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What To Do Before Returning a Work Laptop (Must-Read!)

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Companies are fond of providing their employees with a laptop where they work on. Typically, this improves the employee’s productivity because work laptops are usually perfectly suited for the organization’s tasks. Who wants to work with an underpowered laptop? 

However, it’s important to remember these laptops belong to the firm, so it’s always best not to get too attached. Consequently, in time HR may request you return the computer. This can leave you wondering about the steps to take before returning your laptop and ensuring your personal data stays protected and personal. 

You’ll need to back up your data and erase whatever personal information is on the laptop, so it looks and feels brand new. This not only protects you from any personal data leaks but also speaks well about you. So, without further ado, here are the three steps to take before returning your office laptop.  

Steps to take before Returning Laptop to the Office

Let’s examine the three crucial steps to take before returning laptops to your office. If you aren’t using a Windows laptop, don’t fret. We’ll also highlight how to erase data on laptops with different operating systems.

Step 1: Back Up All Your Data

Make sure you back up all of your important files before you start wiping your laptop. It would be painful for you to lose any of your valuable files. The size of the files on your computer will determine how much storage you require. Here are three storage options you can choose from.  

  • USB stick
  • Cloud storage options: Google Drive, Dropbox & OneDrive
  • External hard drive

Step 2: Erase Your Personal Info Off the Laptop

You may be able to erase your personal info off the laptop without performing a full wipe.

To begin, look for obvious files. These could be videos, photos, or animated gifs. First, start with your personal drive and also check your downloads folder. Moreover, you’ll also need to delete any computer programs you’ve installed while on the laptop.

Lastly, open your preferred browser and clear saved passwords, websites, browser history, and auto-fill data.

Step 3: Wipe the Hard Drive

Wiping a laptop varies depending on the computer’s operating system. Here’s a quick rundown of three of the best ways to wipe your laptop device.

Wipe the Hard Drive

Mac Laptop

To wipe a Mac laptop, locate and launch Disk Utility. Then, hold down the Command + R keys as the laptop boots up to access this. When you click on the Erase tab, you will be able to erase your Mac’s main drive. Furthermore, if you’re running an OS version older than Lion, you’ll also need a system disk. This can be checked in Settings.

Windows Laptop

Before wiping any Windows laptop, check the Windows version that is on the computer. Navigate to Start > Settings > Change PC settings if you’re still using Windows 8. Afterward, click on ‘Remove Everything’ and install an updated version of Windows.

For Windows 10, type ‘Reset C’ in the bottom-right search bar on the screen and click on ‘Reset this PC.’ When you click the ‘Get Started’ button, Windows will guide you through the reset procedure. For a complete wipe, select ‘Remove everything.’

Linux Laptop

Regardless of the Linux distro you use, wiping any internal or external hard drives on a Linux computer is a tad tricky process that requires using the command line. Start a command-line terminal and type ‘sudo fdisk -l.’ 

After inputting the command line, a list of all storage drives on the laptop will be displayed. Afterward, find the storage drive you want to wipe and make a note of its device path. Then, in the terminal, type ‘sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb bs=1M’, making sure to replace ‘/dev/sdb/’ with the device path for the target storage drive. After this process, the storage drive will be wiped clean.


Wiping a Chromebook is a rather straightforward process. To wipe a Chromebook, go to Settings and click on the ‘Powerwash’ option. This option will reset the computer and wipe all data from its hard drive.

Final Thoughts

Wiping your office laptop is an effective way to ensure your personal data, passwords, and files remain personal. Getting hacked is no fun. So, follow our guide to properly perform the much-needed tasks before returning laptops. Finally, it’s also important to physically clean the laptop after digitally cleaning. Ensure you clean the screen, trackpad, and keyboard with a soft microfiber cloth or compressed air can (for those dust-prone tight spaces such as a keyboard). 

Frequently Asked Questions

Will resetting Windows 11 reset save my files?

Yes, when performing a Windows 11 Reset, your personal folders, including My Documents, My Pictures, and My Videos, are preserved. However, when prompted, ensure you select saving your personal data. This step is essential because the reset will wipe all your personal files if you don’t select the option.

Can you completely erase a laptop?

A computer can be completely erased. However, according to security experts, data can sometimes be recovered by a skilled hacker. Even if you partition and reformat the drive, data traces may remain.

Is it safe to perform a factory reset on a laptop?

Typically, it is safe to factory reset your laptop. Factory resets enable you to repair application errors or other operating-system issues. Furthermore, factory resets also remove malware and other unwanted programs that might have infiltrated the system.

Factory resetting vs. wiping

A factory reset may appear similar to wiping a laptop, but there is a significant difference. Factory resets return a computer to its original state, so any changed settings will no longer apply.

However, this does not erase data from the laptop’s hard drive. Lastly, some laptop manufacturers, such as Apple, combine the two tasks by allowing users to erase hard drives as part of resetting their laptops to factory settings. 

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Pigtou Editorial Team

A group of tech enthusiasts who find pleasure in troubleshooting and resolving various issues. When we're not engaged in writing, we typically enjoy playing table football or spending time with our office dog.
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