How to Clear Data From a Hard Drive

By RobertRichford, eHow Member Rating

Clear Data From a Hard Drive

Clear Data From a Hard Drive

Clearing data from a hard drive is one of the hardest things to do if you are not familiar with the process. When you sell or donate your equipment you may think your information is safe simply by formatting the hard drive, but this is not true. You would have to remove the hard drive or use a program that would write over your information several times to make it hard to recover. With today’s technology, information can be recovered very easily from hard drives with software available over the Internet.


  • Step 1

    Delete your files from your computer. If you are just deleting files from your computer through windows programs they are not gone. Most programs are placed in the recycle bin. These files can be retrieved just by restoring them to your computer. Even if you empty your recycle bin, the files still exist on your computer hard drive.

  • Step 2

    Watch out for information thieves. Many people are retrieving information from old computer hard drives. This information is found on computers left at the town dumps, second hand shop that sell computers and used hard drives sold over the internet. Be careful when selling your equipment, even to people you know.

  • Step 3

    Reformat your hard drive. This is a good start when selling your equipment, but formatting your hard drive and putting a new operating system on it does not erase your information. The best way is to encrypt your information so that if it is recovered it will not be available to read. Windows XP has an encryption program available and so does Windows Vista. However, you should also run a secure erase program to protect you privacy.

  • Step 4

    Use software to completely erase your hard drive. If your choice is to erase all the data on your hard drive you have to write over it. The process of deleting files or formatting your hard drive will only place your deleted files in swap files or unused locations of your hard drive. You would need to find a wipe program to clean up all files and hard drive free space. These programs are also known as shredders which over write your information with characters to make your information hard to recover. It will take time to erase your files with these types of programs.

  • Step 5

    Use Hard Drive data retrieval software. Using programs like Disk Investigator will give you total access to your hard drive information. This does not encourage hacking someone’s computer, but only to check your hard drive after wiping files. However, this will give you a good idea on how powerful data recovery programs can be.

  • Step 6

    Remove your hard drive. If you still feel uneasy about leaving your hard drive in the computer, sell it without a hard drive. If you are not attached to your hard drive take a hammer to it and totally destroy it or use it as a spare drive. The most important part of the hard drive is the platter inside the case. This is like a DVD or CD and it contains the information you are trying to destroy.

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