How to Permanently Wipe All Data from a Hard Drive

My previous job was at a state university. Before sending our old computers off to auction, we had to wipe all hard drives according to Department of Defense 5220-22.M standards. This was to ensure the next owner would not be able to recover any sensitive files that were stored on the computer even through forensic analysis. Now I would like to show you how to wipe a hard drive following this same technique.

To wipe a hard drive according to DoD 5220-22.M standards, you need to download a free utility called DBAN. This utility will work on all Windows and Unix file systems. For Macs, you can download a different version here.

Once you have downloaded the DBAN ISO file, you can burn it to either a CD or DVD. Place it in the computer that you want to wipe and reboot. Make sure that the computer is set to boot from the drive that you are trying to run DBAN from.

Once the computer boots into DBAN, you will be presented with a boot prompt. Hit enter to start DBAN in interactive mode.

DBAN Boot Screen

Once you are in interactive mode, you can choose the wipe method by hitting the M key. The default method is DoD Short which should be fine. You can select the drives and partitions you want to wipe by using your spacebar. Hit F10 to start the wipe.

DBAN Interactive Mode

Depending on your drive size, the wipe could take a couple of hours. Once it has finished then the drive is safe to dispose of.

If you have had experience with DBAN or any other disk wiping utilities please feel free to share.

About The Author


Casey (Surname withheld for contractual reasons) successfully started his own IT consultancy well over 10 years ago. He started training and mentoring other computer technicians who want to create a part time or full time income as an IT consultant. See the 'About Us' for more.


  • tiptop

    Reply Reply October 10, 2006

    Well I have not had any experience with the use of DBAN but I have made use of StompSoft’s Drive Washer ( software which uses the U.S. Department of Defense 5220.22-M standard for disk-sanitization as well and is very easy to use. In fact this is the software that I generally recommend to those who ask me about what disk cleaning utility they should use when they are thinking about getting rid of their old computer.

  • khaled

    Reply Reply July 27, 2007

    Hi Man

    stop error, hang up , freeze, My PC suddenly stop
    responding. iam runing xp (p4).

    is there any way to make Windows report this error,


  • amanda

    Reply Reply October 17, 2007

    when i start my pc up it pops up and says something bout dlls have been lost or something

  • Neuro

    Reply Reply April 2, 2013

    It sounds like the solution you described is for wiping a computer’s internal data storage. What if I have an external drive that I want to wipe?

  • Jyoti

    Reply Reply July 24, 2013

    Being a Mac user, I would like to suggest all Mac users as per my experience, they must use Stellar Drive ToolBox software. Mac Wipe utility helps to wipe data beyond the recovery and nobody can steal your data.

  • Neo Jensson

    Reply Reply December 18, 2013

    Free software for over writing is ErAce. It does 1-100 over write cycles. It can be downloaded from or from sourceforge

  • Ali

    Reply Reply October 13, 2016

    What if I use encryption to secure my data and just disposed of without the key? Is it a safe method or do I still need a utility to wipe my data permanently ?

  • a juicer

    Reply Reply November 26, 2016

    Well I have not had any involvement with the utilization of DBAN yet I have made utilization of StompSoft’s Drive Washer programming which utilizes the U.S. Branch of Defense 5220.22-M standard for plate cleansing too and is anything but difficult to utilize. Actually this is the product that I by and large prescribe to the individuals who get some information about what circle cleaning utility they ought to utilize when they are thinking about disposing of their old PC.

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