How to Wipe Your Hard Drive
Are you selling or giving away your computer? You may have erased your private data by deleting files and reinstalling Windows, but you’re not quite done yet. The last action you need to take before saying goodbye to your old friend is to wipe the drive clean.
Simply deleting your data won’t do the trick because your files can be restored from the Recycle Bin or recovered with the right utility. No matter what version of Windows you have running, there are built-in features to reset the OS to factory conditions.
However, most computers now come with solid-state drives (SSDs), which are faster than their mechanical counterparts but can be trickier to wipe. To be certain your data can’t fall into the wrong hands, a good hard drive eraser utility is still your best bet if you want a stronger and more secure method of wiping your drive.
Wipe Your Drive in Windows 11
Wiping your drive in Windows 11 is largely the same as in Windows 10, with a few tweaks. Go to Settings > System > Recovery and click Reset PC. When asked what you want to erase, select Remove everything.
Choose Local reinstall to reinstall Windows from this device, since it will run faster than the cloud download. If that doesn’t work, select the Cloud download. From the Additional settings window, click the Change settings link, enable the switch for Clean data, and then click Confirm.
Click Next to start the process, then hit the Reset button. Your computer goes through the reset process whereby your drive is wiped and Windows is reinstalled. You can set up Windows again if you plan to keep the computer, otherwise shut it down now.
Wipe Your Drive in Windows 10
To wipe your drive in Windows 10, go to Settings > Update & security > Recovery, and then click the Get Started button. When prompted, choose the option for Remove everything. You should then choose the Local reinstall option to reinstall Windows from your computer.
At the Additional settings window, click the Change Settings link and turn on the switch next to Clean data. Click Confirm and then click Next. Click Reset to start the process.
After the drive is wiped, Windows is reinstalled. If you plan to keep the computer, you can go through the Windows setup process again. But if you plan to get rid of the PC, just shut it down at this point.
Wipe Your Drive in Windows 8.1
If Windows 8.1 is on the drive you want to wipe, go to Settings > Change PC Settings > Update and recovery > Recovery. Click Get Started under the Remove everything and reinstall Windows section. Click Next and then choose Fully clean the drive to ensure everything is deleted.
Click the Reset button. Your drive is wiped, your PC is reset, and Windows is reinstalled. After your PC reboots, you are placed at the Windows setup screen where you can go through the setup process again if you plan to keep the PC. Otherwise, shut it off now.
Wipe Your Drive in Windows 7
Windows 7 users won’t find the same reset tool that newer versions have, but you can still bring your hard drive back to factory settings under the right conditions. To make the process go smoother, you will need either a recovery partition(Opens in a new window) or the Windows 7 installation disc(Opens in a new window).
Open Control Panel, choose Recovery, and then click the Advanced recovery methods link. (Note that if your PC does not have a recovery partition then you may receive an error here, preventing you from moving forward.)
You will be presented with several different options on how you wish to reinstall Windows 7. After making your choices, choose Skip when asked to back up your files. Click Restart to reset Windows. Depending on the option you chose, you can now reinstall and set up Windows 7, thereby wiping out the previous installation.
Wipe Your Drive with a Disk Utility
Wiping your hard drive from within the operating system is a quick and convenient method, but a third-party utility can provide greater security and protection.
For those of you wiping a mechanical hard drives, make sure you choose a utility that meets the DoD 5220.22-M standard. This means the utility will fully wipe your drive by overwriting your data three times with different characters.
Recommended by Our Editors
Ready to Recycle? How to Properly Prepare Your PC for Disposal
Still Stuck on Windows 8.1? How to Upgrade to Windows 10 or Windows 11
25 Windows 11 Tricks You Need to Know
Disk Wipe(Opens in a new window) is a free portable erasure utility that runs from a USB drive and wipes your Windows boot drive. Simply download and run the DiskWipe.exe file on your PC, or create a bootable environment on your USB flash drive and have Disk Wipe run from there.
