How to Wipe a Hard Drive Clean Without Deleting the OS

by Alice Godfrey

Wiping data off a computer's hard drive without removing the operating system (OS) residing on the drive can be done by transferring the OS to a new partition. It's a straightforward procedure that can be done with software programs available on the Internet.

Download a hard drive partitioning program to the desktop, such as the free trial version of Partition Commander (see Resources). Double-click the file once it has downloaded to start the installation procedure. Follow the prompts on the windows that appear to install the program onto the computer's main hard drive. Restart the computer when the installation is complete.

Launch the hard drive partitioning program by selecting it from the "Start" > "All Applications" pop-up menu.

Select the hard drive that is to be wiped clean (and which has a copy of the operating system (OS) on it) from the list of choices in the program's left column.

Click the "Create new partition" or Add partition" button (depending on the program) at the bottom of the program's main window. Repeat this procedure so that two partition columns are now made.

Click once on each of the OS files in the center column of the program (hold "Shift" down when selecting multiple files). Drag the files into one of the two partition's columns that are in the window.

Click on the icon of the disk at the top of the column that the OS file in now inside. This will will let you change the text number next to the icon. Stop clicking when number "2" is reached. Click on the icon of the disk at the top of the other partition column. Stop clicking when the text number next to the icon becomes "1."

Uncheck the "Format" checkbox next to the disk icons. If there is no checkbox, select "Options" from the "Tools" drop-down menu at the top of the program and uncheck the "Partition" checkbox in the new window that appears. Click the red "X" in the window's upper right corner to close it.

Click the "Start" or "Go" button (depending on the program) to create the two partitions and move the OS file into one of them. Quit the program when the "Done" or "Finished" confirmation window appears. Restart the PC.

Click "Start" > "Computer" to bring up a new window. Right-click the icon/drive number of the partition in the left column of the window which doesn't have the OS file or files in it.

Select "Format" from the pop-up menu. Click the "Start" button at the bottom of the "Format" pop-up window. Close the window once the partition has been formatted. Click the red "X" button in the upper right corner of the window that is still on the screen.

About the Author

Alice Godfrey is a marketing analyst with more than 15 years of experience in her field. She holds a Ph.D. in social and personality psychology. Past positions include market research analyst at various advertising agencies and corporations. Her articles on a wide variety of issues relating to entertainment have appeared in numerous trade publications.