How to completely erase data from hard drive?

Tue Jul 17 2018 by William

Worrying about personal private data on the hard drive leaks when selling old computers? Don't need to if you completely erase it from the disk. There are many ways of securely removing data from hard drive, using the default tool or turning professional tools, we'll list some of them, for different purposes

We can think of 4 methods to make the disk clean again, each tab to explain one method

Format volume is not enough to make the disk clean, it only removes the partition table, file system and create a new file system, but to be more precisely, it’s the ‘Quick Format’ performs such operations not the ‘Low-level format’, which, on the other hand, is a method of cleaning data. We can do it like this

  1. Right-click on the Start button (Windows 10) and click ‘Disk Management’
  2. Right-click on a partition you’d like to format and choose Format Volume
  3. Click ‘Yes’ to the warning message and you’re prompted with the format window, in which we uncheck the ‘Perform a quick format’ box, in my screenshot below, it’s a Windows 7 screenshot and the option is checked, but you get the point

When we uncheck the ‘quick format’ option, we’re telling Windows to perform a low-level format, which use one-pass overwriting method to clean up data, no chance of recovery, yes, 1 pass erasing is enough to make the partition clean


  • No need to install other programs
  • Graphic interface, easy to operate

perform a quick format


  • Have to format partition one bye one
  • ‘Format volume’ option is grayed out on system volume
  • ‘Disk Management’ tool will get stuck occasionally

You can format a volume in File Explorer, the same effect to Disk Management’s Format volume option

Another way to completely erase hard drive data is to use the diskpart clean all command, which uses 1-pass zero overwrite method, fast and efficiency, we can do as follow to run this command

  1. Type cmd in the search bar (Windows 10) and right-click click on the icon the ‘Run as administrator’
  2. Type diskpart and click ‘Yes’ to the UAC dialog
  3. Type list disk and then type select disk 1 or other disk you’d like to erase
  4. Type clean all to erase the entire disk

In case you may wonder what’s the difference between ‘clean’ and ‘clean all’ command, here’s the link


  1. No warning message or confirm react before erase
  2. Only 1-pass overwrite method is available
  3. May get stuck on opening

diskpart clean all


  1. No need to install third-party data wiping software
  2. Able to wipe both single partition and the entire disk

cipher.exe is a tool manage encrypted data, it also capable of wiping data, wiping the leftovers of the deleted files and folders, yes, it only wipes free space, but with 3-pass overwriting, a more secure way of wiping, although we've mentioned that 1-pass wiping is enough to make sure data safe according to the reaching and experiment of recent years, this tool was actually released in the Windows 2000 era.

Press Win+R (Windows 10) and type `cmd` to open the command line tool and we can wipe free space by typing `cipher /w:c:` in cipher.exe:

That’s to wipe free space on C Drive, you can change the drive letter to others if you’d like to wipe the rest of partition, one by one

Microsoft Windows [Version 10.0.17134.165]
(c) 2018 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

C:\Users\Macrorit>cipher /w:c:
To remove as much data as possible, please close all other applications while
running CIPHER /W.
Writing 0x00
Writing 0xFF
Writing Random Numbers


  1. Built-in tool, capable to Windows 10
  2. 3-pass overwriting, securer


  1. Only wipes free space
  2. Have to delete files and folders first and empty recycle bin to ensure data clean
  3. No other wiping methods available

The default tool in Windows 10 are able to erase erase at different level for different purposes. They are free to use and no need to install other extensions, run and use, simple enough. But they have shortages, we can tell them from the cons list. Data Wiper, however, will be the perfect solution for data wiping, take wiping operating system for example:

  1. Directly run Data Wiper from the portable package after download and click Yes to the UAC window when prompted
  2. Choose a wipe target in section 1, we’ll go with ‘Entire Drive or disk’ if we want to wipe out the operating system
  3. Then choose a wiping method from section 2, choose one from 6 different methods
  4. Click on the system disk and click ‘Yes’ to the warning message and finally click ‘Wipe Now’ button, then Data Wiper will ask you type the keyword WIPE to continue in case you don’t mean to

Then Data Wiper will wipe the entire disk even when Windows is running


  1. Can’t wipe multiple disks at the same time

Data Wiper


  1. Fully functional, able to wipe recycle bin, wipe free space, wipe entire partition and disk
  2. Many wiping methods available, from 1-pass to 35-pass, including DoD Wipes
  3. Able to wipe out operating system when it’s running

Download Data Wiper Buy Now