Contrary to the title, this is not a laptop that gets formatted. When we say that we are going to format a laptop we are actually going to format the hard disk that is inside, the SSD or an external drive that is connected to the laptop.
There are a few reasons why we want to reformat a laptop. Sometimes we want to sell the laptop and destroy all the data that is on it beforehand. Formatting in this case would not destroy all the data. The data that will be destroyed will be the areas where the operating system will be installed. This is when we sell the laptop with a fresh operating system preinstalled.
If we just format the laptop and do not install an operating system on it I would easily get almost all the data with specialized software like File Scavenger.
However, there is a clever way to destroy all the data without using any specialized, expensive or difficult-to-use software.
First, format the hard drive as you usually do with a Windows installation disk or format the external drive using the Windows format function.
Second, fill the drive to the top with movies or anything else that takes up space and is not that important to you.
Third, delete the data that you have filled the drive with.
Now the drive is completely blank and nobody would recover anything even if they wanted.
The same result would be achieved if you do a disk de-fragmentation after formatting. The only problem with this is that Microsoft removed the de-fragmentation utility from the latest Windows versions.
There is a specialized software that will help you erase all the data on any laptop. It is called Active Kill Disk. It does exactly what the name suggests, though it kills not the disk but the data.
You can erase with it an external hard drive or any sort of other media.
Here is how I would do this. First, I need to get the software from killdisk.com.
Then when it finishes the installation it will ask whether we want to launch a bootable disk creator.
It will tell us to put in the DVD drive an empty DVD disk or rewritable DVD disk.
Because this is a free version it can only make a console-based boot disk. But do not worry, it is easy to use and I will show you how to do it below.
Now you need to boot your laptop from this DVD disk. How to do it depends on what laptop model you have. Usually you need to hit keyboard keys just after you press the power button to access the boot menu.
On the left upper side all hard drives and disks that the laptop has will be shown.
If you want to erase the entire hard drive you need to tick all the boxes then press the F10 key on the keyboard.
Then you need to type a word “ERASE-ALL-DATA” in capital letters. If not it will not start the process.
Depending on the hard drive size this can take anywhere from 30 mins to about 2 hours.
This is probably the easiest way to format any laptop out there. We will need only a Windows installation disk which we can get online from eBay for example. They are called system restore disks.
Now we need to boot our laptop from this disk. There are keyboard key combinations that we need to press to get into a boot menu. By default the laptop will boot from the hard drive and will start the operating system that is installed.
This is the first screen that we will get. It is not important what we choose as we will need only to format the hard drive.
We do not have a software key so we click there. It is actually not important.
Here we need to delete all the partitions. There will be two or sometimes three. We need to select the partition and click delete. What we need to get is what we have shown in the image below.
Now we need to do the last thing. We need to click New. This will make a new partition that is NTFS and is ready to accommodate Windows installation.
There can be some laptops with Linux or Mac OS installations that Windows installation disk would not able to delete partitions on. In this case we simply need to use Active Kill Disk, which will erase anything.
To do this we will use a disk formatting tool that is built into the Windows operating system. We need to navigate to our disk with file explorer, right click on it and choose format.
This will bring up a window where we can leave everything and just click start.
Me holding a laptop hard drive
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