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How to wipe an external hard drive – the ultimate guide

Updated on 9 August 2022

When you’re done using an external hard drive, it’s important to wipe it clean before giving it away or selling it. If you don’t wipe the drive, the new owner could access your old files – which might include sensitive information that you don’t want them to see. In this guide, we will teach you how to wipe an external hard drive in three different ways. We will also explain how erasure software works, and what you need to know before using it. Let’s get started!

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Why is it important to wipe a used external drive?

When you wipe an external drive, you’re essentially erasing all of the data on it. This is important because it prevents the new owner of the drive from being able to access your old files. If you have sensitive information on your hard drive, you don’t want the new owner to be able to see it.

If you are a business or organisation , it is also important to wipe drives before selling or disposing of them. This is because you may have confidential information on the drive that you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands. It is important that when disposing of an external hard drive you follow the regulations that your organisation has in place.

Moorepay logo Cutting edge payroll software
  • Powerful and easy to use
  • HMRC & RTI compliant
  • Used by payroll pros
Pipedrive logo The CRM platform to grow your business
  • Great for entrepreneurs
  • Powerful data analytics
  • Manage sales and data
Wix logo Powerful web builder and advanced business tools
  • Great for startups
  • Powerful web page builder
  • E-commerce available
Planable logo Supercharged content planning
  • Great for marketing
  • Better than lists or sheets
  • Manage social media
Webador logo Create a new website in 10 minutes. Easy.
  • Launch your website fast
  • Powerful data intuitive
  • No coding skills needed

Why can’t I just delete my files?

When you delete a file, it is not actually erased from your hard drive – it is just marked as “free space” that can be overwritten by new data. This means that if someone was to access your hard drive, they could potentially recover the files that you have deleted. In order to completely wipe a hard drive, you need to use specialised software that will erase all of the data on the drive, including the “free space”.

Does the factory reset remove all the data?
A factory reset does not actually wipe the data from your hard drive – it simply reformats the drive and reinstalls the operating system. This means that your data is still present on the drive, and can be recovered using specialised software.

If you want to wipe your hard drive, you will need to use one of the methods described below.

Three ways to wipe an external hard drive:

  1. Erasure software
  2. Physical destruction
  3. Professional service

Erasure software

If you want to wipe your hard drive without destroying it, you can use erasure software. This type of software writes over the data on your hard drive with random bits of data, making it impossible to recover the original data. Erasure software is a good choice if you want to wipe your hard drive before selling it or giving it away.

Physical destruction

One way to wipe your hard drive is to physically destroy it. This might sound like overkill, but if you are disposing of a drive that contains sensitive information, it is the best way to ensure that the data cannot be recovered. If you choose to destroy your hard drive, you can do so using a hammer, drill, or even a shredder.

Professional service

If you are disposing of a large number of hard drives, or if you have sensitive information on your drive, you might want to consider using a professional service. These services will wipe your external hard drive for you, ensuring that the data cannot be recovered.

They often provide on-site services, which can be convenient and is also more secure than off-site data destruction. Once they have finished wiping your hard drive, they will provide you with a certificate of destruction, which can be helpful for compliance purposes.

How does software for wiping external hard drives work?

Erasure software works by overwriting the data on your hard drive with random bits of data. This makes it impossible to recover the original data. The software will typically write over the data multiple times, to make sure that it cannot be recovered.

How to wipe an external hard drive

  1. Backup your data.

    Before you wipe your hard drive, it is important to make sure that you have a backup of your data. This way, if anything goes wrong, you will still have a copy of your files.

  2. Choose the right software for your needs

    There are many different types of erasure software available, so it is important to choose the right one for your needs. If you are unsure which software to use, you can consult with a professional. It is important that the software you use is compliant with your data destruction policy.

  3. Understand how the software works

    Before you use erasure software, it is important to understand how it works. This way, you can be sure that it will wipe your hard drive as intended.

  4. Follow the instructions carefully

    When you use erasure software, it is important to follow the instructions carefully. This will ensure that your hard drive is wiped properly and that the data cannot be recovered.

How long does it take to wipe an external hard drive?

The time it takes to wipe a hard drive depends on the size of the drive and the speed of the computer. For a typical hard drive, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours to wipe the data.

Windows can do a quick format but this does not wipe the data from your hard drive – it simply reformats the drive and reinstalls the operating system. So if you have sensitive data on the external hard drive, a quick format is not enough.

Cost of wiping an external hard drive

The cost of wiping an external hard drive varies depending on the method you choose. If you do it yourself, the only cost is your time. However, if you use a professional service, the cost will depend on the number of drives you need to wipe and the type of service you choose. It is more cost effective to use a professional service if you are wipe multiple drives or if you have sensitive data.

FAQs about wiping an external hard drive

How do I wipe an external hard drive?

There are three ways to wipe an external hard drive: physical destruction, erasure software, and professional service.

How do I wipe a hard drive without destroying it?

You can wipe a hard drive without destroying it by using erasure software. This type of software writes over the data on your hard drive with random bits of data, making it impossible to recover the original data.

How do I wipe a hard drive before selling it?

The best way to wipe a hard drive before selling it is to use erasure software. This type of software writes over the data on your hard drive with random bits of data, making it impossible to recover the original data.

What is the best way to wipe an external hard drive?

The best way to wipe an external hard drive depends on your needs. If you are disposing of a large number of hard drives, or if you have sensitive information on your drive, you might want to consider using a professional service. These services will wipe your hard drive for you, ensuring that the data cannot be recovered.

How much does it cost to wipe a hard drive?

The cost of wiping a hard drive depends on the method you choose. Physical destruction is usually the most expensive option, followed by professional services. Erasure software is typically the least expensive option.

Can you completely wipe a hard drive?

Yes, you can completely wipe a hard drive using erasure software. This will make it impossible to recover the data from the drive.

Can a wiped hard drive be recovered?

No, a wiped hard drive cannot be recovered. Once the data has been erased, it is gone forever.

Reviewed by , Managing Director

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