By Ivy / Last update October 22, 2021

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What does write zeros to hard drive mean?

Before saying the meaning of writing zeros to hard drive, you may need to see how the hard drive stores and reads files, which makes your better understand the write zero method.

The hard drive stores the data on the surface of magnetic and rotating platters (located in the hard disk case) and it reads data by the magnetic polarities on the platter. The magnetic polarities has two sides, also called binary data, one is 0 and the other is 1. And this is how the computer knows where the data is stored.

Then, how to write zeros to hard drive in Windows 7/8/10/11? You need to remove the binary data by overwriting the zeros and ones with new data, here use a zero value to replace original and readable data on the disk, thus preventing most hardware-based and all software-based recovery methods from extracting information from the disk. The write zeros method is also called single overwrite, zero-fill erase or zero-fill.

Why zero fill a hard drive?

Searching online, you may find that many users want to zero fill a hard drive, the following is a user case from superuser forum.

Windows 7: does formatting a disk actually write zeros to it?

I need to write zeros to hard drive in Windows 7 and ensure all personal files are securely erased before selling out or donating to others.
According to this article from Microsoft, zeros are written to an entire disk when it is formatted (not using the quick format option) in Windows Vista and newer versions of Windows, but it does not mention Windows 7. My question is the following:
Does this also apply to Windows 7? The above article from Microsoft does not specify Windows 7 under "Applies to", although Windows 7 is (to the best of my knowledge) a later version? 

- Question from superuser

This is one of the most common reasons why you need to erase data on the hard drive, it’s to ensure no privacy leakage. Another reason is you want to upgrade hard drive to larger and use the old one as a second storage device.

4 free zero fill hard drive utilities to wipe disk

To zero fill hard drive, it’s essential use a proper software, which can ensure all your personal data are securely erased instead of staying on the computer, and can be recovered easily using a specific data recovery software.

Here I will introduce you 4 zero fill hard drive utilities, just choose one of them per your situations.

? This first one is full format command, which can write zeros to the whole disk in Windows Vista and later version, including Windows 7/8/8.1/10/11. 

? The second one is using “clean all” command in DiskPart, which will wipe hard drive thoroughly and zero out every sectors with zeros. Note that the “clean” command works as “delete”, which only make data invisible on the current disk.

? The third one you will use is system repair disc. It applies to write zeros to primary drive (usually C: drive) of any Windows computer, or Windows XP and earlier version.

? The fourth one is third-party software AOMEI Backupper Standard. It has a useful feature called Wipe Disk that can be used on any system, either data disk or system disk. Also, it still supports Peter Gutmann, fill sectors with random data, DoD 52220.22-M in the professional version.  

How to write zeros to hard drive in Windows 7/8/10/11 safely

Here are 4 useful ways to write all zeros to hard drive, but the process cannot be undo and the data stored on the hard drive cannot be recovered. Thus, it’s a wise choice to backup file or backup system in advance.

Then, how to create a backup image for your files or computer? AOMEI Backupper Standard can help, because it’s still a Windows backup software. You can not only use it to do a single backup in case of disaster, but also schedule backup in daily/weekly/monthly to continuously protect your data or computer.

Backup files before writing all zeros to hard drive

Step 1. Download free backup software AOMEI Backupper Standard and install it on your computer. Then, launch it, click Backup and File Backup in order.

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
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File Backup

Note: If the hard drive is a system disk, it’s suggested to do a complete system backup. It includes the operating system, system settings, applications and personal data, which gives a chance to restore system to new hard drive and make your computer bootable again in a very short time.

Step 2. Click Add File or Add Folder to select what you want to backup.

Add File or Folder

Step 3. Click the folder shaped button and select a destination path to store the image file. You can choose to backup files to external hard drive, USB flash drive, network drive or cloud drive, and so on.

Select Destination

Step 4. Then, in the confirmation windows, set up backup settings as needed and click Start Backup.

Backup Files

Note: It’s suggested to create bootable USB as well, which can help you boot computer when it refuses to boot.

Method 1: Zero format hard drive with Format

Step 1. Type cmd in the search box, right-click it and select Run as administrator.

Step 2. Type format f: /fs: NTFS /p:2 and hit Enter. This command will format the F drive with the NTFS file system and write all zeros to every sectors of the hard drive twice.

Zeror Format Hard Drive

Note: A single passes of zeros to a hard drive in Windows Vista/7/8/8.1/10 should prevent all-software based file recovery program from extracting information from the drive. To ensure safety, you could choose to do 2 passes via this method.

Step 3. Type the volume label of the drive you are formatting when asked, and press Enter. The volume label is not case sensitive.

Note: If the drive you are formatting does not have a volume label, you will not be asked to enter it. Thus, it’s fine if you do not see this message.

