How to Clean/Wipe Hard Drive Without Wiping Windows

By | March 18, 2022

Imagine this scenario, you sell your computer, so you want to delete all your personal data but you also want to leave Windows intact in it.

Unfortunately, just deleting your personal files is not enough. With the right tools, someone can recover your data. You need to securely wipe the hard drive to ensure that no trace of personal data remains.

So, how do you clean a hard drive while leaving the operating system intact on it?

Always Clean Your Drive Safely Before Selling

You should also always wipe your drive before giving the hardware to another party. If you don’t wipe your drive, you’re giving up personal data to the person who bought your computer.

The trouble is that even if you delete your personal data, it still remains on the hard drive because of the way file deletion works in Windows.

You see, when you delete a file, it doesn’t disappear into the ether. The computer marks the occupied area of ​​the file as usable, which means it is available for other files to overwrite it in the future. In turn, this means files that you delete using the usual methods can still be accessed even if they don’t show up in File Explorer or vice versa.

If you’re getting rid of your PC and don’t want anyone else to access your sensitive data, you should safely wipe your drive.

The process of “wiping” refers to overwriting all sectors on your hard drive, replacing the contents of the drive with zeros or gibberish data. The process of erasing any data pending deletion, including what can be recovered by third-party software.

Can You Safely Wipe an SSD?

Before you start wiping your hard drive, consider what type of drive you have. If you have a magnetic spinning disk drive, you can proceed to the secure erasing method below.

That’s because of the differences in how magnetic and solid-state hard drives store data. If you are using a solid-state drive, Windows will enable the TRIM feature automatically.

TRIM manages your SSD, ensures files are deleted properly, ensures flash memory is used efficiently and consistently.

Using a drive wipe tool on an SSD is not a great idea. Wiping the SSD will reduce the life of the drive due to additional wear and tear.

How to Wipe a Hard Drive Without Wiping Windows

There are several methods you can use to wipe data from a drive while leaving the operating system intact.

Use Windows 10 Reset This PC

One of the easiest options for cleaning the drive and leaving your operating system intact is the one that integrates with Windows. Windows Options Reset This PC will reinstall Windows 10, erasing your personal data in the process.

Once the process is complete, you will have a new Windows for installation, with no personal data on the drive.

Please note: This process will delete your data. Make sure to back up important data to a separate location.

How to Reset Windows 10

First, you need to reset Windows 10.

Press Windows Key + I, type recovery in the search bar, and select Reset this PC.

Next, select remove everything, then Remove files and clean the drive. The Windows 10 reset function can take a while to complete, but it will ensure there is no chance for anyone to recover data from your drive.

When the warning appears, select Reset and let the process finish.

Completely Wipe the Drive, then Reinstall Windows

The second option is to completely wipe all of your drive’s data, including the operating system, and then reinstall Windows. The process is less than ideal and takes time, but it doesn’t leave you completely free of personal drive data, and a fresh install of Windows 10.

You need two things to complete this process: a copy DBAN (Boot Darik and Nuke), and a copy of Windows 10 to install after wiping the drive.

Please note: This process will erase all data on your drive. It will not be recoverable.

  • Create Windows Installation Media. First, look how to create Windows 10 installation media. It covers how to download and use the Windows Media Creation tool, as well as how to install Windows 10 to a bootable USB or DVD.
  • Burn DBAN to Bootable Media. Once you are done creating your Windows 10 installation media. and run DBAN
    • Then you can select a method to delete data by pressing the “M” then use the button “J” And “K” to move the cursor up and down. But you can leave the default settings and directly select the hard drive you want to delete by pressing the button “space” or “Space”
    • After you select the hard drive that you want to delete, then on the hard drive you selected will appear the word [wipe] on the left of the hard drive list. Next press the button F10 to start the process of deleting the data in the hard drive that you have selected. Wait for the process to finish.
    • After the process is complete, you will see the message “DBAN Succeeded, All selected disks have been wiped.”. Then you can press a key to exit Darik’s Boot And Nuke wizard.
  • Reinstall Windows 10. Once the DBAN process is complete and your drive is sparkling clean, you can reinstall Windows 10. Follow our guide on how to install Windows 10 from bootable drive, and you’ll have a fresh install in no time.

As mentioned, this is a long process. However, it ensures that there is absolutely no chance for anyone to take personal data from your old hard drive.

Use CCleaner Drive Wipe to Wipe Free Space

Your third option is to use CCleaner’s Drive Wipe option to free up free space on your drive.

Drive Wipe will permanently remove links to old file locations on your drive but only run in free areas. You can copy your data to another drive (or erase it), then erase your data.

  • Download and install CCleaner.
  • Once installed, open Tools > Drive Wiper.
  • choose Free Space Only, how many paths you want (how many times you want to overwrite the data), and the drive where you want the process to run.
  • When you are ready, press Wipe. The process can take a few minutes.

Using CCleaner is the least effective method of cleaning your drive. This process will break any links to your old data. However, if you have not removed existing programs, application files, program files, and so on, the links may remain.

Secure Your Drive Before Selling

You should always delete your data before selling or giving away your computer. Even if you know the person you’re giving the hardware to, you don’t know what they’re going to do with the computer when they’re done using it. Your data can still lurk on the drive for a long time.

Of course, if you’re not worried about the remaining operating system, you can follow the guide on how to use DBAN without reinstalling the operating system afterwards.