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The PC will be given away, but it should be reduced to a clean and empty disk without any OS on it, with a user in mind who is possibly interested in recovering confidential data.

The PC was reset to work settings, hence features just Win 8 Pro. But that needs to go as well.

In the end, nothing should be on the disk, and it ideally should consist of 0 partitions.

Disk Management does not offer formatting the OS partition, and a good old Format C: won't work either. Also MSConfig doesn't seem to offer a solution. What else can I try?

  • 1
    Within WinPE delete the partitions then cancel the installation and shut the PC down. – Ramhound Jan 26 '18 at 10:32
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    Download Slitaz (slitaz.org), its small sized linux OS and can be make as a bootable using Rufus(rufus.akeo.ie). Then use linux disk format tool.. – Vishwa Jan 26 '18 at 11:55
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    not really an answer, but depending on your hourly rate or busy schedule, a new drive off the shelf might be faster, cheaper (and guaranteed clean) option. – Yorik Jan 26 '18 at 15:41
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    Just secure erase it. – Michael Hampton Jan 27 '18 at 8:40
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    Possible duplicate of Securely erasing all data from a hard drive – Michael Hampton Jan 27 '18 at 8:41
20
  1. Prepare a bootable Windows medium. If you don't have a Windows DVD or flash drive, you can download Windows ISO and create one.

  2. Boot using the medium you have just created.

  3. Wait for a window with an Install now button. When it shows up, press Shift+F10. Command prompt will appear.

  4. Type diskpart, press Enter and wait until Diskpart is ready.

  5. Type list disk Enter. A numbered list of disks will be printed. Note the number next to the disk you want to erase.

  6. Type select disk <number> Enter (replace <number> with your disk's number).

  7. Type one of these commands:

    • clean - to quickly erase all partitions without wiping entire disk, data will still be recoverable if one attempts to
    • clean all - to wipe entire hard disk, it will take a long time but data won't be recoverable

Performing full erase is not recommended on SSD disks, which have their lifespan limited by number of write commands. Overwriting entire disk with zeros (using any method or tool, not just clean all) will reduce it significantly. For self-encrypting SSDs resetting the encryption key is way quicker and just as secure, but doesn't wear out SSD cells. For other SSDs ATA secure erase may be a better choice, although performing it is more complex.

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    This would be my preferred method, came here with the intention of posting something similar, instead i'll just link this handy mirror server for the old digital river server where you can get most ISO files if you need. ISO's are legit and you still need product keys, no theft here. Just handy. Always check hash checksums. – Ciaran McKenzie Jan 26 '18 at 10:58
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    @CiaranMcKenzie or just download straight from Microsoft using their tool which has built in Windows flash drive creation feature :) – gronostaj Jan 26 '18 at 11:23
  • I haven't used this but my past experiences with Microsoft have taught me that sometimes the simplest of things is like drawing blood from a stone. If it is as straightforward as you say, fantastic! I'm sure people will try it first because it's in the answer, however if that doesn't work for people then it's good to have a backup plan! – Ciaran McKenzie Jan 26 '18 at 11:32
  • Some magnetic drives support the SATA secure-erase commands, too. If they don't encrypt internally, this will take hours to complete, but is at least as good as writing zeros over the whole drive (and maybe better if it also covers remapped sectors). – Peter Cordes Jan 28 '18 at 10:15
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GParted Live

  1. Download GParted Live
  2. Burn to CD or USB with Rufus
  3. Boot from CD/USB (in the rare case it won't start run GParted in compatibility mode and it will for sure.)
  4. Delete your partitions.

It's really that easy easy. (As an alternative any popular live linux distro has GParted included.)

  • 1
    The easiest solution imo. I always have a Linux distro on my usb for these very tools and how easy they are to access. – I'm here for Winter Hats Jan 26 '18 at 18:17
  • @WJAndrea Yup, I mentioned it's on most live linux distros. But if you're in a hurry GParted images to a usb or cd 10X faster – LateralTerminal Jan 26 '18 at 20:20
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If you want to be really sure there's nothing left behind, look at a secure disk erase program. There are several included with UBCD, which you can download and make bootable using the same techniques promoted by other answers here.

But the main point everyone agrees on is, "You can't do this from within Windows."

