You don't want to leave anything someone could exploit
When it’s time to sell your computer, you’d want to wipe out the hard drive completely. After all, you don’t want to leave any personal or work-related files that other parties could exploit. In this post, we’ll show you how you can delete all the data in your PC permanently.
Deleting vs Wiping Data
Anyone can delete data. Moving items to the Trash Bin is not hard to do. But that’s not the same as wiping data. A deleted file can be recovered through a file recovery program or hardware. Formatting a hard drive before selling is good practice but even that won’t be enough to wipe out data.
That said, you need to be sure that you want to wipe out your hard drive before you proceed. You will no longer be able to recover the wiped data after the process is complete.
Wiping Your Data
Follow the instructions below to wipe data off your Windows 10 computer.
Step 1: Do some prep work
Before you begin, you need to prepare for the hard drive cleanup. Here are some of the things you will need.
Data destruction software
You need to do some research. Some sanitization software can only wipe hard drives but not SSDs (solid state drives). You should also look for software that can work on bootable drives like flash drives if you’re wiping the entire computer.
We have already written an in-depth guide on the 5 best hard drive wiping utilities, so read that after you finish this article.
Needless to say, back up all important files before you proceed. You can copy-paste all your data to a temporary location outside of the drive you’re wiping.
Explore your backup options. In Windows 10, go to Windows Settings > Update & Security > Backup. Here you’ll find several options for backing up your files.
Be sure to have all your product information on-hand. Make sure you secure serial numbers for your Windows 7 OS, for example. You will need those if you’ll be reinstalling software on another machine down the line.
You will need a dedicated USB drive for your data destruction software. You won’t be able to run an application in your computer if you’re wiping it clean. That’s why you need to save the program on an external drive. Saving it on a CD would also work.
Most sanitization programs are saved as an ISO image file. Simply copy-pasting the ISO file wouldn’t work. Look into how to burn an ISO file to a CD or flash drive if unsure how to continue.
Step 2: Do a Windows Reset First
Go to Windows Settings > Update & Recovery > Recovery. Under Reset This PC, click Get Started.
You will then be asked to choose an option. You can either keep all your files or remove everything. Click Remove Everything.
Windows will proceed to delete all your files.
Note: If asked whether you’d like to not only remove files but also clean the drives, select Remove Files and Clean the Drive.
Step 3: Run the Data Wiping Program
Each program runs differently but most come with easy-to-follow instructions. You will likely need to reboot your computer to run the program. Insert the CD or flash drive and then restart your PC. As it restarts, your PC should give you access to the data destruction software.
If you’re having trouble loading the program, you’ll likely need to make some changes in your BIOS settings.
To access BIOS, go to Windows Settings > Update and Security > Recovery. Under Advanced Startup, click Restart Now.
On the next screen, go to Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Select UEFI Settings > Restart. This will open BIOS after the system reboots.
The BIOS interface will vary depending on what motherboard you use. However, all BIOS will allow you to revise the boot order. Edit the order to prioritize CD/DVD or removable devices. This will let your computer run the content of your CD or flash drive respectively.
Step 4: Physically Wipe the Hard Drive (optional)
If there are no plans to use the hard drive again, you should consider physically wiping it. You can use a rare earth metal to do so. Others resort to dismantling the drive by screwing it apart before disposing of the entire thing.