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How to Completely and Utterly Wipe a Hard Drive

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For when dropping it in a bathtub isn’t an option.

Maybe you’re selling or donating your computer or its parts. Maybe there’s a stubborn virus you need to make sure is double-dead. Maybe you’re a secret agent but your message didn’t self-destruct. Whatever the reason, there may come a time when you need to completely and utterly decimate all of the data on your hard drive (without physically destroying it). For those dire times, here’s what you need to do.

  1. First and foremost, back stuff up. Get an external and copy over anything important and sensitive. This isn’t going to be like a stock wipe; whatever is still on the hard drive is going to be well and truly gone afterwards, no second chances.
  2. Find a data destruction program. It’s an odd little subset of programming, but there are programs out there designed with the express purpose of wiping a hard drive’s data, itself included, clean. Install the program, put it on a flash drive, whatever you have to do to make it accessible.
  3. Run that sucker. Most destruction programs include instructions, so just follow those to the letter. If you’re doing this on a laptop, make sure it’s plugged in; the amount of time this process takes depends on how fast the computer is and how much stuff is on it, so it could take a little while.
  4. Congratulations, your hard drive is wiped clean. Remember, if you want to use it again, you’ll need to reinstall the OS.