How to Erase a Backup Drive

by Ryan Maxwell

There are several ways to erase a hard drive. The method to use depends on what you want to do after the hard drive is erased. If you are planning to dispose of the hard drive, the best method to make sure no data can be recovered is to physically destroy the hard drive. If you are just erasing it to reuse as a clean hard drive, this process is explained in the first two sections, "Deleting a Hard Drive" and "Formatting Your Drive." If you are planning on selling or donating the computer and you want to completely erase the drive, proceed to the third section, "Wiping the Hard Drive."

Deleting a Hard Drive

1

Click the Start menu and select "My Computer." This will open the My Computer window.

2

Double-click on the drive you want to erase.

3

Click "Edit" in the toolbar in the upper-left side of the screen.

4

Click the "Select All" option. All of the icons on your backup drive will turn blue at this point.

5

Hold down the Shift key and hit the Delete button. All files will be deleted. This is the most basic and least secure way to erase files from your drive. This process simply deletes the links to the file so Windows no longer recognizes them.

Formatting Your Drive

1

Click the Start menu and select "My Computer." This will open the My Computer window.

2

Right-click the hard drive you want to erase. This will bring up a menu.

3

Select "Format" from the menu. This will bring up a Format window.

4

Select the type of format you want to do. Quick Format simply deletes the header on the drive, leaving the files intact but not recognized. It takes a short time to complete. Full Format removes all of the files from the drive. It takes much longer than the Quick Format option. Once the format is complete, your drive will be erased.

Wiping the Hard Drive

1

Download or purchase hard drive wiping software. There is a wide range of programs available, some of which can be downloaded and used free of charge. WipeDrive is one program available (see Resources below). You'll find a list of programs you can download for free or purchase in Resources as well.

2

Execute the software and select the drive you want to wipe. The software will write over all data stored on the drive using number patterns.

3

Format the hard drive once the first write-over is complete.

4

Repeat the wipe and format process several times to ensure that all data is irrecoverably deleted.

Warning

  • close Do not donate/sell a hard drive containing sensitive material without performing a wipe of the drive. There are numerous programs available that can recover data after being deleted, even if you format the hard drive. Performing a drive wipe will ensure your sensitive material and personal data will not fall into the wrong hands.

Items you will need

About the Author

Ryan Maxwell began his professional freelance writing career in 2009. He is a former U.S. Army military police officer, as well as a published poet and photographer. While attending Finlandia University, Maxwell majored in criminal justice with a minor in English studies. Ryan is also very skilled in computer maintenance, upgrade and repair with almost 20 years of experience.