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Someone is backing up their information before wiping their hard drive.

All There is to Know About Wiping Hard Drives

How to Wipe a Hard Drive

Do you want to permanently erase your hard drive? If you answered yes, then you have come to the right place. Wiping a hard drive is a risky business. If you do not know what you are doing you could wipe something you did not intend to and end up losing all your data. Therefore, you must know how to wipe a hard drive properly.

However, before we get to that, there are some important things for you to consider.

What Does Wiping a Hard Drive Mean?

For starters, you should know what you will be doing when you wipe your hard drive. Wiping a hard drive is different than deleting or reformatting your data. If you wipe your hard drive, you are essentially rendering all your data unreadable to your computer, tablet or smartphone. 

Consequently, even if someone were to hack into your data system, they would not be able to see this data nor would they be able to retrieve it (unless they are a super hacker). On the other hand, when you delete your data, you are not erasing it from your computer, you are just removing it from direct access. 

Moreover, the same is the case for reformatting. Reformatting just changes the nature of the data so that you can free your drive of its contents. Wiping a hard drive is more permanent. 

Reasons You Should Wipe Your Hard Drive

Believe it or not, there are many instances where you must wipe your hard drive. Unless you physically destroy your drive, it is likely the information on it will always be available. 

So, why should you wipe your hard drive? Here are some of the most common reasons.

Security

In this day and age, all our data exists online, making it easy for people to view and access it. If you want to protect your privacy, it is better to wipe your data. For example, if you have personal information such as your name, address, social security number or bank account numbers on your computer, do not delete it. Rather, wipe it off.

Factory Reset

Perhaps this is the most common reason for wiping a hard drive. Factory resets make your computer as good as new. For example, if you want to upgrade your software but are having problems, it is a good idea to perform a factory reset.

Improve Your Device Performance

Additionally, is your device too slow? It is probably because there is too much data on it. As mentioned, even if you delete data, it will not make a difference. You need to completely wipe off your hard drive to improve performance.

Data Protection Laws

Depending on the country you live in, the government necessitates the protection of specific kinds of data. Imagine you have someone else’s personal information such as their social security number, driver’s license number, credit card numbers, patient information or financial information.

If you no longer need this information, you are legally bound to protect their privacy by wiping it off your hard drive. These laws are very strict to prevent cases of identity theft.

Protect Confidential Information

This is mainly for corporate devices such as your company issued laptop or phone. If you have company secrets on your computer, you likely do not want to risk it getting in the wrong hands. The same goes for your business or financial plans.

How to Back-Up Files Before You Wipe Your Hard Drive

Make sure to back up your data before wiping your hard drive. You do not want to lose anything important such as business records, family photos or bank details. There are three main ways for you to backup data.

  • External storage such as a USB, external drive or floppy disk
  • Cloud storage such as DropBox or Google Drive
  • Hard Drive Cloning (which is cloning your disk, so you have two of the same hard drives)

We recommend having at least two backups of important data. Some people use the 3-2-1 strategy, which you can follow in three steps:

  • Make three copies of your files.
  • Keep one copy of the file somewhere else. For example, if you keep all your files at your office, then you should keep one copy at home. This is to keep your data safe in case there is flooding or theft at one location.
  • Use two different formats to store your data. For instance, keep one as a cloud and one in a USB flash.

Steps on How to Wipe a Hard Drive 

Finally, you will learn how to wipe a hard drive. For Windows and PC computers, we recommend using software like Eraser or DBAN, both of which are free and easy to use. The steps to follow are simple.

  • Download and install the software from the website.
  • Open the software application and select New Task.
  • Ensure that the task setting is Run Manually before clicking on Add Data.
  • Afterwards, change the Target Type to the drive you want to wipe.
  • Now, pick an erasure method (from the options it will give you). In Eraser, Pseudorandom Data one pass is enough for wiping SSDs and basic information. However, for wiping the entire hard drive, pick a three or seven pass eraser method.
  • Click on Run Task.

For Mac computers, there is a built-in function that allows you to wipe hard drives.

  • Click on Command + R. You may need to hold for a few seconds. 
  • A window should appear. When it does, click on Disk Utility.
  • Next, go to View > Show All Devices.
  • A menu will pop up on the left side. Once you see it, select the hard drive disk you want to erase.
  • Now, on the top menu, go to the Erase tab and give the volume a new name (for after it has been erased).
  • Pick the format style you want. For example, if you plan on upgrading the Mac software to macOS, pick GUID Partition Map. Otherwise, pick APFS, which works for most versions.
  • Lastly, click Erase.

Should You DIY or Take it to a Professional?

Now that you see how easy it is, should you DIY or should you take your drive to a professional? Well, in most cases, you should DIY. It is simple, time saving and costs nothing. However, if your hard drive is corrupt (with viruses or physical damage), you should take it to a professional.

Moreover, if you accidentally wipe data you did not intend to, you should also take it to a professional. It is not easy to retrieve data once it has been lost (which is why you should always back it up). It is even more difficult if you have wiped everything from your hard drive (not just basic stuff).

In those cases, you may need to download data retrieval software or take it to an IT specialist.

Now You are Ready!

In summary, it is important to be smart when handling a hard drive. All your information, whether it is personal or professional, can be used against you if given to the wrong person. With this guide, we hope you have learned how to wipe a hard drive and protect yourself against such misuse.