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Wipe, Delete, and Securely Destroy Your Hard Drive’s Data the Easy Way

Giving a computer to somebody else? Maybe you’re putting it out on Craigslist to sell to a stranger—either way, you’ll want to make sure that your drive is completely wiped, scrubbed, and clean of any personal data. Here’s the easy way to do it.

If you only have access to an Ubuntu Live CD or thumb drive, you can actually use that instead if you prefer, and we’ve got you covered with a full guide to securely wiping your PC’s hard drive. Otherwise, keep reading.

Wipe the Drive with DBAN

Darik’s Boot and Nuke CD is the easiest way to permanently and totally destroy every bit of personal information on that drive—nobody is going to recover a thing once this is done.

The first thing you’ll need to do is download a copy of the ISO image, and then burn it to a blank CD with something really useful like Imgburn. Just choose Burn image to Disc at the start screen, select the little file icon, grab the downloaded ISO, and then go. If you need a little more help, we’ve got you covered with a beginner’s guide to burning an ISO image.

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Once you’re done, stick the disc into the drive, start the PC up, and then once you boot to the DBAN prompt you’ll see a menu. You can pretty much ignore everything on here, and just type…

autonuke

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And there you are, your disk is now being securely wiped.

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Once it’s all done, you can remove the CD, and then either pack the PC up to sell, or re-install Windows on there if you feel like it.

More Advanced Method

If you’re really paranoid, want to run a different type of wipe, or just like fiddling with the options, you can choose F3 or hit Enter at the prompt to head to the advanced selection screen. Here you can choose exactly which drive to wipe, or hit the M key to change the method.

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You’ll be able to choose between a bunch of different wipe options. The Quick Erase is all you really need though.

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So there you are, easy PC wiping in one package. What about you? Do you make sure to wipe your old PCs before giving them away? Personally I’ve always just yanked out the hard drives before I got rid of an old PC, but that’s just me.

Download DBAN from dban.org

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/29/10

Comments (25)

  1. Tommie Pit

    If you are really paranoid, remove and destroy disk in a bath of acid. ;) No point safing the 30 dollars for a new HardDrive…

  2. mickeyblue

    used it many times, its a must have in ones CD collection!!!!

  3. Brad

    Better yet if it’s an old computer, turn the drive into an external or take it apart for crafty goodness.

  4. John

    Great article! You guys rock!

  5. Will

    “If you are really paranoid, remove and destroy disk in a bath of acid. ;)”

    That doesn’t help me, because I’m still paranoid that Marty and the doctor will go back in time and take my computer. For the truly paranoid, there’s nothing you can do to protect your data.

  6. JHubbard92

    Love this, really nice addition to your CD collection. I was amazed how long it takes 0.o …

    If you are paranoid and don’t have a bath of acid handy, just get a huge magnet, and stroke it up and down the hard drive ;-D … Or sledge hammer it, proabably easier…

    But a good find, thanks Geek!

  7. Caroline

    I turned to this article when I needed to wipe an old laptop, and DBAN did the trick. Now I’ve burned it for future use. Thanks!

  8. Anonymous

    The ONLY way for a truly paranoid person is to simply take a shotgun to your HD ;)

  9. Jscott56

    When I want to wipe a drive, i use dban then install ubuntu.

  10. Dan

    Great article on wiping a drive -

  11. DJ Freaxx

    lol…JHubbard92 said “stroke it up and down” xD

  12. john

    if i just forman the drive and reinstall windows is this the same thing? thanks in advance

  13. Natas

    @john: No, a person still can recover data that’s been formated over, not hard to do really, but if you use DBAN the data can’t be recovered.

  14. RobertSeattle

    cipher /w: is on pro and above versions of Microsoft Windows

  15. Deadshot

    Most PCs have more than one partition, some have up to three in addition to the C: drive.

    I use diskpart. Then I reinstall Windows using a restore disk.

    I assume that if I was really worried about the data being still retrieveable I would simply keep the hard disk.

  16. JOhn Hmar

    Il go with Tommie Pit….Just Put it in a bath tub full of acid n let it Get disintrgated……..

  17. E.qualizer

    If you reinstall an OS, data can still be recovered. I’ve found the best option in this case is, after installing the OS, is to wipe the drives “free space”. I use CCleaner with the “Wipe free space” option selected using DOD 5 pass wipe option as a minimum.. There is also NSA 7pass and the Guttman 35 pass. Yes, this DOES take a long time, and the time exponentially increases the more passes you make. But paranoia has its price.

    I have also used the free “File Shredder” program from download.cnet.com. It has a variety of options from simple single pass up to 35 pass Guttman. You can shred individual files or wipe free space on selected drives.

    Using these methods will make any data unrecoverable, but any investigating authority will know you have used drive wiping because of the “white noise” on the free space of the hard drive. The simplest solution I have found is to keep all sensitive info on a flash drive. Physical destruction is easy with a hammer or a toss into the BBQ … after you’ve fixed you’re food of course.

    There is also the True Crypt program..but that’s a post for another time..

    Any questions feel free to ask here..although that may take this thread into off topic territory.

    Regards,

    The E

  18. Anonymous

    “The ONLY way for a truly paranoid person is to simply take a shotgun to your HD”

    Anonymous, someone could rebuild the Traingle from Tomb Raider!!

  19. Anonymous

    Please note, the comment above is from a different Anonymous! :D

  20. Brian Carr

    go to a college or university find a electo-magnetic magnet and direct it at the drive and no more data :)

  21. Kastaldi

    I work in a hospital, what about using a defibrillator ? Not joking ! Have you ever tried ? I saw a thing like this in the movie The Core and I was wondering if this could be true….

  22. Snert

    Any violent physical damage to the drive platters will make any and all data unreadable.
    Open up the hard drive, disassemble the platters and do some skeet shooting.
    Lay them on a sidewalk and rub them around a bit – both sides.

    Tell a ten-year old boykid not to take it apart.

  23. extisunknown

    F.Y.I. GEEKS…
    There’s actually two (2) versions available @Source Forge.net
    Burn the “ISo Images to a CD-R / or a CD+R”. (Never a CD-RW)
    Put your “DBAN Disk in your optical drive & wait about one minute for it to load & remove the CD.
    Both require the use a Internal or USB External Floppy Drive + 1 blank floppy disk to write the History & results of task it just completed.
    Version 1.07 which can wipe any hard disk / flash drive attached to an “Older PC sequentially”.
    Version 2.26 beta is designed for Modern PC’s AM3 Processors or Higher any you should only wipe one (1) hard drive at a time…
    The Auto-nuke command will take more hours to complete but, the end result is worth it if you want to start with with a “Fresh Canvas” otherwise The Quick command will do if you’re in a hurry…

  24. Alex

    Actually is better to use a electromagnetic source to screw up the data then use a trusty hammer on the disk. All the parts are replaceable, and believe it or not, there are a handfull of companies out there, that for the right expensive price will do it for you.

    If you’re gonna use the hammer make sure you take a nice whack to the disk. :)

  25. munir

    Hi again

    There are at least two ways one can delete everything without buying any cd for it but I do not remember now for some reasons however. If you can tel me that and if am able to down load on line wind7 or vista pak 1 for that matter.

    Many thanks

    Best regards

    Munir

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