How to Clean a Hard Drive Before Donating a Computer

It is important to thoroughly clean out a hard drive before donating it, selling it or throwing it away. Computers are one of the largest sources of identity theft, and many people don't realize just how much personal information may be stored on their computer. Deleting files is not enough. The entire disk should be wiped clean and overwritten several times, before it can be considered safe.

Preparation

Step

Back up any data that you wish to keep onto another hard drive or another type of media.

Step

Physically remove the hard drive from your computer and reinstall it as a slave drive. Eraser, a free software program, can only overwrite files that are not in use. Thus, if an operating system is running on the drive in question then this data will not be possible to overwrite.

Step

Delete all flies on the disk. Open the newly configured slave drive via Windows and delete everything from the drive, including the operating system. Eraser works by overwriting unused space. Thus, a file must first be deleted in order to be overwritten.

Step

Download Eraser from the link provided, and install the program.

Step

Read the help file carefully. It contains detailed information on how the program works and how people go about recovering deleted files. Eraser has several options for how data is overwritten. It is important to understand these options in order to make a decision about managing your own security.

Overwriting the Hard Drive

Step

Run Eraser.

Step

Select "Edit" from the toolbar and then choose "Preferences" followed by "Erasing."

Step

Click on the "Unused Data" tab. This is the section where you choose your level of data security. Eraser works by overwriting deleted files. The more data is overwritten, the harder it is to recover. However, the more you choose to overwrite the data, the longer it will take to do so. You have the option of overwriting your file once with pseudo-random data, or you can overwrite it multiple times (there are several options). The choice is yours, but remember that since you are planning to overwrite an entire disk worth of information, it could take many hours or even a few days depending upon how large the disk is and how many times you decide to overwrite it.

Step

Make your choice and click "OK."

Step

Select "File" from the tool bar, and then "New Task." A new window will pop up.

Step

Check the box for "Unused Space" and choose the drive you wish to overwrite from the drop-down menu.

Step

Click "OK." The task will now appear on the task list.

Step

Click on the task you just created, and then press Ctrl+R (or select "Run" from the task menu on the tool bar) to start the erasing process. A progress meter will appear, showing you how much time is left to complete the process. There is a button to stop the process if necessary.