The utility’s simple interface displays your drives and partitions. Select the one you want to erase and click Wipe Disk. The program asks how you want to reformat the drive—NTFS, FAT, or FAT32. You then choose the type of erasing pattern and the number of passes.
Options include One Pass Zeros, One Pass Random, or US Department of Defense DoD. Generally, the more passes you choose, the longer the process but the more secure the erasure.
Active KillDisk Freeware
Active KillDisk Freeware(Opens in a new window) is a more limited version of the $40 KillDisk Professional for Windows(Opens in a new window), but it’s still a capable and effective tool. You can easily create bootable disk wipe media on a DVD or USB drive, or set up an ISO file. You then use that media to boot up your Windows PC, where you can wipe the primary drive.
The program provides a graphical menu showing your various drives. Select the drive you want to erase and click the Erase Disk icon. KillDisk offers a range of erasure methods, including those from the DoD, US Army, British government, and NIST.
AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard
The free AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard(Opens in a new window) is a disk partitioning and management tool that lets you easily wipe your hard drive. The program helps you create a portable version that you can run from a USB drive as well as bootable media to burn to a CD/DVD, copy to a USB stick, or save as an ISO file.
From the main interface, select the drive or partition you want to erase and then click the Wipe Disk icon. The only drawback with the free version is that it limits you to just one erasure method, namely filling the sectors with zeros. To use a more advanced method, you must upgrade to the $49.95 AOMEI Partition Assistant Pro(Opens in a new window).
Like What You’re Reading?
Sign up for Tips & Tricks newsletter for expert advice to get the most out of your technology.
Thanks for signing up!
Your subscription has been confirmed. Keep an eye on your inbox!
Sign up for other newsletters
How to Wipe a Computer Clean of Personal Data
Got an old laptop or desktop computer laying around? By selling it or donating it to someone, you can clear up space in your home, maybe earn a little cash, and extend the computer’s useful life.
But how do you keep the next owner from accessing all the photos, financial documents, and other private data you had stored on the computer?
Short of removing the hard drive (which you could do, but then the next owner would have to install a new drive), the best solution is to perform what’s known as a factory reset, which technically wipes the drive clean of personal data.
Why can’t you simply delete your Downloads folder, log out of your accounts, and call it a day?
“You’re likely to forget things like passwords saved in browsers and personal data in the deleted items folder,” says Matt Ham, owner of the service company Computer Repair Doctor. “Or you can miss deleting some important files altogether. Reinstalling your system before sale is a much safer alternative.”
While a factory reset is generally sufficient, a determined hacker could, at least theoretically, use advanced data recovery software to retrieve your old files.
If that’s a significant concern—maybe you’re planning to sell the device to a stranger on eBay—go ahead and remove the hard drive, says Richard Fisco, who oversees electronics testing for Consumer Reports.
After all, a hacker can’t break into a hard drive that’s not there.
“The gold standard in hard drive security consists of using a pointy nail and a few swift swings of a hammer,” Fisco says half-jokingly. “Just make sure you’re wearing safety glasses.”
And before performing a factory reset (or, perhaps, breaking out the hammer and nails), be sure to back up any important data on the computer to another drive or to the cloud. Once that’s done, and you’ve verified that the data has been safely backed up, carrying out a factory reset is simple, whether you’re on a, Mac, Windows PC, or Chromebook.
The steps for resetting the device vary slightly depending on whether your Mac has an M-series processor or an Intel processor. Apple has phased out Intel processors since 2020 in favor of its own homegrown M1 and M2 chips.
If you don’t know which one you have, simply click on the Apple menu in the top left corner of the computer’s screen, then click About.
Before you begin the reset, be sure to back up any important files and then sign out of iCloud. That can be done in the Apple ID section of the System Preferences app.
