How to Completely Wipe a Hard Drive

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There are times when we actually need to wipe out our computer’s drives and return them back to their original states. Fortunately for us, most computers have an option to allow a complete restore which erases everything in the memory and resets all your user settings as well as configurations. Doing so will make your computer look as if it’s your first time using it.

The question is: how do you wipe out your hard drive and reset the whole computer to its original state?

In this article, I’m going to walk you through the steps on how to do a simple hard drive wipe on both Mac and Windows operating systems. But before that, let us first answer this question:

What Exactly Happens When You Wipe Out Your Hard Drive?

I think you’ve already known what wiping out your hard drive means; but what exactly happens during this process? In a nutshell, everything that you have in your computer disappears. All of your documents, pictures, videos, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, mp3s, videos, etc. will all vanish. Since you are starting from scratch, it will be like these files never existed in the first place.

Aside from your files, all of your download software will disappear as well. Your browsers, games, applications, and other installed stuff will be gone. Thankfully, all of the viruses that are associated with any downloaded software are gone too.

Of course, all of the settings and configurations made on your computer disappears as well. Things like printer properties, screensavers, fonts, screen resolutions, passwords, and other settings will be reset. This means that they will all return to their factory settings or the settings they had when you first got your computer.

Basically, anything you’ve done on your computer, any data you have, and just about everything that’s not considered “built-in” is wiped.

how to wipe a hard drive

Lastly, your operating system will also disappear. Whether you’re using a Mac OS, Windows, or Linux, it will disappear once you wipe your hard drive. If you want to use your computer again after, you’ll need to reinstall your preferred operating system. Usually, there is a CD containing an operating system included when you buy your computer. Most computers often come with a Windows OS unless you buy a Mac.

Why Would You Need to Wipe Out Your Hard Drive?

If you haven’t yet wiped out your hard drive in the past, all of the stuff mentioned above may sound a bit scary and overwhelming. It will most likely make you ask yourself why you’d need to wipe out your hard drive in the first place. Why not just keep it there so nothing gets erased? Well, there are a few situations wherein you really need to wipe out your hard drive. Here are a few of those scenarios:

1. When You Plan to Sell Your Computer

The first reason is when you’re selling or giving away your computer. Take note that if you don’t wipe out your hard drive, all of your personal data will still be there for the new owner to access. If personal data is the issue, then why not just reformat or delete all of them? Well, according to the US Department of Homeland Security, doing that isn’t enough to fully delete all information. Some information can still be recovered if you don’t purge the hard drive.

2. When You’re Switching Your Operating System

If you want to change your OS, then you need to get a fresh start. You need to wipe out your previous OS and install the new one. This is often done when upgrading from an old OS to a newer version. For example, you’d have to do this if you want to upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 10.

3. When You’re Changing File System

Each OS has its own file systems for hard drives. For example, Windows uses NTFS and Mac OS uses HFS+ while all OS systems support FAT. What if you wanted to change the file system that your Windows OS uses? You can do that by wiping everything out and starting from scratch.

4. When Your Unit Got Hit by a Strong Virus

Viruses usually get inside a computer when you download a particular software from the internet or from an external drive. The thing about viruses is that even if you delete the main source (the downloaded software), they will still stick around once they latch onto your computer. While you may cleanse your computer with an antivirus, there are times when the virus widely spreads and gains strength. When this happens, your antivirus won’t work anymore. The only option is to wipe out everything (including the virus) and start fresh.

Now that you know what happens when you wipe out a hard drive and some of the reasons why people do this, it’s time to learn how to do it. Windows and Mac both have their own respective methods of wiping out their hard drives. To help both Windows and Mac users, we’ll provide you the steps on how to wipe out the hard drives for both operating systems. Let’s start with Windows.

How to Wipe Out a Windows Hard Drive

Step #1: Back up files that you want to keep

backup drive on windows

The first step is to always make sure that all your existing files are backed up. Take note that when you wipe out your hard drive, you’ll never be able to recover those files anymore. So if you have some important software, files or pictures, make sure you back them up before wiping out everything.

Step #2: Download a data destruction program

This is probably the easiest and safest way that you can wipe out your hard drive. Find a good data destruction program and use it to wipe out all the data from your computer. For Windows operating systems, I would recommend that you use DBAN, HDD Erase, or CBL Data Shredded. All of these data destruction programs are effective in destroying all data without any trace and still allow the hard drive to be used even after it is wiped out.

