will want to know the age for any potential laptop purchase.
Therefore, you need to know which components your laptop features and its screen size in order to find an accurate price estimate. Make a list of your laptop’s main components:
- Screen size and touch support
- Hard drive
On Windows laptops, you can use the Control Panel to find your components. On Windows 8, head to Control Panel > System and Security > System for CPU, memory, and OS information. From this screen, click on Device Manager in the left panel and then Display adapters to find out which graphics subsystem your laptop uses.
Lastly, the hard drive information can be found on the main This PC (or the name you gave your PC) in Windows Explorer in the Devices and drives section. It will show you how much free space you have out of the total space available. Because the OS takes up some space, you’ll need to round up for your hard drive’s total capacity. If 900 GB is listed, for example, it means your laptop has a 1 TB drive. Alternatively, you can use CPU-Z, a free app that quickly gathers your main system information.
On a Mac, click the Apple icon in the upper-left corner and choose About This Mac for both the era of the Mac and its basic components.
See what condition your laptop’s condition is in
After you establish the basic specs for your laptop, you must then give an honest assessment of its condition. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does it power on?
- Is the display scratched, suffer from dull spots, or lousy with dead pixels?
- Is chassis cracked, dented, or scratched?
- Are all of the keys on the keyboard present and accounted for and in working order?
- Does the battery work? And if so, how long does it run on a single charge?
Use your answers to determine if your laptop’s condition is like new, good, adequate, or poor. It wouldn’t hurt your eventual sale price to clean up your laptop by wiping it down with a mild detergent. Next, use a can of compressed air to blow out the dust from the cooling vents and any crumbs and dirt that managed to find their way under your keyboard.
Now you need to round up the accessories, printed manuals, power cord, and original packaging that was included with your laptop. A bare minimum, you need to locate the power cord and ensure that it can still charge the battery or — if your battery is dead — allows the laptop to run on AC power. If you aren’t selling local and plan to ship the laptop to the buyer, the original packaging material will keep it safe during transit and improves the look of the overall package you are attempting to sell.
No matter where or how you plan to sell your laptop, you’ll likely need a good photo of it for your ad or social media post. You may be able to snap a suitable shot with your cell phone, particularly if it’s a recent model with a high-resolution camera, but we would resist using the flash and instead positioning your laptop near a window during the day and using natural light. Your odds of getting an attractive, attention-grabbing image increase if you use a digital SLR and with a flash kit.
You need to remove your personal information and sensitive data from the machine before passing it along to its next owner. You’ll want to move your important data to an external hard drive or directly to your new laptop before wiping your hard drive clean. If you have only a small amount of data on the machine, you could simply use a cloud service like Dropbox to store your files.
After offloading your files, you need to deauthorize the software on your laptop such as iTunes, Amazon Music, Adobe’s Creative Suites, Microsoft Office, and Steam. And if you are using Google’s two-step verification, then you should revoke access for apps with application-specific passwords.
This next step is time-consuming but entirely necessary: reformatting your hard drive and reinstalling the operating system. It’s the only way to absolutely certain that not a trace of your personal information is left behind.
For Windows systems, you can run a clean install of Windows by booting from a Windows installation CD or a Windows ISO on a flash drive. You’ll need the Windows product key. And if you want to be extra certain your information is destroyed, you can run a third-party app such as Active@ KillDisk Hard Drive Eraser or Darik’s Boot and Nuke to wipe your disk clean before formatting it and reinstalling Windows.
On Macs, you can use the built-in Disk Utility program erase your hard drive and reinstall OS X.
The most obvious choices for selling a laptop are eBay and Craigslist, but each has its drawbacks. With eBay, you may run into trouble attracting bids if you haven’t used the site that frequently and lack a high seller’s rating. No matter where you go on the Internet, eBay included, there is no shortage of scam artists. People may not trust your description of your “lovingly cared for, like new” laptop unless you have a sales history and positive reviews.
Craigslist poses the same risks as eBay, and it may force you to take the time to set up face-to-face meetings that may not result in an exchange of goods. Unless you like the idea of strangers coming to your home, it’s a good idea to set up meetings at a coffee shop or another offsite location. While this increases your safety, it can become time-consuming if you don’t manage to sell your laptop to the first or second prospective Craigslist buyer.
Instead of attempting to strike a deal with strangers, it’s becoming more common to use your social networks to try to sell to a friend or follower. Facebook has its MarketPlace that’s powered by online classified pioneer Oodle where you can create a free listing for your laptop. You can add a description, a photo or video, a general product category (in this case, Merchandise), and your location. You can list a price and check a box for Or Best Offer if you are willing to negotiate. There is also a checkbox to also post your MarketPlace to your own timeline.
There might also be Facebook groups in your area that have been established to barter, buy, and sell used goods. Some of these groups are called FaceBay, which you can search for to see if one exists in your area. You can also try searching Facebook for “For sale” to find such a group.
Of course, you can always use your own Facebook profile to attempt to sell to one of your Facebook friends. In order to avoid your Facebook friends feeling like you are taking advantage of your social connection, we would advise against the hard sell. That is, keep your description short and limit the number of posts. Daily, repeated posts until the darn thing sells is out of the question. Post it once and perhaps repeat your offer a week later and then move on. Also, be up front in your sales post and admit you are using social media for your own gain and thought you might have a friend in need of a used laptop at a fair price before you ventured into the Internet wilds to find a suitor.
If you are on Instagram or Twitter, post a photo of your laptop with the hashtag #forsale and another hashtag with your location and a brief description. This way, not only will your followers see the post but also anyone searching for that hashtag who might be looking for a deal.
If you don’t want to bother attempting to sell to friends, social media acquaintances, or strangers, then you are a good candidate for a trade-in site. You likely won’t get as much as you would with a direct sale because these sites need to buy your laptop at a low enough price that they can turn a profit. The upside is you largely avoid the hassle of the sales process of photographing your laptop before negotiating and then shipping to or meeting up with the buyer.
Most laptop trade-in sites — NextWorth, SellaLaptop.com, and YouRenew are three well-known outlets — operate the same way. You enter your laptop’s make and model number and the site may ask a couple questions — does the laptop power on, is the screen damaged — before returning an instant quote. If you like the price, you can accept the offer and print out a free shipping label. When your laptop arrives, the trade-in site will inspect it to make sure it matches your description and you’ll then receive your money via check or PayPal.
Amazon’s Trade-In works in a similar fashion and will provide three prices for your laptop’s trade-in value based on its condition: Like New, Good, or Acceptable. It provides thorough criteria of each term to help you find most accurate assessment of your laptop. In return, however, you’ll receive an Amazon Gift Card in lieu of cash.
An accurate assessment of your laptop’s value, a clean hard drive, and a good photograph are all you need to sell your old laptop. With those three bases covered, you simply need to find to the right outlet bring it all home with a sale.