Your computer is dead, but you have a replacement, so you’re not taking it for repair. There is a problem: you have sensitive files on the hard drive of the dead computer.
If your computer dies, the files on your hard drive remain. If anyone can gain access to your dead computer, they can shove your hard drive into a working computer to gain unauthorized access to your files.
If you’re anything like me, that’s the last thing you’ll want to happen. In this article, you’ll learn how to wipe the hard drive on a dead computer to prevent sensitive data from leaking out to the wrong people.
How to wipe a hard drive on a dead PC
If your PC won’t turn on, there is only so much you can do on it. If your computer turns on, you can reset your PC from Windows settings, and voila, your hard drive is clear.
Since you can’t even boot into Windows, there are still many alternatives. From the extremely techy ones to the downright ridiculous ones, you can somehow get the sensitive files off your hard drive even if your computer is dead.
Here are some of the easiest ways to do so.
- Stick the hard drive into a working computer
If all you need to do is wipe the files off your hard drive, this is the most practical solution. Since your hard drive isn’t a failed device, it will work on any other computer except yours.
Before proceeding with the steps below, you should have an extra computer for the wiping process, and the computer should support an extra hard disk.
If the computer doesn’t support an extra hard drive, you can still make your hard drive work by changing the enclosure to support USB. While this isn’t difficult, it is certainly out of the scope of this article, and I won’t elaborate on that.
When you can get your hard drive to work with your computer, you can proceed with the rest of the steps in this method.
- Connect the hard drive to the computer and verify that it’s working correctly. On Windows, you should see it appear as ‘Drive D,’ while macOS users should see the drive on the desktop immediately.
- You can wipe the hard drive using the operating system’s formatting utility. On Windows, right-click on the drive and select ‘Format…’
While you can set custom values for the format options, it’s best to leave it as default. Click on ‘Start’ to commence the erasure of your hard drive.
While this is a pretty quick way to wipe the hard drive for your dead computer, it is certainly not perfect. With simple file recovery software, you can recover all the deleted files without much hassle.
This isn’t a vulnerability that you’d like to live with. The initial purpose of formatting the hard drive was to get rid of the files, and simply ‘formatting’ it using the built-in tool doesn’t cut it.
However, if you only want to format your hard drive to get more storage space, you can go with the above method. Otherwise, you might want to use free or paid software to erase the drive.
A drive formatting software works to make your files unrecoverable once formatted. Recall that the built-in format utility doesn’t do this, making it a bit less secure.
There are many pieces of software that you can use to format your hard drive. We won’t be recommending any here, so you won’t break your computer and hold us responsible.
If you don’t have an extra computer, the following two options might be your best bet.
- Physically destroy the drive.
When planning out this guide, this was the first solution that came to my mind. I wasn’t sure if it’s the same for everyone or if I’m just destructive.
However, one thing I’m sure of is that this method works as well as any other one in this guide.
If you have a hammer handy and you don’t need an extra hard drive, you can simply break the drive. While it sounds simple, there are some procedures that you need to follow.
First off, a very dedicated techie might decide to piece your broken hard drive together. If that turns out successful, it will be akin to submitting your data to a hacker.
Before using your hammer, you should get a screwdriver to remove the circuit board first. After removing the circuit board, you can break it until it’s damaged before discarding or burning (recommended) it.
After you’ve taken care of the circuit board, your hammer can have a field day playing with the rest of the components of the hard drive.
If you want to take it a step further, you can disassemble every part of the drive, separating the components and exerting a great deal of physical damage on every part.
While that is a lot of work, it is interesting; destroying anything is interesting, by the way.
- Use a hard disk eraser hardware.
One of the most functional pieces of hardware that you might never need to use is a file formatting tool. These are little pieces of hardware to which you connect your hard drives to format them.
A popular hard disk eraser is the Drive eRazer Ultra that works even when there’s no working computer around.
While I’d like to write a long tutorial on using this device, it will be pretty useless, as you get a tutorial when you buy it anyway.
If you’re not a technician, this is much overkill because hard disk erasers like the Drive eRazer Ultra aren’t cheap. It’s better to find a friend with a working computer.
There are many reasons why you might want to wipe a hard drive from a dead computer, but there are a few ways to do so.
In this article, you’ll learn how to wipe the hard drive on a dead computer using a hammer to dismantle the device to using a dedicated hard drive formatting tool (hardware).
No matter how specific your case is, there is always a solution for you.