How To Wipe Out A Hard Drive Securely

If you're getting rid of your old laptop, desktop, or external hard drive, you'll want to make sure you get all of your information off of it before it heads off to its next owner or the recycling plant. Otherwise, you could fall victim to identity theft. In this guide, we'll show you how to securely wipe out a hard drive. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Why Do I Need to Erase My Hard Drive?

You might think that once you delete your files, they're gone for good, but that's not really the case. Often, the right software can recover them. So if whoever ends up with your old drive has bad intentions, they might be able to uncover your data. Especially if you have passwords, banking information, or other important data among your files, this could put you at risk for identity theft. So before you get rid of any old hardware, you need to make sure it is completely clear beforehand.

How to Wipe a Hard Drive

  1. Back up any files you need
  2. If wiping a laptop, make sure it's plugged in
  3. Download DBAN
  4. Burn DBAN onto a disc or flash drive
  5. Restart your computer and make sure DBAN has launched
  6. Press F3 to open quick commands
  7. Using the arrow keys, select a method
  8. Press enter
  9. Wait for the program to finish

Other Free Data Destruction Software

How do Hard Drives Work?


Erasing a hard drive is an important task, but it doesn't have to be a difficult one. There are a number of free programs that can securely wipe any hard drive, either internal or external. DBAN is one of the most popular options, and if you follow a few simple steps, your data will be cleared in no time.

In Depth

There are many reasons you might need to erase a hard drive. One scenario could be that you've gotten a new model and are going to scrap your old one. Getting rid of the predecessor without wiping the data in it beforehand could put you at risk of identity theft. While the files inside might not all be sensitive, there could be personal information that you've stored and forgotten about.

Whether you're getting rid of old hardware, or simply want to make room for new files, there are a few easy steps you can follow to completely erase a hard drive.

#1. Back up everything you need. By the time we are finished, you will not be able to recover any forgotten files. There are many ways to do this. You can use online services such as iCloud, Google Drive, Mozy, or Sky Drive. Or you can simply copy the data onto an alternative hardware, like a desktop, laptop, or external hard drive.

Back up everything you need.

#2. While wiping for a laptop, the system will be in a very vulnerable and sensitive state. During the process, you must never shut down the device. Regardless of the current status of the battery life, it is the best practice to have it plugged in to an outlet.

#3. A free, opensource software called Darik's Boot And Nuke, or D BAN, is a good choice for securely erasing data. Simply go to and click the red button on the upper right corner to download it. You will then be asked to wait for five seconds while it generates your requested link. When the wait is over, it will automatically archive itself onto your computer if you have set a default directory. If not, save it somewhere accessible.

#4. Know that D BAN is an I.S.O. file type. This means that it needs to be properly burned to a bootable hardware. For example, a CD or a USB flash drive. You cannot just copy the D BAN file over and expect it to work correctly. So if you need guidance on this, a quick google search will bring up many tutorials that can help you. When you have successfully burned the file, shutdown your system and then insert the hardware you used. Turn it back on and tell it to boot from the inserted device.

Know that D BAN is an I.S.O. file type.

#5. Make sure the software is working. If your operating system boots up normally, there might have been an error in burning the file to the chosen hardware. Otherwise, you should see the main menu, which consists of white text on a blue background. At this point, your mouse will not be of use. Use the keyboard to input all commands.

#6. From D BAN's main menu, press F3 for the quick commands options. When you see the 6 presented choices of erasure methods, you will notice that each one has a corresponding number of rounds or pass that it will execute. These methods vary in security level and the type of algorithm they use. So, the stronger method you use, the more rounds they will have and the longer it will take to accomplish the task. Note that depending on how much data you have in the hard drive, even the shortest method may take up a lot of your time.

#7. Finally, sit back and relax as you now only have to wait for the program to finish. This may take a few hours. Once it is done, see if D BAN confirms to have successfully wiped out your data. If so, your drive has been erased, and you can sell or recycle it without worrying about your information being stolen.