By Delia / Last update September 17, 2021

2 scenarios to clean a hard drive in Windows 10

There are two common contexts for hard drive cleaning in Windows 10. You can refer to the following and click on the anchor text to jump to the corresponding solutions.

▶ 1 Completely clean a hard drive

It equals to wipe a hard drive, or permanently delete everything off the hard drive. This demand usually arises when you want to discard, sell a device, or use a second-hand disk without worry. And since it cannot be done by manual deletion, you need to take some powerful disk wipe initiatives.

▶ 2 Clean up a hard drive and free up disk space

If your computer is running out of space, you can hardly use it smoothly or even fail to perform ordinary operations. In this case, you could perform disk cleanup to speed up the computer.

clean hard drive windows 10

How to completely wipe a hard drive in Windows 10

If you are trying to clean a hard drive completely and make the data unrecoverable, manual deletion is not a secure way. Because when you delete a file or a folder from the hard drive, it’s just marked as deleted, not fully erased. You can still retrieve it by recovery tools until the data is actually overwritten.

Therefore, I’d like to provide 4 secure ways. They are mostly based on zero-filling, which implements disk wipe by writing zeros to hard drive. Thus the erased data can hardly be recovered and your sensitive info will stay safe.

Please note:

  • Be sure to backup anything you don’t want to lose on the hard drive, they will be deleted permanently after cleaning. You can backup files to external hard drive for better safety and portability.
  • It’s better not to use these clean methods on SSD, because having each sector written over to 0 may cause an SSD to reduce life span faster.

Method 1. Format a non-system drive or USB drive

For a non-system local drive (like D:\, E:\) or a USB drive, you can easily format it to erase all the data safely. This can be done both in File Explorer and Disk Management, I’ll introduce the former as an example.

Caution:
This method applies to non-system drives. If you want to clean C drive in Windows 10 or wipe the entire hard drive, please move to the next method.

1. Right-click the drive you want to clean in File Explorer, choose Format.

2. Select a File system and uncheck the Quick Format option (or Perform a quick format in Disk Management), because it will make the data easy to recover.

3. Click Start to format the drive, it will erase all the data and fill sectors with zero.

format drive

Method 2. Reset PC to wipe everything off a hard drive

If you intend to erase a hard drive containing Windows 10 operation system, Reset this PC can be a straightforward solution. It enables you to remove all your personal files, apps and settings, which is also based on zero-filling.

1. Get access to Reset this PC in Windows 10:

Inside Windows: Start > Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Reset this PC > Get started.

From boot: Insert an installation disc or bootable drive to enter Windows 10 recovery mode > select language and region in Windows Setup > Next > Repair your computer > Troubleshot > Reset this PC.

reset this pc

2. Choose Removing everything and follow the wizard to perform resetting.

remove everything

Note:

  • When it’s finished, your computer will be restarted and all your data has been wiped. You can either proceed to set up Windows, or stop here to discard the hard drive completely.
  • If you have problem using this features, please refer to Windows 10 reset failed.

Method 3. Use DiskPart command to clean a hard drive completely

Among the few methods that can directly clean a hard drive in Windows 10, DiskPart is a convenient one. It allows you to erase all the MBR or GPT partitions, even the system-related partitions on the disk.

Caution:
♦ This process will completely wipe a hard drive in Windows 10 leaving it unallocated and not initialized. So if you want to clean your current system disk, please use Command Prompt from advanced startup options.
♦ The “clean all” command may take quite some time to complete, depending on the size of your data.

1. In Windows, Search for “CMD” on task bar and run Command Prompt as administrator. Optionally, you can use a bootable drive to enter Windows recovery environment and access Command Prompt from boot.

2. Type following commands and press Enter after each line.

Diskpart

List disk

Sel disk x

Clean all

*Replace x with the number of the disk you want to clean.

diskpart clean

Method 4. Use disk wipe tool to clean a hard drive safely and easily

One of the difficulties with disk wiping is that it involves a lot of data, which can be disastrous if you do it incorrectly. And because of the limitations of Windows, you can only wipe an entire hard drive at once, or clean individual partitions one by one.

To save you from all the trouble, AOMEI Backupper is an effective solution on all Windows PCs.

Its free Standard edition already integrates data backup & restore feature to protect important data, and practical tool to wipe hard drive. You are allowed to clean select partition (s), or an entire HDD/USB drive.

All the methods above prevent your data from being recovered by zero filling, which is indeed superior to manual deletion, but not the safest way. With Professional edition of AOMEI Backupper, you’ll be able to clean sensitive information with much safer wiping methods like DoD 5220.22-M or Gutmann.

You can download the Standard edition to have a try, or enjoy advanced wiping methods in higher editions.

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

How to clean a hard drive in Windows 10/8/7 securely:

1. Install and open this tool. Backup important files if necessary, then navigate to Tools tab and choose Disk Wipe.

disk wipe

2. Choose a Wiping Type to determine what to clean, select Wipe disk here and click Next to proceed. 

Choose Wipe Disk

3. Select the hard drive you want to clean. Click Next to continue. 

Wipe Data Select Disk

4. Choose a Wiping Method with the safety level and speed you want, hit Start to wipe the hard drive. 

Wipe Method

Note:

  • This feature doesn’t support dynamic disks wiping currently.
  • Safer wiping methods come with more passes and lower wiping speed.
  • For your current system disk, the wiping operation will be executed in reboot mode, and you won’t be able to enter the system after completion.

How to clean up hard drive in Windows 10 to free up disk space

Sometimes your PC is running slow due to lack of free space, then you probably want to clean up a hard drive without losing files. In this case, the above ways of disk wiping apparently do not apply. You need some more modest ways to free up disk space in Windows 10.

In addition to third-party cleanup tools, Windows itself contains some practical functions for disk cleanup. I’d like to introduce my cleanup routine here for your reference.

Step 1. Deleted unwanted files and move rarely used large files to other devices. For example, you can sync files to external hard drive and then delete the copy on local drive.

Step 2. Empty recycle bin. If you are used to right-clicking and deleting files, it is best to empty the recycle bin regularly to avoid the accumulation of files. Just open it and chose Empty Recycle Bin on the top-left corner.

Step 3. Uninstall programs that are not currently needed. You can go through this path: Start > Settings > Apps > App & features, and tap on the program to uninstall it.

Step 4. Delete temporary files. Access Disk Cleanup in Windows 10 by searching it on the taskbar. Then select the drive you want to clean up. After scanning, you can see what files you can clean, how large are them. Choose the file types you want to delete, and then click OK to perform disk cleanup.

Files To Delete

Step 5. Defragment the disk. Fragmentation makes your hard disk do extra work that can slow down your computer. Therefore, you can optimize drives by defragment. Enter “defrag” in search bar to open Defragment and Optimize Drives in Windows 10. Then select a drive to Optimize, or enable a schedule optimization.

Optimize Drives

*For more related information, you can refer to free up drive space in Windows 10.

Conclusion

There are several approaches to clean a hard drive in Windows 10 for permanent data wiping. In addition to those built-in tools, you can use AOMEI Backupper to enjoy more options and safer wiping methods. If you simply want to clean up a hard drive to free up disk space in Windows 10, this software also helps you transfer large files to other storage devices.

Moreover, if you are trying to replace old HDD with an SSD, then this software is just right for you - it also includes a powerful disk cloning feature to clone HDD to SSD. And you can use Disk Wipe to clean the old HDD afterward.