I am selling a computer and I need to delete our Hotmail accounts
from it. We have a laptop we need to activate them on. How do we do
This surprisingly common question is an example of a
misunderstanding of exactly just how services like Hotmail work.
In short: it’s not on your computer.
But there are still things you’ll want to erase before selling
Hotmail (and Yahoo and GMail and a boatload of other services) are called “web services” because they live on the web, out on the internet. In other words, they’re not installed on your computer, so there’s nothing to be removed from your computer when you decide it’s time for a new one.
Or is there?
There’s certainly nothing to be uninstalled, like you would a program that’s been installed on your computer. But there are important traces of having used Hotmail that you’ll want to erase.
For example, if when you login to Hotmail you ask it to “remember your password”, that is stored on your computer by your web browser (not directly by Hotmail). If when you come to the sign-in page certain fields like your user name are already filled in for you, that too is something that’s been remembered for you by the web browser you use.
And of course if you never have to actually login to Hotmail because you’ve configured things to automatically log you in, that too is information that’s being kept on your behalf by your browser.
Now, there are two steps that come to mind rather quickly:
Logout of Hotmail, and uncheck all the “save me”, “remember me” options you can. (You may need to log back in and then out for the settings to “take”.)
Use your browser’s security features to clear all saved passwords, form fields, the cache and any additional information.
The problem is when you’re selling or giving away your computer that’s not enough. That’s not even close to enough.
What you need to do when selling or giving away any computer is simple: erase the entire hard drive completely. That’ll get rid of any and all saved passwords and account names, as well as anything else you didn’t remember to remove from the disk before giving it away. DBAN is one such program that will do this, and it’ll do it in a secure way such that the data cannot be recovered.
Now, about “activating” your Hotmail on another machine…
That’s simple, really: just go to that machine, fire up a browser, go to http://hotmail.com and login.
On any computer, anytime, anywhere.
The only concern/catch is to pay attention to those “save my password”, and “login me in automatically” types of settings to make sure that things are being saved and remembered only when it’s safe, and only when you really want them to be.
(And as a reminder once again, while I’ve used Hotmail as my example throughout, this all applies to any web-based service.)