How to Delete Everything on a Hard Drive

Over time hard drives can become cluttered and full of data that you no longer want or need. Sometimes errors and system corruptions occur, causing your computer to run slower and less efficiently. When this happens, the best way to correct the problem is to reformat the hard drive. Reformatting the hard drive deletes everything on the drive, including the operating system. There are several ways to reformat your hard drive, including using third party programs. Some programs erase the data many times to ensure the information on the disk can never be retrieved. But typically a basic formatting is suitable for most hard drive content. Here's how to delete everything on your hard drive.

...
A typical computer hard drive.

Step

Back up your data. If the hard drive contains any data or files that you want to keep, back them up on external storage media such as a CD or DVD disk. Remember, formatting will delete everything on the drive.

Step

While logged into Windows, click on "Start" then "Shut Down."

Step

Select “Restart in MS-DOS mode” from the drop-down list then click on “OK.” After your computer restarts, the command prompt C:\Windows> will appear.

Step

At the command prompt, type "CD\" then hit "Enter" on your keyboard. The command prompt will change to C:\>.

Step

Type "format c:" and then hit "Enter." Hit the “Y” key to begin formatting your hard drive.

Step

Enter a volume label when prompted. You can enter up to 11 characters to name your hard drive, or simply hit "Enter" to assign the default name.

Step

Install the operating system of your choice if you plan to keep the hard drive. Load your personal data and files back on the hard drive after the operating system is installed.