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How to wipe the hard drive of a Windows computer.

Note: This process works for Windows computers only.

If you're selling or giving away a Windows computer, you'll want to wipe the hard drive to remove all of your personal data from it before handing it over to someone new. Simply deleting files or formatting the hard drive isn't enough, as data recovery software may make it possible to recover the data later. To completely remove all of this data, you can follow the steps below.

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If you don't feel comfortable doing it yourself, you can schedule an appointment to bring your computer into a Best Buy store and have a Geek Squad Agent handle the process for you.

Download DBAN (Darik's Boot and Nuke).

Visit and click on the Download DBAN option. Once the software is downloaded (it will be a .iso file), you'll need to burn it to a CD, DVD or USB storage device so it can run without booting up your operating system (which will be deleted in the wipe).

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Once you start the wipe, all of the data on the computer will be gone, including the recovery partition. For information on backing up your data, see our article Tips for Data Backup.

Boot DBAN from a CD or DVD.

If you want to run DBAN from a CD or DVD, you'll need to burn the .iso file to a disk. When burning to a CD or DVD, you'll have to select the Burn image or Write image option in your CD/DVD writing software.

Once the CD/DVD burning process is complete, put the disk into the CD/DVD drive of the computer you want to wipe and reboot the machine. You may need to enter into the BIOS to set it to boot from CD or DVD.

Boot DBAN from a USB device.

If you'd rather use a USB device, you'll need to download ISO-to-USB software, which will set up the file to be read properly. Just copy/pasting the file directly to a USB device won't work. The exact instructions for doing this will vary depending on which software you use, but you'll need to turn your USB device into a bootable disk using the .iso file.

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This means you'll lose any data stored on the device.

Once you've created a boot disk, you'll need to change your boot device order in BIOS so that Removable Devices is listed first. Insert the boot disk into a USB port and reboot the machine.

Wipe the hard drive.

When the boot screen loads up, press Enter and choose M to get to the method screen. From here you can choose the type of wipe to perform. The stronger the method you use, the longer it will take for the software to complete the wipe. We recommend the DOD 5220.22-M option.

After selecting the method, then select the drive you wish to wipe.

Make sure your data is backed up, then press F10 to start the hard drive wipe process.

Allow the software to complete the process before turning off the machine. This can take hours to days in some cases.

Need some help?

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