How to Wipe a Hard Drive Without Software

By Christian Garcia

Wiping a hard drive--also known in more technical terms as formatting--means to purge your drive of data so that it is empty and free of programs, files and information. This may be necessary if you set up a new computer with this drive, attempt to revive a corrupt or virus-laden computer, sell or retrieve a computer, or install a new operating system. Formatting can be important to keep you personal information and identity safe, or to completely erase your online history. Learn how to format your hard drive without the use of additional software.

Things You'll Need

  • Bootable floppy diskette (or spare floppy disk)

Step 1

Locate your boot diskette(s). These are a set of disks created when you first installed your operating system, or can be created inserting a floppy diskette into the drive. Go to "My Computer" on your desktop, and right click on your Floppy Drive (usually the A: drive). Click the "Format" option, and in the Format window check the "Create an MS-DOS startup disk" box, and press the "Format" button to create your boot disk.

Step 2

With the newly created boot disk in the drive, restart your computer. It will boot to a Dos text interface prompt, showing only "A:>." This is the state of your computer without Windows loading.

Step 3

At the A:> prompt, type "format C: /s" without the quotations, and with the space. If the C: drive is not the drive you want to format, replace "C" with the correct drive designation (for example, D, E, F). Press the enter key, and the formatting process will begin.

Step 4

You will be asked: "Are you sure you want to erase everything on drive "X"?" If "X" is the drive you have chosen to format, press "Y" and the enter key to verify that you do.

Step 5

After formatting is completed, eject the diskette and restart your computer. If your operating system was located in the drive you formatted, you will only see a "C:>" prompt, and will have to install a new operating system.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be sure to back up any important files or documents that you wish to save before you format your drive. Formatting will result in a total deletion of the contents of the drive.You may need to reinstall any programs that you need after the formatting, including the operating system.
  • Be sure to select the right drive to format if you have multiples. Formatting the wrong drive may result in accidental deletion of files and data.