We carry a large amount of personal data on our laptops - from family photographs to bank account details. We’ll show you how to remove it all in a few easy steps. Here's how to wipe a laptop.
As our lives become ever more digital the amount of personal information stored on our laptops increases all the time. Wiping all of this data when selling a machine is an essential process, not only as it protects your personal information, but also because the buyer receives a relatively new laptop. In fact it’s actually a good idea to reinstall Windows every couple of years or so just to clear out files and processes that build up over time and slow a PC down. In this guide we’ll show you how to quickly and easily wipe your laptop with the free software included in every Windows 8.1 machine. If your data is particularly sensitive, then it might be worth using a dedicated secure erase program such as Eraser which adopts a more aggressive approach to your files.
On Windows 7 machines the process is a little different. The easiest way is to insert the original Windows disk that came with the machine, reboot your PC, then enter the BIOS and change the Boot Sequence so that CD/ROM is first. Now reboot again and you should be taken to the Windows installation menu where you can begin a fresh install.
Before we begin though it is of the utmost importance that you backup any data you need, as the reinstall process will delete all the files on your laptop. You can do this in Windows 8 using the File History feature, or Windows Backup in Windows 7. Alternatively there are a number of backup solutions available from companies such as Pipemetrics and Easeus.
How to wipe a laptop: Step by step guide for Windows 8.1
Step 1: On your Windows 8 machine open the charms bar on the right hand side of the screen by either moving your mouse pointer over there, pressing Windows+C, or swiping in from the right on a touchscreen laptop.
Step 2: Click on the Settings icon (the one that looks like a gear cog) at the bottom of the Charms bar then you’ll be presented with another menu. At the bottom are the words ‘Change PC settings’ click on this.
Step 3: In the PC settings menu you’ll see a large panel on the right and a menu column on the left. In the column are a number of options. The one we want is Update and recovery, so click on this.
Step 4: The next menu follows the same layout, only with a few less options this time. Although it might seem a little odd, as we’re soon to wipe the hard drive, the setting we need is Recovery. Select this.
Step 5: Now you have three main options. As we want to wipe all the files from the hard drive we’ll need to select ‘Remove everything and reinstall Windows’. Don’t worry, clicking on it won’t start the wipe straight away, so click Get Started.
Step 6: The next screen can be a little scary, as it features a dialog box warning you what will happen when you reset your PC. Clicking Next won’t start the procedure, but this is an excellent time to ensure you’ve backed up all your data.
Step 7: If your laptop has more than one drive installed, or if it has been partitioned to have virtual drives, then you’ll be presented with the option to decide which ones are wiped - either just the drive with Windows installed, or all of them. Select the latter, just to be safe.
Step 8: We have now reached the point of no return. Clicking on an option here will begin the wipe, so all that remains is which method to choose. To wipe the machine it needs to be ‘Clean the drive fully’. Click this then Windows will delete all files and reinstall itself.