By Delia / Last update September 26, 2021

Scenario: wipe laptop but keep Windows 10

Friend ask me to remove all traces of him before he gives laptop to his sister. How to wipe it and keep Windows 10? My idea is to clean install win10 with jump drive and then wipe free space.

Why would you want to wipe hard drive without deleting Windows? The most common reason, as in the case above, is that you want to resell or give away your old computer but not with your private data. Or maybe you are trying to reuse an old hard drive, and plan to free up space, clean viruses, remove malware via disk wiping.

If you are in a similar situation, keep reading and try following methods to implement it easily and securely.

wipe hard drive without deleting windows

Can you wipe hard drive securely without deleting Windows?

First of all, the answer is yes. You can wipe a hard drive while keeping Windows 10/8/7.

Check the information below and choose the method suits your case.

PLEASE NOTE: manual deletion is not secure, not only because you may miss a lot of hidden data or delete something mistakenly, but also because files marked as “deleted” can be easily recovered.

If you want to reuse an old hard drive without major problems, but there's very little storage space left

☛ You don’t necessarily need to wipe the entire hard drive, just format those non-system drives (e.g. D, E) to free up space. Right-click the drive you want to erase, choose Format and select a file system to Start. Note if you want to make the data harder to recover, uncheck the option “Quick Format”.

If the old hard drive you want to reuse is not running smoothly or has system errors

☛ Unfortunately you cannot directly Format C drive without deleting Windows, but there’s a Reset this PC feature could wipe everything off the hard drive and then reinstall Windows. Thus all the problems will be solved at once. See Method 1 for details.

If you want to resell or give away the old PC, and don’t want others to access your data

☛ Then both Method 1 and Method 2 will work, but if you have stored some important or sensitive data on this hard drive, or your computer is running Windows 7/earlier OS, Method 2 will be a better choice.

Method 1. Reset PC to wipe hard drive without deleting Windows

Windows 10 Reset this PC enables you to keep personal files or remove everything while restoring computer to default state. If you choose the latter, anything that doesn’t come with the PC will be removed.

This function is actually inherited from Windows 8 Refresh your PC. It could wipe hard drive before reinstalling Windows, and overwrite the remaining data via writing zero to hard drive, which makes it harder to recover.

In Windows 10, there are 2 approaches to access it:

>> If you can log on to Windows normally: Start > Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Reset this PC

>> If you want to wipe a hard drive without logging in: Enter Windows 10 recovery mode via installation disc or recovery drive > Select language and region > Next > Repair your computer > Troubleshot > Reset this PC

*For Windows 8, you can read this guide provided by Microsoft.

1. After choosing it to get started, you can select Remove everything on the next page to erase all your personal files, apps and settings on the hard drive.

remove everything

2. Then you will be given options to Just remove my files or Fully clean the drive. Choose the second one if you won’t keep the PC anymore.

fully clean the drive

3. Confirm the operation and click Reset.

reset

When it’s complete, your computer will reboot and you can either proceed to set up Windows, or stop here to discard the hard drive completely.

Method 2. Wipe hard drive and then clean install Windows 10 (safer)

Reset PC is a relatively secure wiping method in Windows 10/8, but not the safest one. If you want to further ensure that sensitive data is unrecoverable, or need to wipe a hard drive with earlier OS like Windows 7, then you need an effective wiping tool, AOMEI Backupper, for example.

It has a free Standard edition works on Windows 10/8/7/XP/Vista, which integrates a handy Disk Wipe tool to wipe HDD/external hard drive/USB drive securely.

With it, you can wipe only selected drives without deleting Windows to free up disk space, or wipe an entire hard disk (even system disk) and then perform clean installation.

It contains complete backup & restore functions. So in ordinary use, you can schedule system backup for disaster recovery, or adopt continuous data protection for files & folders.

If you upgrade to Professional edition, you could unlock more secure wiping methods like DoD 52220.22-M (with 7 passes) or Gutmann (with 35 passes).

You can have a try on the Standard edition, and upgrade to enjoy more secure wiping methods if necessary.

Download Freeware Win 10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Procedure to wipe hard drive and clean install Windows 10:

>> Use MediaCreationTool to create installation USB. You can find detailed steps here: Windows 10 recovery tools.

>> Install AOMEI Backupper. If there’s any data important, backup files to external hard drive in advance.

>> Follow the guide below to wipe the hard drive, then insert the created USB to clean install Windows 10.

*If you need to clean install Windows 7, please refer to this detailed tutorial.

How to wipe system disk with AOMEI Backupper?

1. Go to Tools tab and select Disk Wipe from the list.

disk wipe

2. Choose to Wipe disk and hit Next, then select the system disk on the next page.

Currently, this software doesn’t support erasing dynamic disks.

choose wipe disk

You will be prompted to execute disk wiping in reboot mode. Click OK to continue. 

Note: you can’t enter Windows after wiping the system disk, so if you have anything else to do, do it in advance.

system disk warning

3. Then your computer will boot into WinPE. Continue the operation here and select a wiping method you like.

choose wiping method

4. Click Start to execute it.

How to clean install Windows 10 after hard drive wiping?

  • Insert the USB and boot from it, if not, enter BIOS to set it as the 1st boot option.
  • Then you will be introduced to the installation process, follow the wizard to complete it.
  • Since it's on the same computer, you don't have to enter the product key during installation.

clean install windows 10

Conclusion

You may want to wipe hard drive without deleting Windows 10/8/7 before reselling or giving it away, but since manual deletion is not a secure way, you need to try something else.

This post includes 2 effective solutions: Reset this PC and disk wiping software. If you are particularly concerned about data issue, you can combine AOMEI Backupper and installation USB to wipe a hard drive & reinstall Windows.

AOMEI is not only a disk wiping tool, but also includes backup & restore, file sync and disk clone features. When it comes to hard drive replacement, you can use it to clone HDD to SSD and then wipe the old hard drive, or clone only OS to SSD directly with secure boot.