Wiping a Drive

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 7, 2016)

2

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Understanding the Gutter Margin

Most everyone knows that Word allows you to set top, bottom, left, and right margins for your document. There is another type ...

Discover More

Jumping to a Footnote

Jumping to a specific footnote can be very handy if your document has a lot of footnotes in it. Word provides the capability ...

Discover More

Entering Info into Multiple Cells

Want to make an entry of the same value into a group of selected cells? It's easy to do with just one small change in how you ...

Discover More
MORE WINDOWSTIPS

Adjusting the Mouse for Left-Handed Users

Since Windows is so customizable, it should come as no surprise that Microsoft has made accommodations for left-handed mouse ...

Discover More

Estimating Battery Life

The battery in your laptop provides the power you need to even use the system. As you use your laptop, you may notice that it ...

Discover More

Choosing How to Use Multiple Monitors

Do you have multiple monitors (or a projector) hooked up to your system? Here's how to utilize that second display device ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments for this tip:

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 2 + 7?

2016-03-07 08:39:14

WyoSteve

Is there any program or app which accomplishes this for Win7?


2016-03-07 08:38:20

Jennifer Thomas

Way back when, we used to run old drives between a pair of powerful magnets before reformatting them, the concept being that the EM would 'scramble' the drive's data beyond recoverability.

Does that still work? Did it ever really work?

Just idle curiosity, but if anyone knows I'd appreciate your input!


Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.

Links and Sharing
  • Ask a Question
  • Make a Comment
  • Free Business Forms
  • Free Calendars
  • Share