How To Securely Wipe A Laptop

securely wipe data on laptop

Laptops only have a lifespan of between 3-5 years. Eventually, they need replacing. When the time comes, it is important to securely wipe the laptop with data sanitisation software.

Hard drives store sensitive data including the personal details of consumers and employees, intellectual property and trade secrets.

Whilst transferring documents to the trash and emptying the Recycle Bin seems simple enough, it’s not sufficient.

A computer’s Recycle Bin feature only removes the files from view. End users can no longer see the data, but it is still stored on the disk drive. It is, therefore, recoverable by anyone with data recovery software.

If your laptop or the disk drive that is in the laptop is picked up by a hacker, they will have access to financial documents, passwords stored on your browser and any other sensitive data that was saved to the hard drive.

You may also want to periodically sanitise company-owned laptops that have been issued to employees. This helps to clear up space on the hard drive so the laptop functions better and will wipe out potential viruses that may be lurking undetected.

Why You Should Securely Wipe A Laptop

Securely wiping a laptop of data is even more critical with the introduction of GDPR penalties. Government authorities have strict regulations for sanitising data.

Article 32 of the GDPR states that companies must take measures to mitigate “the risks associated with the processing – in particular destruction, loss or alteration, whether inadvertent or unlawful or unauthorised disclosure of or unauthorised access to personal data transmitted, stored or otherwise”.

Data leaks that could have been avoided had efficient measures been taken will be rite subject of hefty fines – up to £17 million or 4% of your global annual turnover (whichever is greater).

Data deletion standards vary between industries, but every company has an obligation to protect the private data of its customers and employees.

Before you discard a laptop that has been used for work purposes, take steps to ensure you completely wipe the hard drive free of data.

You can’t rely on a factory rest to securely tip data from your laptop.

Laptops Require More Than A Factory Reset

A factory reset returns a laptop back to the original condition it was in when you initially purchased it. That means all the applications are restored to their original settings and any data or folders you created are wiped from the operating system.

However, the data you created is not wiped from the hard drive.

hard drive in laptop

Inside a laptop are two rating disks known as platters. They store data on the hard drive in chunks of 1s and 0s. With data forensic tools, a hacker can recover data from the platters and reverse engineer the 0s and 1s.

Therefore, the factory reset gives you a false sense of security. Until the hard drive is overwritten, the data can be recovered by anybody that gets their hands on your hard drive.

In this article, we discuss the various options you have to securely wipe a laptop and provide step-by-step instructions to wipe a hard drive from a variety of laptops.

Backup Your Data Before Wiping A Laptop

Before you securely wipe a laptop, back up the files and folder you want to keep. You can either do this via cloud storage, an external hard drive or USB.

The size of the files you want to save and transfer will determine the amount of storage space you need. Some cloud options include:

  • OneDrive
  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox

Removing the Hard Drive

If you’re retiring a laptop due to its age and either giving it away or disposing of it, you may want to simply remove the hard drive and keep it safely in your possession.

The simple solution here is to purchase a caddy, such as a CD-Rom or solid storage drive (SSD). The number and memory capacity of the caddies or SSD’s will be determined by the amount of data you are saving.

Before migrating data onto an external storage device, install recognised encryption software, enable encryption, format the storage drive and reset the operating system.

Replace the Hard Drive 

If the laptop is still in reasonable working condition and you intend to sell the device as second-hand goods, the best option is to remove the existing hard drive and replace it with a hard drive of the same size.

The process of removing a hard drive differs from one laptop to the next. Refer to the documentation that came with your laptop for safely removing the hard drive or track down an online source.

Alternatively, contact a local IT support service and ask experienced IT professionals to change the hard drive for you.

IT Solutions

If you do take the decision to replace the hard drive, you will need to replace it with a new drive that is compatible with your laptop. Depending on the age of your laptop hunting down a compatible hard drive may be tricky.

Once the new hard drive is in place, you will need to reinstall the operating system before you use it for the first time. You may also need to format and partition the hard drive but most operating systems do this for you automatically.

Blancco Data Wipes

There are a number of software programs that can permanently erase your hard drive. Data wipe software overwrites deleted files with encrypted data that is incomprehensible.

We use Blancco and offer data wipes as a service. Our IT support professionals in LondonSurreyKent or Glasgow, will visit your business premises and perform the procedure on-site.

Blancco uses rigorous standards for secure data erasure and mobile device diagnostics. There’s little chance you can recover any data even with sophisticated data recovery software.

For many IT Solution professionals, Blancco LUN Eraser is the most effective way to securely wipe a laptop permanently. To help with compliance, you also receive a certified and tamper-proof report that confirms a complete data sanitisation has been performed.

Free Data Destruction Software 

Blancco is typically a paid service offered by IT support service providers but there also a raft of free portable erasure utilities that run from a USB drive and wipes your hard drive.

