How to delete a drive in Windows 10 or Windows 11 (2023)

How to delete a drive in Windows 10 or Windows 11 (1)

Windows has built-in tools that allow you to write zeros to a drive and safely erase its contents. This ensures that deleted files on the drive cannot be recovered. Whether you want to erase an internal drive or an external USB drive, here's how to do it.


What do you need to know
Option 1: Erase any entire drive
Option 2: Wipe free space only
Option 3: Erase Windows system drive

What do you need to know

It is often possibleRecover deleted files from a drive. Whether this is possible depends on several factors.

TIED TOGETHERWhy deleted files can be recovered and how to avoid it

If the drive is a traditional magnetic drive with a turntable,Deleted files are simply "marked" as deleted.and will be overwritten in the future, making it easy to recover deleted data. This should not be the case with modern solid state drives, as they should beuse TRIMBy default, it ensures that deleted files are deleted immediately. (This helps with speed.)

It's not as simple as mechanics vs.solid state storage: External storage devices such as USB flash drives do not support TRIM, which means that deleted files can be recovered from a USB flash drive.

To avoid this, you can "erase" a drive. This is actually a pretty straightforward process: Windows writes zeros or other junk data to each sector of the drive, forcibly overwriting any existing data with junk data. This is an especially important step if you are selling or disposing of a computer, USB drive or device containing sensitive private data.

By the way, when a drive is encrypted it gives you a lot of extra protection. Assuming an attacker is unable to obtain your encryption key, he will not be able to recover files deleted from a drive - he will not even be able to access files that have not yet been deleted.

Option 1: Erase any entire drive

To write zeros over the contents of any drive, all you need to do is perform a full drive format. Before doing this, remember that this will completely erase all files on the drive. Also, you cannot fully format Windows system drive while running Windows on it.

This method is ideal for internal drives that don't have an operating system installed, USB flash drives, other external storage devices, and everything elsepartitionsyou want to delete.

First, open File Explorer and locate the drive you want to clean. Right-click and choose "Format".

How to delete a drive in Windows 10 or Windows 11 (3)

Disable "Quick Format" under Format Options. This will ensure that Windows 10 or Windows 11 does a full format. AfterMicrosoft documentation, since Windows Vista, Windows always writes zeros to the entire disk when performing a full format.

You can change all othersformatting optionsyou like it here; Just make sure the "Quick Format" option is not checked. (If you're not sure what to choose, leave the options here at your defaults.)

When finished, click "Start" to format the drive. The process may take some time depending on the size and speed of your hard drive.

Notice:The formatting process erases everything on the drive. Make sure you have a backup copy of all important files before proceeding.

How to delete a drive in Windows 10 or Windows 11 (4)

Option 2: Wipe free space only

If you have deleted some files from a mechanical hard drive or external storage device, you may want to just clear the free space and replace it with zeros. This ensures that these deleted files cannot be easily recovered without wiping the entire drive.

TIED TOGETHERHow to Safely Overwrite Free Disk Space in Windows

Windows 10 and Windows 11 have a way to do this, but you have to visit the command line. TheFigureThe built-in command in Windows has an option that willErase free space on a driveand, overwriting with data. In fact, the instruction will make three passes, first writing with zeros, then another data type, then random data. (Nonetheless,just one pass should be enough.)

First, launch a command line environment such as Command Prompt or Windows Terminal with administrator privileges. In Windows 10 or Windows 11, you can right-click the Start button orPress Windows + Xand click "Windows PowerShell (Admin)", "Command Prompt (Admin)", "Windows Terminal (Admin)". Choose what appears in the menu - any will work.

How to delete a drive in Windows 10 or Windows 11 (6)

Run the following command, replacing X with the drive letter you want to free up space for:

Chifre /w:X:\

For example, if you want to free up space on your D: drive, run:

Chifre /w:D:\

The command shows its progress on the command line. Wait for the process to finish - it may take some time depending on the speed of your drive and the amount of free space to be replaced.

How to delete a drive in Windows 10 or Windows 11 (7)

Option 3: Erase Windows system drive

If you want to erase the entire Windows OS drive, there is an easy way to do that. This option is built intothe Restart this PC functionon Windows 10 and Windows 11, although it is not enabled by default.

While Windows resets itself to factory defaults - in other words, reinstalls Windows - you can clean your system drive. You should use this option to protect your private information if you sell your PC or give it to someone else.

To do this in Windows 10, go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery. Under Reset this PC, click Get Started. (You can press Windows+i to quickly open the Settings app.)

How to delete a drive in Windows 10 or Windows 11 (8)

On Windows 11, go to Settings > System > Recovery. Under Recovery Options, click the Reset PC button.

How to delete a drive in Windows 10 or Windows 11 (9)

Select "Remove All" to have Windows remove all of your files during the reset.

How to delete a drive in Windows 10 or Windows 11 (10)

Choose local reinstall or cloud download, both will work for this process. If you're not sure what to choose, we recommend choosing "Reinstall locally" to avoid the large download.

Cloud-Download' is useful if the local Windows OS files are corrupted and otherwise the Reset this PC operation will not work. Believe it or not, downloading from the cloud can also be faster than reinstalling locally, as Windows only needs to download the installation files instead of reassembling them from the files on your computer's hard drive - that depends on speed. your Internet connection.

How to delete a drive in Windows 10 or Windows 11 (11)

Under Additional Settings, select Change Settings.

How to delete a drive in Windows 10 or Windows 11 (12)

Clear key under "Clear data?" to set it to "Yes". With this option enabled, Windows "cleans the drive" and makes it much more difficult (theoretically, virtually impossible) to recover your files.

Windows warns you that this process can take hours - as always, it depends on the speed and size of your computer's drive.

Now you can click "Confirm" and continue the process to reset your Windows 10 or Windows 11 PC and erase your drive during this process.

Notice:This process will erase all files, applications and settings on your drive, leaving a fresh Windows installation without your files. Back up everything important in advance.

How to delete a drive in Windows 10 or Windows 11 (13)

TIED TOGETHERHow to "wipe" a flash drive, SD card or internal drive to repair partition and capacity...

By the way, Windows refers to this process as "wiping the drive" instead of wiping it. This is different fromthe traditional meaning of "wiping" a drive in Windows, which actually refers to removing all partition information instead of deleting it.


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