How to Securely Wipe a Hard Drive

Are you considering giving away or disposing of a hard drive? This blog post tells you how to securely wipe a hard drive.

Warning: I published this blog post here in 2013 and the information below ‘could’ now be outdated. You use information in this ‘how to’ guide at your own risk.


You definitely don’t want to get rid of a hard drive without securely wiping it. This doesn’t just include if you are disposing of the hard drive, but also if you are giving the hard drive to someone else. Too many people sell computers on eBay, without securely wiping a hard drive. This then means that complete strangers often can ‘recover’ data from a hard drive with free software. A simple delete or reformat isn’t good enough!

hard drive

Some people believe hard drives should be psychically shredded by experts, whilst others opt for extreme data wiping methods. This guide chooses the middle ground, both in time to wipe and the type of hard drive wiping.

time remaining

Basically this guide is written based upon how I have been wiping my hard drives. This isn’t a blog post written by someone not actually performing the task. It is written from my personal experience of wiping my own hard drives over the years, and recently going slightly crazy wiping numerous hard drives after laptop, desktop and NAS box upgrades.

Step 1 (Optional) – Use an external HD USB enclosure for the hard drive.

If you are going to wipe more than one hard drive, you might want to buy an external hard drive USB enclosure for the chore. If you are going this route, make sure the computer you will be using supports at least USB 2, as data transfer speed will be important.

In my situation, I use one computer for these chores and as I was recently wiping multiple hard drives, I opted to use two different enclosures to handle the old 2.5 and 3.5 EIDE hard drives I was wiping.

Step 2 – Download DBAN and create a liveCD.

Darik’s Boot and Nuke liveCD is the magic that makes the process painless! The free DBAN ISO image is a file that you can download and then burn to a CD. I used the software CDBurnerXP to burn the ISO file to a CD – a simple process that took a minute or two.

Note: If you have an old DBAN CD, it is worth checking whether there has recently been an update of the liveCD.

Step 3 – Configure your computer to boot to CD first.

If the computer you are going to use to perform the task isn’t configured to boot from CD first, you need to change this at the BIOS/Setup level, before an operating system loads.

For example my computer was set to boot to USB first, and I needed to change the boot priorities.

Step 4 – Configure and wipe the hard drive.

There are numerous options, but after some research I decided to use the DoD short method to wipe the hard drive. It was the most paranoid level, but I felt it was a sensible decision, that meant the process wouldn’t take too long, but also leave me satisfied. Naturally it is up to you what you use.

Darik's Boot and Nuke

Before you select ‘F10’ to continue, make sure you have only selected the hard drive you intend to ‘wipe’. Sounds crazy? Some novices can get confused between hard drives.

How long does it take to wipe a hard drive using DBAN?

I’ve been wiping 20 – 60 GIG hard drives using the DoD short method and it has only taken a maximum of four hours.