How to wipe a PC hard drive clean

Written by joel douglas
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How to wipe a PC hard drive clean
Use disc-cleaning software to permanently erase a hard drive. (hard drive image by BigDog from Fotolia.com)

Formatting a hard drive to erase its contents does not mean the files are necessarily gone forever. Using data-recovery software, someone still could retrieve sensitive data and files from your hard drive even after you've formatted it. Instead of simply formatting your hard drive, use disc-cleaning software to permanently erase its contents. Disc-cleaning programs work by repeatedly overwriting the contents of a hard drive with random data patterns, making it virtually impossible to recover the original files.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Download and install the freeware program Active@ KillDisk (see Resources). Click the Windows "Start" button and select KillDisk from the "All Programs" list. Click the check box next to the hard drive you want to erase in the "System Local Disks" menu. Press the "Kill" button. Select the erasing method you want to use from the "Erase Method" drop-down menu. Active@ recommends using the "US DoD 5220.22-M" method. Click "Start" to begin erasing the hard drive.

  2. 2

    Download and install the freeware program Hard Drive Eraser (see Resources). Click the Windows "Start" button and select Hard Drive Eraser from the "All Programs" list. Check the radio button next to the hard drive you want to erase under "Select Drive to Erase." Select the erasing method you want to use from the "Shredding Scheme" drop-down menu. The developers of Hard Drive Eraser recommend "DoD 5220-22 M" Press the "Start" button to begin erasing the hard drive.

  3. 3

    Download and install Iolo DriverScrubber (see Resources). Click the "Windows" Start button, "All Programs" and then the DriverScrubber program icon. Click "Wipe all contents of a drive," and then click "3.5-Inch Floppy Disk." Insert a blank floppy disk and click "Next." Restart your computer with the floppy disk still inserted. Your computer will boot directly to DriveScrubber. Press the down arrow on your keyboard to highlight the hard drive you want to format in the "Available Physical Drives" menu. Press the space bar to select the hard drive. Press "Enter" to continue. Press the down arrow to highlight "Seven Overwrites" in the "Available Data Wiping Methods" menu, and then press the space bar to select it. Press "Enter" to continue. Press "CTRL," "ALT," "Shift" and "W" at the same time to wipe the hard drive.

Tips and warnings

  • Back up any important files to another drive before using disc-cleaning software.

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