How to Securely Wipe a Hard Drive or a Computer before selling.

Last updated on December 17th, 2020

This tutorial is written for users who want to completely wipe the hard drive on their PC (Desktop or laptop) before selling, donating or rejecting the computer or the drive. By wiping a drive (hard disk, USB, Memory card, etc.), you ensure that all it's stored data will be erased permanently and no one can retrieve the data from it, in any way.

As you may already know, any piece of information that stored on a drive, is stored in the form of 0 and 1. That means that any single file (text, document, photo, program, etc.) is nothing else than a row of 0's and 1's. Now, when you delete a file on a drive, the system doesn't really erases the file (all the zeros and ones that concerning the file), but instead it removes only the reference to that file, which means that everyone can retrieve the deleted file by using a file recovery program, unless the data is overwritten.

What about when formatting the drive or deleting the partition? In general the result is the same: the data remains on the disk, because when you format a hard drive or when you delete a partition the system erases only the indexing information of all the stored data and doesn't totally destroy them by overwriting the whole drive contents with zeros or with other random data. So if the drive or the partition isn't overwritten, the data can be recovered by using a hard drive data recovery program.

How to Permanently Erase a Computer Hard Drive, USB or Memory stick.

The most secure method, to completely wipe a hard disk, is to use a data destruction software (also known as "drive wipe" or "disk sanitization" software), because this kind of software fully erases the hard drive by overwriting all the stored information multiple times in order to make impossible the data retrieval.

In this tutorial we present three (3) reliable data destruction programs in order to totally erase your computer or a certain drive (Hard disk, USB stick, Memory card, etc.) for FREE. The first two programs (CCleaner & Eraser) can be used to wipe a drive from within the Windows environment and the third program (DBAN) can be used to erase all the computer contents by starting your PC from the DBAN boot media. *

* Notes:
If you do not want to use the drive in the future then you can permanently destroy its contents by just destroying the disk. To do that, take a screwdriver and disassemble the drive. Then scratch the surface of the internal circular disc (platter) with the screwdriver or -better- break it with a hammer so it can not be read even if it is loaded onto another hard drive.
2. If you want to securely erase an HDD or SSD drive from command prompt, then read this tutorial: How to Format a Hard Drive from Command Prompt or DISKPART.

1. CCleaner.

As you may know, CCleaner is the most popular freeware tool to clean and optimize your Windows PC. One of the many features of CCleaner is the "Drive Wiper" tool, which (as you can understand by its name) can be used to securely erase a connected drive on your computer.

To wipe a drive with CCleaner:

* ATTENTION: Before erasing a drive, backup all its contents to another storage device. *

1. Download and install CCleaner on your computer.
2. Launch CCleaner, click Tools on the left and then click Drive Wiper.

ccleaner - drive wiper.

3. At the Wipe options:

a. Select Entire Drive (all data will be erased)
b. Carefully select the drive that you want to erase.
c. Select how many times the stored data will be overwritten. (The more passes lower the chances of recovery, but the wipe takes more time).
d. Click the Wipe button.

ccleaner - advanced overwrite - erase - drive

2. Eraser.

Eraser is an advanced security tool for Windows which allows you to completely remove sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns (destruction methods). Additionally, the Eraser software has the ability to secure delete a specific file or folder on your PC and makes impossible the recovery.

To wipe a hard drive with Eraser.

* ATTENTION: Before erasing a drive, backup all its contents to another storage device. *

1. Download and install Eraser on your computer.
2. Launch Eraser and click Erase Schedule -> New Task.

wipe drive - eraser

3. Then click Add Data


4. At 'Select Data to Erase' options:

a. At Target type, select Drive/Partition.
b. Change the Erasure method to Gutmann or to US DoD 5220.22-M
c. Carefully select the drive that you want to erase
d. Click OK.

erase drive - eraser

3. Darik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN)

DBAN, is an excellent wiping tool that can be used to securely wipe your system drive, especially in cases where you want to sell, donate or throw your PC.

To completely erase your PC with Darik's Boot and Nuke hard disk eraser tool:

* ATTENTION: Before erasing your computer, backup all its contents to another storage device. *

1. Download DBAN.
2. Burn the DBAN.ISO file to a CD or to a USB media.
3. On the computer that you want to erase, boot from the DBAN media.
4. Press Enter at the first screen, to start DBAN in interactive mode.

How to Securely Wipe a Hard Drive or Computer.

5. At the next screen:

a. If you have more that one drive, use the J and K keys to navigate to the drive that you want to erase.
b. Press the Space key to select the drive that you want to erase.
c. Press the M key to change the erasure method to Gutman Wipe, or to US DoD 5220.22-M.
d. Press F10 to start wiping the drive.

\wipe hard drive - Darik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN)

That's it! Let me know if this guide has helped you by leaving your comment about your experience. Please like and share this guide to help others.

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