Learning how to wipe a hard drive saves you from having to replace your entire computer. A wiped hard drive represents a clean slate; it's as though you purchased it new, with no data or information on it. While it still retains the wear and tear it experienced from previous use, it allows you to rescue the computer.

What Is a Wiped Hard Drive?

Think of your hard drive as a chalkboard. When you delete files off of your hard drive, much like when you run an eraser over a chalkboard, traces of previous data remain. Wiping a hard drive is like cleaning a chalkboard with soap and water. You eliminate every speck of the data you wrote on it in the past.

Several situations might require you to completely erase a hard drive:

  • Virus   If a virus infects your computer, you might have to wipe the drive to eliminate the infection.
  • Clutter   When you overload your hard drive with clutter and fail to maintain it properly, you can wipe it to create a clean slate.
  • Disposal   Whether you plan to throw it in the trash or give it to a friend, you don't want to leave sensitive data on an old machine. You should clean a hard drive to protect your identity and important information.

Back Up All Your Data

Again, a hard drive wipe permanently erases all data on your computer. None of your files remain available after you complete this process. Manually back up all the files you want to save, such as your family pictures or tax records, or use a backup software program.

If your computer suffers from a virus or other malware, you might need to consult a professional. Unfortunately, you might unintentionally back up the malicious program and port it over to your new installation.

Use a Disk Wiping Tool

A disk wiping or data destruction tool eliminates all traces of the software, files, operating systems and other data on your computer. Several free and paid programs exist to help you erase all the data on your hard drive. Geek Squad recommends downloading Darik's Boot and Nuke and burning it to a CD.

When you restart the computer, you'll enter the BIOS and boot from the burned CD. Follow the menu instructions, then wait for the program to wipe your hard drive. It could take hours or even days for the process to complete, but refrain from shutting down your computer.

Hire a Refurbisher

For PCs, Microsoft certifies computer refurbishers who overwrite all the data on a hard drive. You'll have to pay for the service, but many consumers prefer the thoroughness of a trained technician.

Erase Specific Partitions

If you don't want to wipe the entire hard drive, a utility software program offers another option. The best programs, such as System Mechanic and Fix-It Utilities Pro, allow you to erase partitions. This option lets you simply make room on your hard drive without starting over from scratch.

Once you learn how to wipe a computer, you'll have options when something goes wrong. Use one of the options above to permanently delete unwanted data.

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