Long-time subscriber Ed McDownell wrote recently that he was preparing an old computer for donation, and he wanted to wipe it clean:
I have an old XP machine that I plan to donate to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. It’s a good top end Lenovo ThinkPad and would run ok on the low end Windows 7 but I’m ready to dump it. I would like to format the hard drive and can’t seem find a way to do it. I know I could search the web but your advice has always been one that I could trust explicitly.
I wrote back to Ed to give him tell him how, but also to give him a suggestion based on the reason for the action.
To format the Windows drive, you need to boot from a CD that lets you do that (like a Windows OS CD). A Windows Repair CD should do this also.
However, formatting only superficially cleans the drive, as it really just redoes the tracks and sector settings. The old data is still somewhat recoverable with more specialized programs.
I suspected that he really wants to wipe the drive. There’s a freeware program called DBAN (Darik’s Boot And Nuke) that is designed for that and gets a lot of recommendations.
I suggested that he Google for DBAN and read about it.
Then, if he wants to, he can reinstall Windows from his Windows OS CD/DVD or his Windows Recovery DVD (whichever he has).