How to Erase A Hard Drive for Free

By Jeff Pennington

Erasing a hard drive can have a number of important benefits for a variety of different reasons. They include allowing you to dispose of an internal hard drive in order to install a new operating system, and partitioning an external hard drive so that you can add a start up disk in case of an internal hard drive failure. There are also freeware programs on the web that can help you eliminate any unwanted files that can be resurrected by writing a random series of ones and zeroes over the drive. Both Windows operating systems and Mac OS X offer methods for wiping hard drives that come built-in. There is a third option, a freeware version of LSoft Technologies Active@ KillDisk to erase a hard drive in ways that are both free and relatively simple.

Step 1

Shut down all open progams to begin erasing your hard drive on a Windows operating system. Restart your computer in older operating systems like Windows 98 or Windows Millenium and put a floppy drive into drive A. Type C, and select "Yes" when the loss of data warning appears. This will begin the process of erasing your data. For Windows 2000, XP and Vista, simply choose '"Format your hard drive" as an option during the installation process, and your data will be erased.

Step 2

Erase data from a Mac hard drive by selecting the "Erase" tab in Disk Utility. Once this is done, a drop down menu appears. Click it and choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Click the "Erase" button when prompted.

Step 3

Remove sensitive data like financial information with LSoft Technologies Active@ KillDisk. While it is a commercial utility, there is a free version that you can use to erase your data. Create a blank CD. Burn an ISO image to the CD. Tab over to the boot menu. Hit "Save" and exit the boot menu. Type the phrase "erase-all-data." This will delete everything, including the address tables, and write over that data with ones and zeroes.

Tips & Warnings

  • While these methods, including commercial utilities like Active@ KillDisk work well, the only way to be absolutely sure that all of the data on the hard drives you want to erase are gone is to burn it. There may yet be a way to even undo overwriting for which KillDisk is responsible, depending on how extensive the recovery tools are. It is best to be aware of this.
  • Be careful that you have backed up all of the data that you wish to destroy should you wish to use them at a later date. A backup drive is essential before using any of these tools.