How to Wipe a Disk

By Margaret Worthington

A hard disk (often referred to as a hard drive) is a piece of hardware used for storing information on a computer. Wiping a hard disk is a task that you may need to do in a variety of situations, such as if you want to delete sensitive information, prepare your computer to be sold or wipe out a malicious software infection. Normal file deletion methods don't completely wipe a hard drive, so if you want to clean it thoroughly, you'll need to use specialized software.

Things You'll Need

  • Internet access

Step 1

Start your computer, log in to your operating system and back up any information that you want to save. Once you wipe your disk, it will be impossible to recover any information that was on it, so be thorough in your backup.

Step 2

Download a free disk-wiping utility. Two examples of free utilities that will wipe your hard disk are Darik's Boot and Nuke and Disk Wipe (both are linked in the Resources section below). You can also use a different type of software if you wish. While the individual operation of each piece of software may differ slightly, the same general approach can be taken regardless of which one is chosen.

Step 3

Install the disk-wiping software or copy it to a CD and run if on your computer. The exact method you use to start the software will depend on what type of software you use.

Step 4

Choose what type of disk wipe you want to use on your computer. Disk-wiping software will give you multiple choices, but in general, the more "passes" (or times the software overwrites the entire drive) the software takes, the more secure the wipe will be. Be prepared to wait anywhere from a few hours to even a few days for this process to finish depending on how large the hard disk is that you are wiping.

Tips & Warnings

  • Disk Wipe can be used while Windows is running; it can wipe any drive partition except the one that Windows is running on. Darik's Boot and Nuke, in contrast, is designed to wipe any hard disk that is attached to the computer it is run on, and it runs through a boot disk, not in the operating system. Refer to the FAQ or user guide for the particular type of software that you use for exact details on how to use the software.