Step #3: Save the ISO file to a CD or USB

When you download any of the abovementioned data destruction programs, you’ll be getting an ISO file. What you have to do is save the ISO file to a USB or CD. If you’re using a USB, you’ll need a special program which will allow writing ISO into USB – just search the internet for – create bootable USB. Simple drag and drop, in this case, is not enough. If you’re using a CD, you need to burn it into the CD or DVD. Once you have done that, boot the ISO file into the computer and get started.

Step #4: Boot the software and wait

After you have booted the software, you will go through a process where the program will prompt you for what you want. Just follow the instructions given by the program and wait. It usually takes several minutes to process but may take hours or even a whole day depending on the size of your files. If your hard drive has a lot of stuff inside, then it’ll take longer. However, if you don’t have much inside, then it’ll finish quickly.

Step #5: Reinstall Your Windows OS

After you’re done wiping your drive, the next step is to reinstall your Windows OS. You’ll need a legit copy of the Windows OS version that you want to install. As long as you have a CD with a license key, you should have no problems when reinstalling your OS.


How to Wipe Out an OS X Hard Drive

The Mac OS X is a bit more difficult to wipe out than Windows because there aren’t many data destruction programs built for Mac. You don’t need to worry too much though because it is fairly easy to wipe out an OS X hard drive. It just takes a few steps that you need to follow. Below are some of the steps to take so that you can securely delete everything from your Mac hard drive.

wipe a drive on mac

Step #1: Go into the recovery mode of your OS X

The very first step is to access the recovery mode of your device. In order to do this, you need to simultaneously hold the Option button, the Command button, and the R button. After a few seconds, the screen should turn black with an Apple logo in the middle. After a few more seconds, a window should appear with options such as “Restore from Time Machine Backup”, “Reinstall MacOS”, “Get Help Online”, and “Disk Utility”. Click the Disk Utility option.

Step #2: Begin the data erasing process

After clicking on the Disk Utility option, you’ll be brought to a window that says “Apple SSD Media”. Look at the left side of the window and you’ll find an option that says “Apple SSD”. Click that option and look for the Erase button. It can be found on the top of the window right below the word “Disk Utility”. Click the Erase button. Once you click the Erase button, there should be another window that will appear. This window contains the formatting options. You should see options such as Name: MacintoshHD, Format: Mac OS Extended (Journaled), and Scheme: GUID Partition Map. All of these settings are the default formatting options. You don’t need to change anything. From here, simply click the Erase button to begin the formatting process.

Step #3: Wait for the erasing process to finish

Once you click the Erase button, the hard drive will start wiping out all the data on your computer. Just like with the Windows OS, you have to wait for the process to be finished. If you have a lot of things on your computer, you’ll have to wait for quite a while. However, if you don’t have that much data, then it’ll take a short while to finish.

Step #4: Reinstall your OS X

Let’s say that you decided to keep your computer, you’re going to have to reinstall the MacOS to use it again. Luckily, you won’t need a CD of the OS to do this. However, you will need a stable internet connection. To start, connect first to the internet by clicking on the Wifi icon on the top right.

mac os utilities

After you’re connected to Wifi, go back to the MacOS Utilities window in recovery mode. Remember the option “Reinstall macOS” mentioned earlier? Click that option this time. After clicking, click the Continue button and you’ll be led to the installation process. In order to install the MacOS into your computer, you’ll need to agree with the Terms and Conditions and select the country you’re from. Once you’ve done all of those, wait for the MacOS to complete its installation.

Step #5: Restart your computer

Once you have already installed your MacOS, the last thing that you need to do is restart your computer. This is done to refresh it and check if everything is working fine. Take note that you might want to shut it down first then turn it on again as simply restarting the computer won’t really refresh it. Once you’ve done that, then you may start using your computer again.


As you can see, it is actually really easy to wipe out your computer’s hard drive. This is one of the most important things to know if you own a computer. You’ll need to know this in the event any of the scenarios that I’ve mentioned above happen. It pays to know how to wipe out your computer’s hard drive and reinstall the operating system so that you don’t need to call a professional to do such a simple task.

Plus, I’ve mentioned the steps on how to wipe out the data of both Mac and Windows operating systems so users from both sides will know how to do it. As long as you know how to do this, you can at least save a lot of money and time by doing your own hard drive wiping. With this step by step guide that I’ve provided, you should have absolutely no problem with this process.

In this article you could fine Best external drives for Windows and Mac.

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