How to Completely Wipe Out a Hard Drive and Reformat It

by Heather Lindsay

Wiping and reformatting a hard drive is a commonly performed computer procedure. This process removes access to all data on the disk and re-creates a file system that allows use of the hard drive with a blank slate. A logical reformat and data wipe is useful when donating computer systems or recovering from a computer virus attack. The ability to wipe and reformat a hard drive is provided as a system utility in the Windows and Mac OS X operating system.


Click the "Start" button, located in the lower-left corner of the Windows desktop.

Click the "My Computer" or "Computer" button on the right side of the "Start" menu.

Right-click the hard drive to be wiped and reformatted, and select the "Format..." heading from the context menu.

Type a new name for the hard drive in the text box beside the "Volume Label" text box. This step is optional, however; if a label is not chosen by the user, the system automatically creates a label. Leave all other options at the default settings, because they are optimized by the operating system for the current hardware configuration.

Click the "OK" or "Start" button to begin the the data wipe and reformatting procedure. This process takes several minutes to several hours, depending on the speed and overall capacity of the drive being wiped and formatted.


Reboot the computer with the OS X CD for your Macintosh in the CD drive and holding down the "C" key.

Select the preferred language when prompted.

Select "Open Disk Utility" from the "Installer" menu bar.

Select the drive you want to erase from the left side of the "Disk Utility" window.

Click the "Erase" tab located in the right side of the window.

Click "Volume Format" to open the drop-down menu and select "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)" from the list.

Enter a name for the drive in the "Name" field.

Select the erase option you wish to use from the list provided, then click "OK." The levels of security differ for each selection.

Click the "Erase" button, and confirm you want to begin the erase procedure. The erase and reformat process takes a few minutes to more than a day depending on the size and data content of the hard drive and the secure erase option you chose.

About the Author

Heather Lindsay is a stained glass artist who holds a master's degree in library science, a bachelor's degree in anthropology with a minor in art, and has enjoyed working in special libraries with photograph collections.

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Photo Credits

  • photo_camera inside hard drive image by GeoM from