Wiping a Drive

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 7, 2016)

If you've been using Windows for quite some time, you may be familiar with the command prompt and some of the commands you can use there. If you are using Windows 8 or Windows 10, you may not be familiar with a change made to a familiar command: format.

Starting in Windows 8, the format command now allows you to use the /p switch, which causes the command to not only format a drive, but also to perform as many passes on the data surface as you want. Multiple passes decreases the likelihood that someone could successfully retrieve information that used to be on the drive. If you plan on giving the drive to someone else and you previously had information on the drive you don't want them to potentially recover, then using the /p switch is a good idea.

As an example, let's say that you had an external drive (F:) that you want to give to someone else. After you've copied all the information from the drive, you can display the command prompt window (as discussed in other WindowsTips) and then use this command:

format f: /p:5

This command performs 5 formatting passes. While this may take a while to complete, the process makes the probability of anyone accessing old information vanishingly small. (It sure beats the old way I used to make sure nobody could access data on a drive I no longer needed: Hitting it multiple times with a three-pound sledgehammer.)

 This tip (2596) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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