Whatever happens, you'll need to prepare and boot to a different operating system in order to complete this task.

7

Luckily, you have several options in your hand to follow. I will tell about two of the easiest and convenient ways you can try:

1. Using windows installation disk: If you have windows operating system installation disk around you, simply put the disc in your CD-Rom and restart your PC. This time boot your PC from the inserted Disc (Not from your hard drive). Actually you should go through the windows installation steps (But don't install fully) and when the Drive options come up, then delete all the drives and take off the disc and power off your PC forcibly (Maybe by unplugging it). That's it, now you will be with a fresh hard drive.

If you are unfamiliar with the Windows Installation, have a look at: The Ultimate Guide to Installing Windows 7. Trust me, it is as easy as 1-2-3.

2. Using a Bootable Partition Manager: This technique is also very simple and you may do some more advanced task through this method. You may use WinPE from Microsoft which offers similar task: WinPE: Create USB Bootable drive

Some third-party bootable Partition Manager are available in the market also which can be booted to a USB-drive and launch from there. Then you will have a nice GUI (Graphical User Interface) of an advanced Partition Manager. From there, you can simply achieve your task. You may look at this tool: IM-Magic Partition Resizer

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    @LateralTerminal Really? His answer is no different then your own. Why the critique ? – Tonny Jan 26 '18 at 15:05
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    @Tonny because I didn't read his answer thoroughly. I deleted my comment. – LateralTerminal Jan 26 '18 at 15:10
  • @LateralTerminal Fair enough :-) – Tonny Jan 26 '18 at 16:02
6

Want to do this task thoroughly?

Create a DBAN disk. Download and burn the ISO and boot to it. It is also possible to burn an ISO to bootable USB.

At the boot: prompt type autonuke and press enter.
WARNING: This will permanently destroy data on all detected hard drives connected to the system.

Wait for it to do its magic.

This will not simply delete everything, it will destroy all data by 3x overwriting with random data and theoretically prevents even forensic recovery. Under a separate function, a wipe to full DoD 5220.22-M method is possible.

  • 3
    Welcome to Super User! You can freely edit your own posts but for your protection, this must be done under the original user account. It looks like you have created a second account, which will also interfere with your ability to comment within your post. See Merge my accounts to get your accounts merged, which will solve the problem. – fixer1234 Jan 27 '18 at 3:44
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    This will waste write cycles on SSD drives, reducing their lifespan. – gronostaj Jan 27 '18 at 11:29
  • @fixer1234 Now that I can reply, thank you. I posted as a guest and finalised the account on the next page which resulted in two users being created. – Willtech Jan 28 '18 at 1:28
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    @gronostaj True, with the steps provided the impact is the same as writing 3 x the capacity of the drive, I do not know that it would be a significant impact. On the DBAN page, there is another utility available for purchase (or, free trial) which claims to be able to secure erase SSD. I have not tried it. – Willtech Jan 28 '18 at 1:33
3

Alternatively use Hiren's Boot CD

Undoubtedly the most controversial option, but to be fair it has a plethora of handy tools for partitioning/formatting which are open source and/or free (or whose old editions were free when Hiren's boot CD was created) which might save time instead of trying one thing after the other.

This all in one tool, boasts a wide array of options when it comes to partitioning tools; Partion Wizard, GParted, Partition table etc that are good in terms of wiping/formatting data on HDD. You are spoilt for choice in this case.

Usage is similar to other Live CDs setup:

  • Perhaps the preffered live usb creator is Universal USB Installer (which optionally gives a direct download link to Hiren's boot CD) or rufus.

  • Boot into OS and select on the the partitioning tools to work with.

  • I forgot about this mess. Why is it controversial? I haven't heard of any controversy – LateralTerminal Jan 29 '18 at 17:29
  • @LateralTerminal there was a meta post, where users where debating the issue about Hiren's boot cd containing bundle of unlicensed software: What should mods do with links to supposedly pirated software but I guess its more of an opinion than a fact :) – xavier_fakerat Jan 29 '18 at 18:22
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    As long as theres no malware in it I don't see a problem. I prefer open source software but in the end I want what gets the job done XD – LateralTerminal Jan 29 '18 at 18:25

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