Securely wiping hard disks using Windows

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

My blog posts might be a bit sporadic over the next couple of weeks – I’m trying to squeeze the proverbial quart into a pint pot (in terms of my available time) and am cramming like crazy to get ready for my MCSE to MCITP upgrade exams.

I’m combining this Windows Server 2008 exam cramming with a review of John Savill’s Complete Guide to Windows Server 2008 and I hope to publish my review of that book soon afterwards.

One of the tips I picked up from the book this morning as I tried to learn as much as I could about Bitlocker drive encryption in an hour, was John’s tip for securely wiping hard drives using a couple of Windows commands:

format driveletter: /fs:ntfs /x

will force a dismount if required and reformat the drive, using NTFS.

cipher /w:driveletter:

will remove all data from the unused disk space on the chosen drive.

I don’t know how this compares with third party products that might be used for this function but I certainly thought it was a useful thing to know. This is not new to Windows Server 2008 either – it’s certainly available as far back as Windows XP and possibly further.

For more tips like this, check out the NTFAQ or John’s site at

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