How to Delete Everything on a Hard Drive

By Kim Linton

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.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer owner's manual
  • Operating system disks
  • Storage media

Step 1

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 2

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

Step 3

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 4

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

Step 5

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

Step 6

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 7

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.

Tips & Warnings

  • As an alternative, you can use a bootable floppy, CD or DVD which is loaded with a third party disk eraser program, or your original Windows or Linux operating system disks. Boot from the media, then follow the prompts to reformat your hard drive.
  • When booting from a floppy or CD/DVD drive, make sure your BIOS is set to boot from that particular drive first. Refer to your computer owner's manual if necessary.