How to Wipe Out a Hard Drive on a Laptop

By Christian Garcia

These days, security and privacy are some of our main concerns. Identity theft, credit card fraud, and account hacking is on the rise. Our reliance on computers and online information makes us very vulnerable targets - we store personal files and pictures on our computers, bank online, even shop online. Our lives can be compiled from our Internet histories and personal data. Information is stored on our computers unbeknownst to us, and if we sell it, send it out for repairs or leave it for public use, the consequences could be disastrous. This article will guide you on how to wipe clean, or format, your computers hard drive.

Step 1

Start up your computer. If you wish to back up and save the files on your hard drive before you wipe it, connect the external hard drive (usually done through the USB ports). It is important to back up your files because you will lose everything on your drive after formatting. Select everything in the hard drive you want to wipe, right click on them and press "Copy." Enter the directory of the external hard drive and press "Paste." The process may take several minutes depending on the contents and speed of your computer.

Step 2

If you don't wish to save the entire contents of your drive, you may choose to save only what you need or is personal. This includes pictures, work, text documents. These are usually stored in the "My Documents" folder, and can be saved onto a disk since they take up less space.

Step 3

There are two different ways to format a hard drive. The first is to open "My Computer." Locate the disk you would like to format and right click on it. In the pop-up menu there will be a option called "Format." Click on this, and the computer will guide you through the rest.

Step 4

Another option is to use the command prompt. Press the "Start" button located at the bottom left of your screen. Locate and click on the Run button on the Start menu, and type "cmd" without the quotations. In this new window, type "format" without quotations, followed by a space and then drive you wish to wipe, followed by a colon. For example, if you wish to wipe your D drive, type "format D:" without quotations. The computer may prompt you to restart.

Step 5

After the format, your hard drive will be empty. Depending on where you installed your programs and operating system, you may need to re-install all your software with the installation CDs and reapply your settings. The time this will take varies by how much software you will need to install.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always keep your software installation disks, especially your Windows installation disks, so that readying your computer after a wipe will be fast and pain free.While you do not need to save anything before wiping your hard drive, it is recommended as you will lose everything on it.These instructions are applicable for both laptop and desktop computers.
  • If you are wiping your drive due to a virus or bug, try removing them first through anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Formatting should be your last resort.Do not format your computer if you do not have the installation disks for your operating system (usually Windows), as you may not be able to use it until you locate those disks.

References & Resources