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Completely and Securely Erasing Your Computer

Completely and Securely Erasing Your Computer

This is the scenario where you are selling to a third-party person who you don’t know and don’t want them to be able to ever see what you had on your computer. This method does a GREAT job for most users… however since we know about the NSA and there are insane forensic scientists that can do almost anything… its not 100% guaranteed that it will destroy everything. But it will render your data useless and irretrievable for anybody who is reading this web article and wants to do a good job removing their private information from their computer.

Again, remember this will impossibly remove all your data and your complete operating system (OS) (Windows, Mac, or Linux). You will be able to re-install those OSs later though since they remember your computers model number, in its most simplest explanation. Basically this means you don’t have to worry about Windows product keys anymore, which is nice. Before you do all these steps, be sure you have a copy of your Windows on flash drive or DVD for re-installation!! Luckily, I found an AWESOME program that lets you download ANY Windows files from Heidoc. You can use either link to download the program, I just listed my copy on Onedrive just in case the Heidoc link ever goes down. Download your Windows and install it to a USB drive just like we do DBAN Boot and Nuke below. For all this to happen, you will need a total of two (2) USB drives. One giant one (8gb or more) for Windows and one tiny one for DBAN.

Step 1: Download Dban Boot and Nuke

Go to DBAN Boot and Nuke and download DBAN, or click here for the direct download link. You have just downloaded an ISO file. This is basically an image of external media, like a DVD or CD disc. ISO are kind of like zip files where they contain all the files within them. So now we need to install the ISO file to an empty  flash drive.

Step 2: Download Rufus

This program installs the ISO file to an empty flash drive. You can’t erase your hard drive when you are running the software from that same hard drive, so installing it to a flash drive solves the problem. The flash drive does not need to be big, it can be just a 1gb flash drive, it just needs to be empty. Now go here to download Rufus.

Step 3: Run Rufus

You have DBAN Boot and Nuke, you have Rufus, let us use them! Plug in the flash drive and start Rufus by double click it. RufusYou will then be greeted by a small window of options as seen in the Rufus program image here. Make sure Device is set for your flash drive. My flash drive is named Annoyed. Next, leave Partition scheme and target system type, File System, and Cluster size as the defaults. Name the New Volume label whatever you want. My flash drive after it is done will be called DBAN.

Then, click on the dropdown that I circled in the Rufus image and change it to ISO Image, and click the little hard disk picture to the right of it, browse to where you saved DBAN Boot and Nuke (probably in your Downloads folder), and select that.

When you have it selected, click the Start button! It will give you a warning that all data on the flash drive will be destroyed. That is why it needs to be empty because it will use up the entire flash drive, click the OK button.

wait…

wait…

wait…

DONE! Click Close.

Step 4: Run DBAN from the flash drive

Next is the hardest part and it is extremely computer manufacturer specific. You will need to leave the flash drive in your USB port and reboot your computer. Immediately after you reboot your computer, you will have to start button mashing on one of the buttons. When I say button mash, I mean press the key repeatedly until something happens (tap tap tap tap tap tap tap). Some computers allow you to directly access boot order without messing with BIOS, which is awesome, do that if you can. Here are my best representations of what you might need to do:

  • Dell: button mash F2 key, or F12 for boot selection
  • HP: button mash F10 key, or F9 for boot selection
  • Asus: button mash DEL key
  • Compaq: (really??) button mash F10 or F1 key (try one, if it doesn’t work try the other)
  • Toshiba: button mash F2 key
  • Google the term: “Computer Brand” bios and look at the top hits. If you have trouble, leave me a message in the comments and I can help you find it.

Once you are in the bios… its continues to stay complicated. DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING EXCEPT WHAT YOU NEED TO TOUCH. Bios is where you can really mess up your computer. If you are to categorize the computer as a person… the computers processor is the brain and BIOS is the spinal cord. Mess up the spinal cord and it all falls to sh!t (all my love to spinal cord injury victims and congenital spinal cord complicated people–I am a huge advocate for public accessibility requirements).

In the bios, you are looking for an item termed “Boot Order” or something along that line:BIOS boot order

After you find this screen, you will want to set your USB drive to the first position. Using the directions from the above image, you would use the + sign on your keyboard to move the “Removable Devices” line up to the top. After you get it to the top, push the F10 key. Your computer will then reboot and start straight into DBAN Boot and Nuke!

Step 5: Using DBAN

The first screen you will see is this:
DBAN start screen

Its ugly, yes, but effective. Push your Enter key. It will then do a bunch of stuff:
dban loading

Just keep your fingers off the keyboard while its doing that thing. The weird marks in the “……” above was where I was pushing keys when I shouldn’t have been. Don’t do what I did. It won’t hurt it, but just don’t.

Next, you will be at the decision screen:
dban decision

Make sure the Method above is set for DoD Short. That means it is using Department of Defense Short method, which it goes through each bite and changes it from 1 to 0 or 0 to 1 for 3 passes. This will be just fine for 99.9% of you readers out there. If your method is correct, just hit your space bar to change the box from blank to “wipe”.dban wipe

Once everything is good, push the button F10 on your keyboard to start!dban boot and nuke running

Now, go do something else because this will take about 3-5 HOURS depending on how fast your computer runs and how big your hard drive is.

Step 6: Reinstall Your Operating System

Like I said way earlier, you should have Windows or Mac OS on a separate flash drive ready to go for re-installation. Take out the DBAN USB drive and plug in your Windows/Linux/Mac OS USB drive. Your computer is already set to boot from the USB drive from your efforts earlier when you changed the BIOS, so it should launch right into installing Windows! You will need to reinstall Windows otherwise you are selling someone a non-usable computer and that is just not nice. Reinstall Windows using very generic username and passwords since you will be selling this to someone. Make the username “user” and password “password” for your windows installation and give that info to your buyer.

Tada! You have successfully erased your computer using government-grade erasing technology and it is ready for selling without giving over all your precious files/information. If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer as thoroughly as possible.

Categories: Computers, Technology

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