How to Wipe a Hard Drive

Wiping a hard drive is the process of erasing all of the data on the drive. When you delete things using conventional methods, it technically doesn’t erase the data, likewise, when you format a drive, not all of them information is completely erased. This is where the wiping process comes into play, as it’s designed to do just that.

When you delete a partition or format a hard drive, you’re really only erasing the file system, this makes the data invisible, but it doesn’t remove the data. With the right kind of software (file recovery), it’s possible for you to recover this previously erased data.

If you would like to ensure that the information you erase is non-recoverable, then you will need to use the wiping technique.

  1. Before you begin the wiping process, it’s always best to back things up. This is because after you have successfully wiped the drive, you will no longer be able to access the data that was previously on it.

Note: It’s not uncommon for a hard drive to have multiple partitions. You will need to use the Disk Management tool in Windows to remove these partitions.

  1. Once you have backed everything up, you will need to download a data destruction program. There are many of these programs around, just ensure that the one you choose is actually capable of carrying out the task, efficiently.

Note: The specific tool that I recommend is DBAN. Currently it’s one of the most widely used of all wiping tools.

IMG_1There are also many different ways that you can erase the data from your hard drive. Using Ccleaner, it’s possible for you to wipe the already blank areas of your drive. However, data destruction tools tend to be the most straightforward.

  1. Boot DBAN Using a CD/DVD

If you prefer to run DBAN from a CD/DVD, then you will be required to burn the .iso file onto a disc. Make sure you choose the option to burn image to disc, when copying the data to a blank disc.

Once it has successfully burned the program to disc, simply place the disc inside your CD/DVD drive and restart your computer. If you’re computer is not configured to boot from CD/DVD, then you will have to enter the BIOS to change it.

  1. Boot DBAN Using a USB Device

If you would prefer to copy the program to a USB device, then you will need to use ISO-to-USB software to do it, as this will ensure the files are setup correctly. Attempting to manually copy the files to the USB device, simply will not work. The instructions on how to do this will vary, depending on the kind of software you are using, but essentially, you’ll want to turn your USB device into a bootable disk.

Once you have successfully copied the data to your USB device, you will need to enter your BIOS to change your boot device order, so that it will boot from your Removable Device first. Once done, insert the USB device into your computer and restart it.

  1. Wiping the Hard Drive

Once the program is up and running, you will then be able to wipe the drive, using the step by step instructions.

Note: The vast majority of data destruction tools use a number of different methods of wiping a drive. To find out the exact methods utilised by the software, you will need to check the Data Sanitisation Method.

Once the process is complete, you can be confident in the knowledge that whatever data once existed on your drive is no longer accessible.

You can now install a fresh copy of Windows on your drive, create a new partition or sell the hard drive off, basically whatever it is, you planned to do with it.

Additional Information

From Windows Vista onwards, a single write zero pass has been applied to every quick format process. In order words, the latest versions of Windows now apply a low level hard drive wipe, whenever carrying out a standard format.

If you are satisfied with a single write zero pass then a standard format should be sufficient. However, if you would like to apply more advanced wiping methods, then you should go ahead and use the tool that I recommended.

One thing you should understand is that a single hard drive wipe only applies to the partition that it was initiated on. So if you’re drive has multiple partitions, then you will have to either, erase those partitions or apply the wipe to each partition separately.

If your sole objective is to ensure that all the data that you delete (on your computer) is no longer accessible, then a data wiping tool like Ccleaner should be enough to meet your needs.

Just install and load Ccleaner up, and it should present you with the option to do a free space wipe, which is the process of wiping all the free space on the drive.

Wipe a Hard Drive


Uchenna Ani-Okoye is a former IT Manager who now runs his own computer support website