Formatting a computer before disposal

Before you get rid of an old computer, it is highly recommended that you format it. There are a bunch of different methods to quickly format your PC or Mac, and some are easier than others. The fastest and easiest way to ensure that your computer’s hard drive is formatted is by booting from a bootable CD/DVD/USB and running through some instructions to format the drive. My method below…


  • computer with a hard drive and a USB port
  • Internet access to download the bootable USB utility (Rufus) and hard drive eraser .iso file (DBAN)
  • 4GB USB stick to load the  DBAN .iso file onto (4GB is cheap enough and large enough to fit most .iso files you’ll find on the web, in case you choose a different software to format your hard drive)


  1. Make sure to backup all of your data using an external drive or cloud storage provider.
  2. Navigate to the Rufus utility site and download the latest version of the utility. At the time of this writing, the latest version is 2.6.
  3. Navigate to the DBAN download site and click the download link to get the latest version (Previous versions are located at the bottom of that page).
  4. Plug in your 4GB USB to your computer and let it install any necessary drivers.
  5. Open the Rufus utility, ensure the USB drive is listed under ‘Device’ and then check the box for ‘Create a bootable disk using’. NOTE: if the check box is grayed out, you might need to change the ‘File system’ type to something else.
  6. Click the dropdown next to the ‘Create a bootable disk using’ check box, and select ‘ISO image’. Then next to that, select the CD tray icon to locate your DBAN .iso file.
  7. Click ‘Start’ in the Rufus utility and you should have a bootable USB created shortly.
  8. Reboot your computer and at the BIOS screen, you will need to press a key to select what you want to boot from (most systems I’ve dealt with use F8 or F12 for this, but it depends on the BIOS manufacturer).
  9. Select your newly-created USB from the list and boot into the DBAN tool.
  10. Once DBAN loads, just simply type “autonuke” and press the Enter key on your keyboard. This will run a 3-pass DoD level wipe of the drive.
  11. After the wipe, DBAN will display that it has a log file to write and to press Enter to save the log file. This can be ignored and you can just reboot your computer.
  12. After rebooting, you should get the ‘No Operating System Loaded’ message, indicating that your drive was definitely wiped by DBAN.

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