You should also copy your keychains to a flash drive. This step isn’t required, but transferring those account names and passwords onto your new machine will save you the hassle of reentering the WiFi password at the local coffee shop or the log-in info for online retailers.
To perform a factory reset on a Mac with an Apple M-series processor, you’ll first want to turn it off. Then turn it back on while holding down the power button. Eventually, a screen will appear featuring a black background and two icons: your hard drive (called Macintosh HD by default) and Options. Click Options.
At this point, you may be asked to input your username and password. Once that’s done, click Disk Utility > Hard Drive (again, called Macintosh HD) in the left sidebar > Erase. You’ll be prompted for a new name (we recommend Macintosh HD, just for the sake of simplicity) and Format (which should be APFS).
Now click Erase Volume Group, enter your Apple ID when prompted, then click Erase Mac and Restart. You’ll then follow the onscreen instructions, which include things like your language and WiFi password.
The steps are similar if you have an Intel-based Mac.
Hold down the Command + R keys while starting up your Mac and enter your password when prompted. Click Disk Utility on the next window and click Continue. Then click Macintosh HD in the left sidebar and Erase in the toolbar. Select MacOS Extended (Journaled) format and quit Disk Utility when the process ends.
To finish the reset, navigate back to the Utilities window and choose Reinstall MacOS to reinstall the original operating system.
After the reinstall, the Mac will begin the setup process. This should look familiar if you’ve set up this computer before. If you’re selling your computer, you can skip setup by pressing Command + Q and let the new owner complete that process.
Before beginning the factory reset process, back up all important files. You might also want to make sure that you have the serial numbers and/or usernames and passwords for any registered apps handy for when you go to reinstall them later.
The process for resetting your PC differs slightly for each version of the operating system.
For Windows 11, click Start > Settings > System > Recovery > and then click Reset This PC. You’ll then follow the onscreen instructions.
For Windows 10, go to the Start Menu and click on Settings. Then navigate to Update & Security, and find the Recovery menu. Next, select Reset this PC and choose Get Started. Follow the instructions to revert your computer to when it was first unboxed.
Chromebook users have the easiest time wiping their laptops. Unlike Apple and Windows users, they already have most of their files stored online in Google Drive. So there’s little to back up before you begin the process.
You’ll first want to sign out of your Chromebook. Then type and hold Ctrl + Alt + Shift + R, then select Restart. In the window that pops up select Powerwash and then continue.
This will prompt a restart, which will flush away all your personal information.
If you’re ready to sell or donate the computer, don’t log back in—the next person who logs in becomes the Chromebook’s primary user.
Nicholas De Leon
I’ve been covering consumer electronics for more than 10 years for publications like TechCrunch, The Daily (R.I.P.), and Motherboard. When I’m not researching or writing about laptops or headphones I can likely be found obsessively consuming news about FC Barcelona, replaying old Super Nintendo games for the hundredth time, or chasing my pet corgi Winston to put his harness on so we can go for a walk. Follow me on
How to quickly erase all personal data from a computer? – Roskachestvo
Did you know that erasing data from your computer when selling is as important as locking the door with a key when leaving the house?
Not protecting your personal data has become very risky today, as the Internet environment is now a full-fledged crime scene. Roskachestvo tells what you must do before you give your computer to another person.
“Erasing data manually takes a long time and is unreliable – there is a high probability of missing something important. You can forget about passwords saved in browsers, or personal data in the Recycle Bin, skip deleting some important files and folders. Reinstalling your system before selling it is a much safer and more reliable alternative” , – says Anton Kukanov, head of the Center for Digital Expertise of Roskachestvo.
To return your PC to its original state, Microsoft and Apple have provided a simple reset process for computers.
First of all, experts recommend backing up all the files on your computer to an external drive or the cloud before doing a factory reset so that the files you need stay with you.
For Windows 8, 8.1 and 10, the reset algorithm is very simple: go to the Start menu and select Settings. Then go to the Update & Security section and find the Recovery menu. You will be offered a choice: delete the data “quickly” or “completely” – it is better to choose the second option – this way the computer will return to its original state.
