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The Options and Procedures to Clean NTFS from a Hard Drive

written by: Steve McFarlane•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 6/11/2010

What are some options for wiping a computer hard drive clean of NTFS?

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    Wiping a hard drive clean is an effective way of removing a virus or a seriously corrupted OS installation. It is also an easy way of removing files from a drive that is going to be sold or used for a new installation. As can be expected, wiping a hard drive clean will not only remove the operating system, but the OS file system and user files as well. Here is how to clean a hard drive of NTFS.

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    Option 1 – Remove NTFS with a Drive Wipe

    If you are removing important and very sensitive files from the computer in order to sell the drive, you should be aware that simply formatting a drive doesn’t guarantee that the files will not be recoverable. To ensure that nobody can recover your files, once the drive is out of your hands, you can use one of these two methods. They include:

    • Manually overwrite the entire drive - Manually loading the entire hard drive with random files before reformatting it. Copying non-essential files to the hard drive, and completely using up all the available drive space, will ensure that all sectors are overwritten. Even if someone tries to do a file recovery, they will only find the random unimportant files that you used to fill the hard drive. However, this process can take some time, especially if you are working with a large capacity hard drive.
    • Use a drive eraser – Hard drive erase utilities use a more scientific method, than the procedure we discussed above, to permanently remove files from storage media. If the software works as it should, random bits of data will be used to overwrite all the data on your hard drive, including the sensitive ones, making it impossible to recover them. Some popular solutions include: Eraser and Active@ Kill Disk.

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    Option 2 - Remove NTFS with Windows Disk Management Utility

    If the drive you want to clean isn’t the primary drive that the computer boots from, you can use the Windows Disk Management utility to remove NTFS from the hard drive or a partition. For this method to work the hard drive must be installed and recognizable by the operating system. If it is, use these steps to format and remove NTFS from the drive.

    1. Click "Start", and then click "Run..." from the Windows Start Menu
    2. Type “diskmgmt.msc" in the dialogue box that appears and click "OK"

    Right-click the drive or partition that you wish to wipe clean and select "Format" from the drop-down list.

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    Option 3 - Use the Windows Installation CD to Clean NTFS from a Hard Disk

    Another way to clean NTFS from a hard drive is to use the Windows installation CD to delete the respective repartition or reformat the hard drive with the FAT32 file system. This option is ideal if the drive to be cleaned is the only drive in the computer. Follow these steps to complete the process:

    1. Insert the Windows installation CD into the optical drive. Make sure that there are no other disks in the computer, or set the CMOS boot sequence to boot from the optical drive first, then restart the computer.
    2. At the "Welcome to Setup" screen, press the Enter key to setup Windows.
    3. Press the “C" key to continue setup.
    4. Press the “F8" key to accept to the license agreement.
    5. Use the arrow keys to select the partition you want to delete.
    6. Press “D" and then press “Enter."
    7. Press “L." This is the last chance you have to change your mind before the partition is nuked.

    Follow the on-screen instructions to partition and format the drive into a FAT32 file system.

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    Summary

    Which option you use to remove NTFS from your hard drive will depend on limitations you are working with as well as what you will do with the drive once it is cleaned. If you wish to clean the hard drive of sensitive data consider using drive wipe software such as Eraser and Active@ Kill Disk.

    If instead you wish to take off NTFS from a partition or a drive that is already installed in a computer but is not the boot partition, consider using Window’s built in disk management tools to complete the job. Otherwise you can consider using a Windows installation disk that supports a FAT file system to remove NTFS.

    Image credits:

    "Remove NTFS with a Drive Wipe." Mihimaru

    "How to nuke NTFS with the Windows Disk Management Utility." gary j wood

    "How to use a Windows XP CD to wipe NTFS from a Hard Disk." Tim Patterson