Erasing a Disk

Today we’re going to touch on the task of erasing data from any type of magnetic or solid state storage media. This covers solid state hard drives, hybrid hard drives, traditional hard drive disks, flash drives, and external hard drives. The techniques described are easy and require no special technical knowledge, and can be completed in less than 15 minutes.

We have already covered the task of formatting a hard drive, which as I stated is a destructive and all-eliminating restructuring of the hard drive. This is great if you want to reformat an old FAT32 disk to NTFS, or perhaps you are setting up a Linux-based system.

This tutorial will cover how to ensure that all data on a disk is destroyed to the point of not being recoverable. When you delete something on your computer, it goes to the recycle bin. It is still on your computer, and hasn’t yet been marked as available space. When you delete it from the recycle bin (or directly permanently delete it), the computer marks the space as available, but doesn’t immediately write any data to the new space.

Today it is often a good idea when selling hard drives or computers, to make sure you completely and irreversibly destroy the data. Thankfully, there are several programs out there that can accomplish this task with relative ease. This tutorial will cover the usage of a program called Disk Wipe. It is available at www.diskwipe.org.

When you utilize a program like this, you select the disk that you wish to erase. You will then select the method of erasing and destroying the data. These types of programs go through and overwrite the entire disk with billions of 1s and 0s in random. This means that the existing 1s and 0s (what the data is at the very lowest level) are overwritten with random ones that have absolutely no meaning. Each pass reduces the ability of the disk to be recovered by an IT professional. Generally, the Department of Defense (US) requires 3-7 passes to consider the data destroyed. This program supports destroying data with anywhere from 1-35 passes. With 35 passes, you are pretty much guaranteeing no one, IT professional or not, will be able to recover the data.

The nitty gritty of this tutorial is actually pretty short.

  1. Download the program from their website. It is completely free, and does not require installation.
  2. Open the program. On the left side, find the disk that you wish to destructively erase.
  3. Verify through Windows that this is the correct drive. I cannot emphasize this enough, once you erase a disk with this program, it cannot be recovered!
  4. Click “Wipe Disk”.
  5. Select the file system (NTFS, FAT, FAT32) that you wish to format it in. Click Next.
  6. Select your erase pattern – 1, 2 , 3, 7, or 35 passes. Click Next.
  7. Type “ERASE ALL” into the text box to verify your intent.
  8. Click Finish, and click Yes on the confirmation dialogue box that pops up.

That’s it. The program will get to work, and depending on the size of the disk and the number of passes selected, it will take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours to destroy the data on the disk.


I am a web designer and a computer/CE technician. I am fluent in HTML and CSS, though not so much in PHP, JS, and traditional programming languages. I live in Maryland - you don't need to know anything more than that :) Feel free to contact me on Skype. It goes to my iPhone, so I usually respond fairly quickly unless I'm asleep. I have a backwards schedule, and do most of my work at night, however you can usually catch me in the morning or late evening.

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