How to wipe a laptop easily and securely – IT PRO
If you’re selling your laptop, you need to make sure that it’s wiped clean before it goes out the door. Chances are, it contains personal and business data that you wouldn’t want anyone else to get hold of, but thankfully there’s always ways to make sure that your personal information is gone for good.
Just follow this guide to learn how to securely wipe data from your laptop.
Back up important data
Your old laptop will contain data you may need in the fiture. You will need to copy this onto an external hard drive directly connected to the laptop. This is that fastest way of doing things. You could back up to the cloud, but this will take time and on slow connections, may take days. Cloud backups are great but should be done as a failsafe after you have restored data to a new system.
You will need to figure out how much storage you need. If everything is stored on one drive (usually the C: drive in Windows, right click on the drive icon to see how much data is taking up space there.
Once you have connected the external drive to the laptop you want to wipe, you can check that it is big enough to store all the data you need.
To back up you can simply connect an external drive to the laptop and drag files and folders to it. You can use the Windows Backup feature in Windows 7 of File History in Windows 8. Windows 10 has both features and adds the ability to backup and restore system images.
How to wipe a Windows 7/Vista/XP laptop
Wiping a laptop running Windows 7 shouldn’t be too difficult. You can use an application such as DBAN (link). It is downloadable as an ISO image so you will need to extract it onto a bootable USB or disc to use it. Once this USB flash drive is inserted in the laptop you want to wipe, restart the machine, make sure you boot from this drive and follow the prompts. The machine will start a several hour long process to securely delete everything. You can now reinstall Windows 7 from any disc or bootable USB stick with Windows installation files.
Of course, DBAN can also be used to wipe any drive running Windows or indeed Linux as it doesn’t need to run in any particular OS.
How to wipe a Windows 8/8.1 laptop
Wiping a hard drive in Windows 8 or 8.1 is a lot easier. All you need to do is go to the Start screen, find the Charms bar, choose Settings, and then go to the Change PC Settings and choose Remove Everything and Reinstall Windows.
As a safely measure, erase data by choosing the “thoroughly” option rather that “quickly”. This will erase the disk, reformat it and install a new copy of Windows automatically.
How to wipe a Windows 10 laptop
Windows 10 also has a built-in method of wiping the hard drive and then installing a fresh copy of the OS.
To do this, go to Start > Settings > Update & security > Recovery, click Get started and choose the applicable selection. There will be a set of instructions you can follow to restore Windows 10 back to a pristine state. In this case, you choose the Remove Everything option to get rid of everything. If there is more than one drive in the laptop, you will be asked if you want files removed from all drives, as a safety option this is the best method. Finally, you will be asked if you want to clean the drives. Choosing this will take a few hours but will ensure there are no files recoverable from the disk.
How to wipe a Mac
The process for wiping a Mac has broadly similar principles but is a lot easier to do. If the machine is running Lion or Mountain Lion, you don’t need a system disk, but for earlier Macs, you do. To start your Mac from the recovery partition, hold down the command and R keys as the computer restarts, and open Disk Utility.
Find the Erase tab security options and choose 7-pass Erase. This writes data to the disk several times. This may take a few hours but is a very secure way of doing so.
How to wipe a Linux laptop
If you’ve got a Linux-based machine, wiping any of the hard drives – internal or external – is a slightly fiddly process that involves using the command line.
Open up a command line terminal and enter ‘sudo fdisk -l’. This will list all the storage drives currently connected to your machine. Find the drive you want to wipe, and note the drive’s device path.
Next, run this command – ‘sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb bs=1M’ – via the terminal, making sure to substitute ‘/dev/sdb/’ with the target drive’s correct device path. This method is known as ‘zeroing’, and wipes the drive by overwriting every byte of information with zeroes.
There is some debate as to whether or not this is more secure than overwriting the drive with random bits of information, but it’s usually quicker and is perfectly sufficient for protecting your data from the average buyer.