Many people don’t realize that when they delete files, they aren’t gone. To save time, your computer doesn’t overwrite files. Instead, it labels them as space available for use. Unless you add new data that fills these spaces, it is easy enough to recover anything you thought was deleted.
It is problematic enough for most users. But when you’re selling or donating your old computer, it makes things risky. That’s why this list covers the three best ways you can wipe your Windows 10 hard drive. When you finish following these steps, no one will be able to access any of your settings, apps, files, or any other data via your old drive.
Don’t Forget to Back Up First
Your old data is still important to you. You don’t want it falling into the wrong hands. Make it easy on yourself and use cloud software tools like Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive.
Be sure to use a trustworthy VPN to prevent cybercriminals from accessing your data while it’s in transit. NordVPN is a reliable option. The same also goes for when you’re downloading your data to your new device. You’ll want to use a VPN to protect it during this process too.
Take a few moments to audit your data and back up what’s essential. And only then add it to your delete list.
Reset Your PC
Using the Windows 10 reinstall operating system feature, you can remove everything on your hard drive.
- Press the Keyboard shortcut Windows + I to open Settings then click Update and Security.
- On the left-hand side, select Recovery then click the button Get Started under Reset this PC.
- Now select the option Remove Everything. It removes all your files, apps settings, and starts with a clean install of Windows 10.
- Select Remove Files and Clean The Drive. It will take extra time, but it is a safe option for selling or donating your PC.
Use Eraser Software to Clear a Drive
In some cases, you may want to erase the contents of a hard drive or USB drive. Options like Eraser allow you to overwrite them by refilling with random data. It means nobody can recover it using other software tools.
It’s pretty easy to do. Download the software and select the drive you want to erase. You have other options, too, including:
- Complete erase: permanently deletes all existing files to make them unrecoverable.
- Wipe deleted data without affecting existing files.
- Creating bootable drives that you can use when the hard drive doesn’t work.
- Wipe external drives, including USB, SD cards, hard drives, and other storage media.
Low Tech Overwrite
People who are the most concerned about ensuring complete erasure often combine this method with one of the above options. You can create a bunch of useless data in its place. The easiest is using your built-in webcam to record a black image for as much capacity as your hard drive can hold.
What it does is overwrite all data on the drive. After repeating it 2-3 times, you can be sure all your old data is truly gone.
While many often use it for selling smartphones, the same logic applies to Windows 10 PC. Keep in mind that it will take some time to do. But it is worth it for those who are worried about their data security.
Are There Any Other Options?
Your final option is physically destroying the drive. But you can’t hammer it and expect that to work. Follow these steps:
- Use a screwdriver to remove all the screws from the case.
- Remove the platters and heads out of the enclosure and use a hammer to crush the platters. Then strike the remaining components.
- Run a magnet across the broken pieces to demagnetize the drive.
- Separate the components and dispose of it in different loads of garbage.
As you can tell, it is a drastic approach and not necessary for the average user.
Always Wipe Your Hard Drive
It doesn’t matter whether you’re giving your computer to your best friend or selling it to a stranger. For your safety, you should always wipe your hard drive.
You never know what can happen if the device falls into the wrong hands or a hacker someone gets access to it. Follow these tips to make sure that your deleted data is gone once and for all.
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