How can I securely “wipe” data from a hard drive but leave the operating system in tact?

Stuart Driver June 2, 2012
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In order to sell a computer I would like to clean the hard drive of everything except the operating system. Is there a program to do that?

  1. Mike DeGeorge
    June 3, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    You can delete files like you normally would. And then use CCleaner to wipe all free space a few times(or once if you prefer). That would be secure too. It also has the ability to go over deleted files a few times.

  2. Kyem Ghosh
    June 3, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    well I would recommend you to go for a fresh installation but incase you donot have the OS disk, you can follow a bit long step.. Well I would ask you to goto control panel- add remove programs and uninstall all the 3rd party softwares installed excluding the windows driver softwares (you'll see them at the bottom with driver icons). After one by one uninstallation. Restart your pc to clear up the cache. The run ccleaner and clean the registry... Now I'll recommend you to use Paragon Hard Disk manager for further cleaning. You can even make a separate partition for the operating system using this software as the win7 kernel takes up 100mb of space. Paragon HD manager costs 49$.

    After these cleaning processes, you can be sure that you have no file in the registry for the files which you just uninstalled. Go to c:\program files and delete all the existing folders of the softwares you just uninstalled. You can also download Disk wipe from (for free) to format thoroughly other drives except c: ehich will not even leave a trace of anything. If you have any music or video or images on c:, you can delete it manually.... This will provide you the best cleanup although the process is long

  3. KamilKozyra
    June 2, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    This article should help too -

  4. Mike
    June 2, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    In general I recommend 2 rules if you are going to sell a computer with a used hard disk:

    1. wipe the drive as in at least one-pass overwrite ("zeroing" ) or better ATA Secure Erase
    Here is guide on how to perform either using Parted Magic

    2. if you want to sell it with a working operating system perform a fresh installation
    * This is obvious duo to the first rule

    The problem with "cleaning" an existing system is that it really never is clean even if you use 10 different tools. Sure, with enough effort the only thing left may be previously used programs (MRU List) or others but you never know where stored password or something slips through.

    If you want to take this risk I suggest to remove all programs using e.g. Revo Uninstaller followed by a full cleanup using CCleaner in combination with CCEnhancer ~ make sure to select all options for Windows, Applications and the Registry.

    Once that is done open up CCleaner again and navigate to "Tools > Drive Wipe". Make sure wipe is set to "Free Space Only" and check your hard drive below.

    Finally you should check the system again using applicable Password and Product key retrieval tools.

    At the end of the day wiping the drive and re-installing the operating system with the drivers will take 2-4 hours depending on the disk size (wiping takes a long time) ~ more if you decide to be friendly and install all OS updates.

    Deinstalling all the software, cleaning user files, previous settings etc. will most likely take the same.

    June 2, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Hello, crapcleaner has also the drive cleaner option under the tools section. It lets you clean only free space or the whole drive. If you are planning to sell the computer, your best bet would be to use Dban to zero the drive and then reinstall the operating system. Doing it this way is the safest. In case you are interested, here is the link for dban:

    • Oron
      June 2, 2012 at 11:40 pm

      Agree entirely, but the program is now called CCleaner!

      • FIDELIS
        June 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm

        Hello, I remember the days when it was called crapcleaner.....hard habit to break. Thank you for correcting me.

  6. ha14
    June 2, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    you can make an image of your windows only, then use windows cd to format the hard drive. Then boot on the live cd of the software that you used to make image then point it to your operating system image '(saved to another hard drive) and choose restore.

  7. Bruce Epper
    June 2, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    The easiest way to do it would be to create a new administrative user on the computer. Log into that account. Delete all other user accounts on the machine. Make sure all the associated user profile folders for those users have been deleted since it doesn't always happen the way it should. Run CCleaner and get rid of all of the accumulated crap from the machine. Dump the Recycle Bin. Then run Eraser ( to wipe all unused space on the disk.

    • hartvix
      June 5, 2012 at 2:08 am

      Just a remark concerning CCleaner, which is a great program I use a lot myself: It does NOT clean / remove files in other accounts than the current user. This is an option I'd like to see in later versions of the program. When it comes to wiping free space, this is of course not an issue.

  8. Alan Wade
    June 2, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    If you have the operating system disks then formatting the hard drive and re-installing the system would be the cleanest way to go otherwise you could use something like Revo Uninstaller to uninstall programs you want to get rid of.
    If you want to securely erase files then Eraser from: will delete them for you.

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