If you’re periodically cleansing laptops that are used for business purposes to clean up disk space or overwrite existing memory on the hard drive, free data destruction software could be a cost-effective solution.

The type of sanitising program you choose will depend on what you want to wipe. Free data wiping software typically has specialist features such as wiping file or drives. Some will give you the option to preserve or remove selected drives from your operating system (OS).

Another issue SMEs may face is the length of time it takes for free data wipes to complete. It could take several hours to make one sweep and you may need between three and seven wipes to ensure all data has been erased.

  • Disk Wipe
  • DBAN
  • Parted Magic
  • KillDisk
  • BleachBit
  •  CCleaner

How to Wipe a Laptop Hard Drive in Microsoft Windows 8.1 and 10

Wiping a hard drive is relatively straightforward on Microsoft Windows laptops. The procedure is more complicated if you want to securely wipe a laptop so we recommend following the recommendations above.

Otherwise, follow the steps below:

  1. Select Settings (the gear icon on the Start menu)
  2. Select Update & security, then Recovery
  3. Choose Remove everything, then Remove files and clean the drive
  4. Then click Next, Reset, and Continue

How to Wipe a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) on Apple Mac

Before wiping your hard drive on your Mac, Apple recommends signing out of all your accounts including iCloud, iTunes and iMessage.

  1. Turn your laptop on and immediately hold down the command and R keys
  2. Open Application>Utilities>disk utility
  3. Click Continue
  4. Select the disk you want to erase from the sidebar
  5. Select erase
  6. Click the Security Options button

Note: The Security Options window includes a slider with 4 notches that enables you to determine how thoroughly you erase the hard drive.

The fastest setting is quick but not thorough. Data can potentially be rebuilt with a recovery app. Move the slider to the right to select progressively securer data deletion.

7. For maximum security, move the slider all the way across and click OK.

8. To start the cleansing process click Erase.

How to Wipe a Dell Hard Drive

  1. Turn the laptop on and press the “F8” key as the computer is booting up. The “Advanced Boot Options” will appear on the screen.
  2. Navigate to the “Repair Your Computer” option and press Enter.
  3. Select your language settings and click Next.
  4. Enter the admin user name and password and click OK.
  5. Click the “Dell Factory Image Restore” option and clock on Next in the pop-up window.
  6. Click the “Yes, reformat the hard drive and restore system software to factory condition” option and click “Next”. This will activate the cleansing.
  7. Click “Finish” once the process is complete.

How to Wipe a Hard Drive on an HP laptop

  1. Back up data: Start>All Programs>System Tools>Accessories.
  2. Scroll down and click on Backup. This will launch the Windows Backup and Restore Wizard; navigate through the interface using the Next or Back buttons.
  3. Select “Let me choose what to back up” and specify the appropriate directories and files you want to backup.
  4. Transfer data back up to a flash drive or an SSD.
  5. Click “Finish” to start the process.
  6. Navigate to System Recovery by clicking on Start.
  7. Select All Programs and scroll down to PC Recovery.
  8. Click Next to automatically restart the computer.
  9. The PC Recovery window will appear upon reboot. Select System Recovery from the prompts in the panel. This will initiate the reformat process.
  10. Once the reformatting is complete restart the laptop and reinstates the data you saved on the backup

How to Wipe a Laptop Hard Drive on Levono

To wipe the hard drive of a Levono laptop, Levono recommends using their “ThinkShield Secure Wipe” feature and following the steps below:

  1. Reboot the system
  2. Press the F12 key to load the BIOS boot menu
  3. Press tab to switch to App Menu
  4. Select “ThinkShield Secure Wipe” from the list
  5. Follow on-screen instructions to wipe the disk

How to Wipe an Acer Hard Drive

Acer laptops have a utility called Acer eRecovery Management which reformats and reinstalls the Windows OS. To start the program:

  1. Click Start>All Programs> Acer>Acer eRecovery Management
  2. On the Restore tab, select Restore System to Factory Default and click “Yes” when prompted.
  3. Click Start and OK to restart the computer.
  4. Acer eRecovery Management will then reformat the hard drive and reinstall Windows.
  5. Click “OK” when the process ends. The computer will reboot.
  6. Follow the on-screen prompts to set up Windows.

IT Support Experts in London

Remember, simply reinstalling Windows or macOS will not securely wipe a laptop. Data is not completely wiped clean from a laptop until the hard drive has been overwritten.

To thoroughly wipe data from a laptop hard drive, you need to overwrite it with ones and zeroes.

Whilst we have described the various methods of securely wiping a laptop in this article, the most efficient way is to let IT support professionals handle data sanitisation for you.

Our experienced IT support experts in LondonSurreyKent and Glasgow, will attend your business premises and perform the data wipe on-premises. This way you can safely observe the procedure and not have to worry about any stolen or leaked data.

To find out more about how to securely wipe a laptop, speak to one of our IT support team who will be happy to explain the process and the necessity of ensuring your hard drives are completely cleansed.

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