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How to Wipe an External Hard Drive: 5 Tips for Beginners

If you’re like most people, the way your computer stores data is a bit of a mystery. After all, it’s easy to magically “recover” files you’ve just sent to your device’s recycling bin, but some frustrated users have struggled for years to find easy-to-access files—notoriously on Windows PCs.

These data storage issues may make you anxious when the time comes to permanently delete your files. Whether you’re selling a hard drive, freeing up space, or clearing away sensitive data, it’s crucial to know how to wipe an external hard drive the right way. If you’re new to permanent data erasure, here are a few things worth knowing.

1. Don’t Forget to Back Up Crucial Files

This should go without saying, but before you start learning how to erase a hard drive, make sure you’ve backed up any data you want to keep. If there are any files you want to keep, make sure you’ve backed them up on a USB drive or via a cloud service.

2. Deleting Is Not the Same as Erasing

If you want to securely wipe a hard drive, it’s important to note that deleting a file doesn’t remove it from your device. Instead, it removes the information pointing to that file location, allowing the data to be overwritten at a later date. This means it is still possible to recover all or part of the file until it’s overwritten.

3. Reformat Your Hard Drive

Both Mac and Windows computers have reset features that allow you to reformat or do a factory reset of your external device. This will give you the option to remove files and clean the drive, ensuring that your system erases all files on your computer.

4. Consider Using Specialized Software

To wipe an external hard drive securely, there’s no easier way than using specialized software. There are plenty of free programs that can help you wipe your entire hard drive, whether you’re on a Windows or Mac. For professional use, tools like the software at can help your brand stay compliant or ensure data safety.

5. Do a Physical Wipe

Knowing how to wipe a hard drive with physical tactics can give you some added peace of mind if you want to be sure it’s impossible to recover your files. With a strong enough magnet, it’s possible to erase all data from your device in one fell swoop.

Know How to Wipe an External Hard Drive for Good

Whether you have a Windows or a Mac, it’s important to know how to wipe an external hard drive for good. Hitting “delete” isn’t enough to erase your files, so if you need to make sure there’s no way to recover your data, you’ll need to try one or more of the tactics above for a more thorough job. With a few clicks and some simple software, you’ll have no trouble getting rid of your unwanted data!

Need more helpful tech tips like these? Be sure to browse our other content for additional guides.

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