How to wipe a hard drive

If you want to completely wipe away the data on your hard drive, for example to sell or recycle it, follow these instructions.

Why wipe your hard drive?

Wiping your hard drive completely erases all the data on the drive. Deleting data or reformatting the drive leaves enough information to make the data recoverable using certain tools.

If you have partitioned your hard drive, be sure to wipe the data in all the partitions.

A vector graphic depiction of a hard disk drive (hdd) on a white background

Migrate existing data

First, copy the data you want to save to another drive. This process will delete all your data and make it unrecoverable. If you have a cloud account, such as iCloud or OneDrive®, you can copy your data there. An external storage drive is also convenient if you don’t have a cloud account. If you are wiping your hard drive in preparation for replacing it, you can move your data to your new storage drive.

If you’re going to be using a solid state drive, you will also want to transfer data from your existing drive to your new SSD. Find out more about migrating existing data to an SSD. 

Wiping your hard drive

Microsoft® Windows® 8.1 and 10

If you’re using Windows 8.1 or 10, wiping your hard drive is easy.

  1. Select Settings (the gear icon on the Start menu)
  2. Select Update & security, then Recovery
  3. Choose Remove everything, then Remove files and clean the drive
  4. Then click Next, Reset, and Continue
Windows 10 pop-up window prompting user to remove their computer files and clean their drive


Microsoft Windows before 8.1

If you are using Windows 8 or earlier, you will need to download third-party software to wipe your hard drive. Be sure to get software that meets the US DoD 5220.22-M requirements for sanitizing a drive. Using this kind of software will take several hours or more, depending on how much data you have on your drive.

If your hard drive is going to be out of your control, because you’re selling or recycling it, it’s best to be safe and wipe all of the data off the drive so that it’s not recoverable.

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