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Crush your PC: delete data securely and completely

Instructions on how you can make your PC completely flat by permanently deleting all data on a PC and then setting it up again.

If you want to sell your old computer when you switch to a new system, you face a problem: Because even if you have deleted all personal documents and pictures, it does not automatically mean that they cannot be recovered. The biggest risk in selling a PC is leaving behind data that can be used to uniquely identify you or to access your Internet accounts. To prevent that from happening, you need to get rid of your traces by crushing your PC or laptop. We'll show you how to do this in the following article.

  • To completely remove data from a computer, it is not enough to simply move it to the Recycle Bin.
  • With special rescue programs, data can be restored even after deletion.
  • Before you sell a PC, you should make the hard drives flat and install a fresh Windows.


1. Make the PC completely flat: Out of sight ... is not really deleted!

It could all be so simple: You simply clean files that are no longer used with Right click -> Delete from the disk and this automatically ends up in the trash. However, they are still far from being deleted, Windows only stores them in its own folder. If you want to retrieve a file, you just have to right-click it in the recycle bin and select the "Restore" option. Then it appears again in the original place.

Accidentally deleted files can be restored from the recycle bin with just a few clicks of the mouse.

What comes in handy in the event of an accidentally deleted file is not enough for a thorough cleanup (for example, if you plan to resell your computer). If you empty the recycle bin, the operating system will release the affected memory areas, However, telltale traces remain on the system, with the help of which the data and even invisible content can be reconstructed.

For example, the Windows NTFS file system also saves file information on the data carrier. Windows stores all folders and files as well as their attributes in the so-called MFT (Master File Table), which is located in a protected area of ​​the hard disk. However, you can still access it with some data recovery tools. The only way to remove the information in the MFT is to press theCompletely iron out the hard disk and the operating system - Unfortunately, formatting or repartitioning is not enough.

Tip: You can set the maximum size of your Windows recycle bin via right-click and "Properties". However, should it ever become overcrowded, the newly added content will overwrite the oldest files.

2. Basic cleaning, please! With these steps you can completely wipe out a PC

There is only a guarantee that your data cannot be recovered if you physically destroy the hard drive.

First of all: A one hundred percent guarantee that the data on your computer cannot be restored is only available if you have the Physically destroy the hard disk. Of course, this is usually not an option, so the safest way to clean up a computer is to format and partition the hard drives and then rebuild the system. We will explain how to do this in the following sections.

2.1. Everything has to go: format hard drives

In front of a Reinstall the operating system you must first remove the old data by making the hard drive (s) of the PC flat. The easiest way to do this is with software such as the free tool Darik’s Boot and Nuke, "DBAN" for short (download it here). You can choose to delete your entire hard drive or just individual partitions. The program overwrites the data several times and, in contrast to conventional formatting, ensures secure deletion.

Good to know: It is not possible to delete data carriers during operation under Windows, so you have to start your computer from another bootable medium.

First, create bootable media.

Download and build from the DBAN ISO file a bootable DVD or a USB stick. We explain exactly how this works here.

Warning: Please note that the entire hard disk will be overwritten with the following instructions. This means that the manufacturer's operating system and recovery partitions are also irrevocably deleted.

  1. Start your computer from the bootable DVD or USB stick. You may have to change the boot order in the BIOS to do this.
  2. The DBAN start screen appears. So that too hidden hard drive areas, the so-called HPAs ("Host Protected Area"), are overwritten, enter the command dban libata.ignore_hpa = 1

    in the CMD line and confirm with "return“.

  3. The program now shows the recognized hard drives and the possible parameters to overwrite. Use the "M.“In the menu for the overwrite procedure.
  4. Navigate with the help of the arrow keys to the point "PRNG Stream " and confirm your selection with the "Space bar“.

With DBAN you can completely flat the hard drives of your PC.

  1. Now select the hard drives that you want to overwrite by using [wipe] to mark. Start the process with the button "F10" to start formatting. The remaining time is shown in the "Statistics" under "Remaining“Is displayed.
  2. To Completion of the process DBAN shows a success message ("pass"). If DBAN was unable to format a selected hard disk for any reason, you will receive an error message ("ERROR").

A detailed guide to the Erasing hard drives with DBAN can also be found in this video tutorial:

2.2. Everything at the beginning: partition hard drives and reinstall Windows

After you have formatted the hard drives as described above, the most important things are already done. However, brings one Computer without an operating system relatively little, and Windows should be preinstalled again when it is sold.

Since the hard drives are empty, nothing works without a CD. To set up your computer again you need a bootable installation media, that the Windows ISO file and can alternatively be in the form of an external hard drive or a USB stick.

  1. Place the Boot DVD into the drive or start the computer from the external hard drive / USB stick.
  2. The installation wizard for Windows 10 opens. Choose "German" as language setting. Click on "Further"And then on"Install now“.

    Start the setup of Windows 10 by clicking on "Install now".

  3. Enter your license key and confirm the Microsoft license agreement. You can do that Enter the key later, but will be asked to do so several times during the installation.
  4. Now you can choose how you want to install Windows 10 on your computer. Since a new installation is to be carried out, click on "Custom: Install Windows only“.

    For a new installation of Windows 10, select the option "Custom: Install Windows only".

  5. In the following window you will see the currently existing partitions. You should definitely delete them for a clean installation. The Repartitioning including the creation of the hidden partitions (for Windows and EFI) are done automatically during the installation. Then click on "Further“.
  6. Choose whether you want a Express Installation (with suggested settings) or a custom installation want to perform and click on "Further“.

Time for a coffee break!

  1. The installation process begins. There for it took some time you can now enjoy a caffeinated hot drink with a clear conscience or use the time for other purposes.
  2. In the next window, select who owns the PC ("My company"Or "Me") and confirm with "Further“.
  3. In the next step you have the option to create a Microsoft account. You can also just skip the process.

    If you don't want to create a Microsoft account, you can simply skip this step.

  4. In the next window, put one Login PIN fixed or skip the process. You can also enter the PIN Activate later. Instructions can be found here.
  5. If you want to use the services of the digital assistant "Cortana", click in the next window from "Further". If you do not want any help, simply reject it via "Not now“From.
  6. After a short set-up time Windows installation is complete and the cleaned system is ready for use.

    Decide for yourself whether Cortana should be your personal voice assistant.

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Photo credits: Adobe Stock / Company V, Adobe Stock / tommoh29 (sorted by order in the article)