How to wipe your computer clean for free

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If you want to sell your computer and avoid having your personal information fall into the wrong hands, you will have to wipe out your hard drive. Wiping is different from erasing, as wiping will render the data unretrievable. Commercial solutions are available that will give you lots of options, from wiping out several hard drives at once to integrating a wiping utility in Windows. However, if all you need is to wipe a hard drive once from time to time, then a free solution will be better for you.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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  1. 1

    If you have a USB drive but no DVD/CD drive or blank disks, then download Active Killdisk Bootable Disc Creator from If you want to use a CD/DVD disk, you can download the ISO image for Active Killdisk from the same address and DBAN from>

  2. 2

    Both software will come in a zip format, requiring you to uncompress it. Select the file, press the right button on your mouse and select the extract function.

  3. 3

    If you want to use a CD/DVD, insert a blank rewritable disk and select the "Burn Image" function and then the ISO image you just uncompressed. Launch the burning process. If you want to use a USB drive, insert the drive in a USB port, launch the Bootable Disc Creator and follow the instructions on the screen

  4. 4

    Insert the USB drive or disk in the computer that you want to wipe the hard drive from. Boot the computer and open the boot menu. Select "Boot from USB" or "Boot from CD/DVD" depending on what you want to use.

  5. 5

    Follow the on-screen instructions until you get to the main wiping utility screen. Select the hard drive you want to wipe and the DoD 5220.22-M wiping scheme. The DoD 5220.22-M is one of the Department of scheme to securely wipe their hard drives. Press "Start" and wait until your hard drive is wiped.

Tips and warnings

  • DBAN can also be written to a USB drive, but the self-contained utility by Active Killdisk makes it much easier.
  • If you have an older version of Windows prior to Windows XP SP2, then you might have to download an unzip program such as WinZIP from
  • Opening the Boot menu is usually done using the F11 or F12 key, but check your manual for the specific key, as this may differ based on the model of your computer.
  • Older computers might not be able to boot from a USB drive.
  • Wiping a hard drive takes time based on the size of the hard drive. Do not be surprised if the process takes several hours or a day.

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