How to Purge a Computer Hard Drive

by Contributor

Problems often arise when data on computer hard drives fall into the wrong hands. When you dispose of your computer, it's important that you remove all traces of data from it. Even if the only thing you have on your computer is family photos, the idea of those falling into the hands of some unknown stranger is uncomfortable to most people. While forensic scientists have found many ways to retrieve data from a hard drive that has been damaged or erased, there are a few ways to keep most people out of your data.

Backup any data that you want to keep.

Install the KillDisk software on your computer (see "Additional Resources," below). This is a free piece of software that will write garbage to your hard drive many times until it cannot be recovered.

Start KillDisk and use it to create a bootable CD that will destroy all data on a hard drive. Leave this disc in the CD tray and restart your computer. Follow the on-screen instructions to wipe all data from your computer irrevocably. For most people, this is enough security.

Remove the hard drive or destroy it. If you really want the greatest degree of protection, you will have to physically destroy the drive. Open the hard drive case and destroy the platters inside, or use a torch to burn a hole through the drive. It will be virtually impossible to obtain data off the disk afterward.

Warning

  • Deleting your files is never a secure way of removing data from your hard drive. With simple hard drive recovery software, deleted files can be retrieved with little difficulty. Once you start destroying the data on your computer, it will obviously be inaccessible even to you, so make sure you have copies of any data you want to keep.

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