Depending on which device you are using (desktop or laptop), you may need an operating system installation disc to reset Windows 7. First you need to go to the “Start” menu, then to the “Control Panel”, then to “Recovery” and select “Advanced Recovery Methods”. A window will appear with a choice: for desktop computers, you must select “Reinstall Windows” (just for this you need an installation disk), for laptops – “return the computer to the state specified by the manufacturer.” Most laptops running Windows 7 will not need an operating system installation disc. Once the process is complete, only a tech-savvy person can recover the data.
The fact is that after reinstalling the operating system or manually emptying the trash, the documents still remain on the disk. A file is physically erased only after the area on the hard disk it occupies is overwritten with other data. That is why the most reliable way to destroy all data is to format the disk.
If there is strictly confidential information on your hard drive, we advise you to download a program for overwriting free space on your hard drive (it is also a program for erasing a disk) – it will be almost impossible to recover deleted files.
Before you wipe your computer, be sure to back up your important files to an external drive or the cloud, deauthorize your computer in iTunes (choose Account, then Authorizations, then Deauthorize this PC), and sign out of iCloud and Messages » (iMessage).
Use Disk Utility to erase (format) your Mac hard drive, flash drive, or other storage device. The Apple support site has a full flow of steps if you want to erase all data from a drive or reinstall macOS: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208496
How to clean your computer from ads, remove junk and speed up Windows
Simple and proven ways to clean up and spice up your PC.
How to clean your computer from ads
Often, due to haste or negligence, we agree to the installation of various download assistants on sites, inattentively read the conditions when installing programs, and also give permission to optimize browser settings. As a result, advertising windows start to appear from everywhere, some casinos are loaded instead of your start page, and the browser, before opening the desired link, shows a scattering of incomprehensible sites. At the same time, everything slows down incredibly.
If the described symptoms are familiar to you, most likely, unwanted adware or, as they are called, Adware, got on your computer. Usually antiviruses do not react to them, because technically they are not viruses. It is very difficult to remove such software manually, but there are special utilities for this. For example, AdwCleaner is free and does not even require installation, which is able to recognize and neutralize individual adware applications that work in the browser.
To clean your computer from ads, download the utility from the link and double-click to open it.
Click “Start scan” and wait for the scan to finish.
If threats are found, click on the “Send to Quarantine” button and confirm the restart of the computer for cleaning.
After that, you can run AdwCleaner again, go to the “Quarantine” section and remove all detected threats by clicking the appropriate button.
How to clean your computer from debris
In addition to adware and spyware, cluttered operating systems often interfere with fast computer performance. Over time, Windows can accumulate a lot of temporary files, remnants of uninstalled programs, and other junk. It is best to get rid of it with regular means.
Open the standard Disk Cleanup application through the search.
Check all file types to clean up and click OK.
Confirm the deletion by pressing the button of the same name.
Wait for the procedure to complete.
If desired, enable the automatic cleaning function. To do this, in the “Start” menu, click “Settings” or press Win + I, and then open the section “System” → “Memory”.
Turn on the “Memory Control” toggle switch.
Inside the menu, you can set the frequency of cleaning, as well as start the function without waiting for the schedule.
How to speed up Windows
Without replacing PC components, you can increase performance by reducing the load on the processor and memory. To do this, you need to remove unnecessary applications from the startup list, thereby freeing up precious resources, and also uninstall programs on the system disk so that it is not full.
To view the startup list, open Settings from the Start menu or press Win + I and then go to Applications → Startup.
Carefully study which software automatically starts when Windows starts. Disable all programs that you do not need immediately after loading the PC by deactivating the toggle switches opposite them.
Go to the Apps & Features section.
Set sort by size and filter “Local Disk (C:)”. Click the three dots next to large unnecessary applications and remove them using the corresponding button.