How to Wipe a Hard Drive? To wipe a hard drive means to erase the drive of all its information. Deleting everything does not wipe a hard drive, and formatting does not usually either. You’ll need to take an extra step so the data can’t be simply reconstructed later.
When you format a hard drive or delete a partition, you’re normally only deleting the file system, making the data hidden or no longer actively indexed but not gone. A file recovery program or special hardware often recovers the details.
If you want to make sure that your private data is gone forever, you’ll need to wipe the hard drive using special software.
Wiping a hard drive is operating system independent if you utilize one of the bootable tools from our list mentioned below, which means that it doesn’t matter what OS is running on the drive.
See the tip at the bottom of the page for information on a simple wipe utilizing the format command in Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista.
Types of data deletion
No matter what kind of data you had on your system before you decided to donate or recycle it, it pays to play it safe.
Remember, deleting your files from the recycle bin or trash doesn’t mean the file is passed from your device. It only means its location is available. Data recovery software can easily find those files on your hard drive.
Here are a few methods to wipe your hard drive like the pros and avoid the risk of someone accessing your old data.
Short for Darik’s Boot and Nuke, DBAN* utilizes a random number generator that wipes and overwrites everything on the drive several times. Every file that has been deleted now has a new number assigned to it. This makes it difficult for data recovery tools to access it. This tool is helpful if you plan to sell, donate, or recycle your computer or laptop.
- Destroy the hard drive
A sure system to destroy the hard drive is to make it physically impossible to access the disks. This can be done by dismantling the hard disk pieces with a screwdriver and using a hammer to scratch and mangle the disk. The aim is to make sure the disk will not work when loaded into another hard drive. A strong rare earth magnet can also be used to destroy the platter in the hard drive.
How to Wipe a Hard Drive?
This method could take several minutes to several hours, depending on how big the drive is and what method you choose.
Back up anything you require to keep, such as photos, software product keys, etc. When the hard drive wipe is complete, there will be certainly no way to get anything on the drive back.
If you’ve been utilizing an online backup service, you can safely assume that all your important files are already backed up online. If you haven’t been so proactive, pick from various free offline backup tools to save your files to an external hard drive.
Back up everything you require to keep; sometimes, several virtual drives share space on a single physical hard drive. See the drives (volumes) that sit on a hard drive from the Disk Management tool in Windows.
Download an accessible data destruction program. Any of the first six programs we recommend on that list will work great because they can wipe a hard drive from outside of Windows, a necessary feature if you need to wipe the drive that Windows is installed on.
We’re big fans of DBAN, our first select on that list. It’s apparently the most widely used hard drive wiping tool (but please know that it doesn’t wipe solid-state drives). View our How to Wipe a Hard Drive With DBAN tutorial if you’re nervous about hard drive wiping or favor a more detailed walkthrough.
There are several approaches to erase a hard drive, but using data destruction software is the easiest and still allows the hard drive to be used again.
Complete whatever steps are required to install the software or, in the case of a bootable program like DBAN, get the ISO image on a CD or DVD, or a USB device like a flash drive:
If you’re using a CD or DVD, this method usually involves burning the ISO image to a disc and then booting it from the disc to run the program.
If you’re using a flash drive or other USB drive, this method usually involves burning the ISO image to the USB device and then booting from that USB drive to get started.
Wipe the hard drive according to the program’s directions.
Most data destruction programs offer several methods. If you’re curious about the effectiveness of methods used to complete the wipe, see Data Sanitization Methods.
Plugin your laptop or verify the battery’s fully charged. The total time it needs to finish the HDD wipe depends on the size of the drive and the computer’s speed.
When it’s all said and done, you can be confident that whatever data was on the drive is now gone for good.
You can now install Windows on the drive, build a new partition, sell or give away the hard drive or computer, recycle or dispose of it, restore your backed up files, or whatever else you need to do.
A Simple Hard Drive Wipe Alternative
In Windows Vista, the format method changed, and a single write-zero pass is applied to each standard (non-quick) format. In other terms, a very basic hard drive wipe is executed during a format.
If a single write-zero pass is good sufficient for you, consider your drive wiped after a regular format in Windows 10, 8, 7, or Vista. If you want something even more secure, follow the hard drive wipe directions above.
This is a wipe of just the separation you’re formatting. If you have more than one partition on a physical hard drive, you’ll need to format those extra drives as well if you want to consider the entire physical disk as “wiped.”
Is Shredding Files What you’re Really After?
If you need to make sure that files you delete regularly are gone and not retrievable with special tools, a data-wiping program is more than you need. See our list of available file shredder software programs for programs that destroy private files on an as-needed basis.
Many of those shredder programs also do what’s called a free space wipe, a wipe of all the “empty” space on your hard drive. The purpose of this is to ensure that the files you’ve already deleted are deleted for good.