Step 4. Type Y and press Enter when you see this warning, “all data on non-removable disk drive F: will be lost! Proceed with Format(Y/N)?” Then, wait until the process is 100% complete.

Note: This process may not reach 1 percent for several seconds or even several minutes if the drive you are formatting is very large or you format it with several write-zero passes.

Step 5. After formatting , type a name for the drive as volume label, or don’t, and press Enter.

Step 6. Wait until you see Creating file system structures on the command prompt window.

This is an entire process of writing zeros to one partition on the hard drive, to destroy hard disk using cmd, you need to repeat Step 1 - Step 6 until all the partitions on the disk are zeroing out.

Method 2: Zero fill hard drive with DiskPart

Step 1. Run cmd as administrator. Then, type diskpart in the command prompt window and press Enter to execute.

Step 2. Type list disk and press Enter. Then, you will see all the available disk on your computer.

Step 3. Type select disk 1 and press Enter. Note disk 1 is the number of disk you want to zero out.

Step 4. Type clean all and press Enter.

Zero Fill Hard Drive DiskPart

Step 5. Wait until the process finish and type exit.

Method 3: Write all zeros to hard drive using system repair disc

Step 1. Create a system repair disc in Windows 7 and then boot from it. Press a key when you are prompted “Press any key to boot from CD or DVD...”.

Step 2. Wait for the Windows file loading process to complete, you will see System Recovery Options window. Set your preference language and keyboard input, then click Next.

Step 3. Choose Use recovery tools that can help fix problems starting windows. Select an operating system to repair and click Next.

Note: If you are using another operating system like Windows XP, it will not be listed here. And you don’t need a compatible operating system on this computer to write zeros to hard drive.

Step 4. Select Command Prompt in the System Recovery Options window.

Command Prompt

Note: This is a fully functional command prompt and contains most of the commands you may use, thus you can use the full format command or clean all command.

Step 5. Repeat steps in Method 1 or Method 2 to fill sectors with zeros.

Method 4: Write zeros to hard drive with zero fill hard drive utility

Step 1. Launch AOMEI Backupper Standard, go to Tools > Disk Wipe and click it.

Disk Wipe

Step 2. In the wiping type window, you have two options, one is wipe selected partitions & unallocated space on the disk, the other one is wipe disk. To write all zeros to hard drive, select Wipe disk and click Next.

Wipe Disk

Notes:
Selected partitions & unallocated space on the disk: This option is to delete the selected partition(s) or unallocated space.
Wipe disk: This option will delete all the partitions on the hard drive and fill every sectors with zero, thus you don’t need to wipe partition on the disk one by one.

Step 3. Select the disk you want to wipe and click Next.

Select Disk

Step 4. In the wiping method window, select Fill sectors with zero and click Start.

Fill Sectors with Zero

Notes:
❤ This method is applicable to write zeros to USB flash drive.
❤ If you are wiping system disk of the current computer, this software will finish the zero filling process under the windows PE environment. Thus, don’t stop it if your computer restarts.

Tips:
❤ If you want to a safer choice, such as, Gutmann, fill sectors with random data, DoD 52220.22-M, you need to upgrade to the professional version first.
❤ If you have any further question, you could click the Help button at the left-bottom corner and learn more about Disk Wipe.

Write all zeros to hard drive FAQs:

Does a quick format erase all data?

According to Microsoft, full format was the same as a quick format in the Windows XP or earlier version of Windows, but included a disk scan for bad sectors. Thus, even if your perform a full format in Windows XP and earlier version, the format command does not write zeros to the whole disk. But if you use Windows Vista or newer version, the full format command will write zeros to the whole disk.

Does writing zeros to hard drive fix bad sectors?

The zero format method before Windows Vista has the ability to scan the bad sectors, but you probably zero out it.

In Windows Vista and newer version of Windows, the disk scan of bad sectors is replaced by filling sectors with zeros and it will reveal any bad sectors that could not be written to, but not fix it.

Thus, this method still does not fix bad sectors in any Windows system.

Is zeroing a hard drive secure?

There are different methods in zero fill hard drive utility to wipe disk, such as, Peter Gutmann, fill sectors with random data, DoD 52220.22-M, and Fill sectors with Zero, but the write zeros method is slightly less destructive than others.

Wrapping things up

Whether you want to sell out, discard or donate hard drive to others, you can write zeros to hard drive in Windows 7/8/10/11/XP/Vista easily. Please remember to create a file backup or system backup in advance, because all your data will be deleted and cannot be recovered after disk wipe.

Among the 4 methods, zero fill hard drive utility - AOMEI Backupper Standard can be the easiest one. You don’t need to learn and remember the complicated command line syntax. You are able to delete all partitions once and it supports more wiping methods. In addition, you can use it as continuous data protection to ensure the security of your data