If you’re getting rid of your old hard drives (HDDs) or solid state drives (SSDs) then you will want to make sure all the data on them has been deleted before you sell them / pass them on / throw them away. You don’t want anyone to get hold of your personal information or anything they could use to cause you trouble.

Simply pressing the Delete key after selecting files in Explorer isn't good enough: those files can be recovered easily with free software.

But we’re going to show you had to securely wipe the data from your drive so it is gone forever. If you're looking to buy a new drive to replace the old one, make sure you read our roundup of the best SSDs.

How can I permanently delete my data from hard drive?

There are three main ways to do this. Use software, hardware, or a big hammer. Seriously, a fast way to make data irretrievable is to physically destroy a hard drive. But don't hurt yourself in the process.

The software method takes the most time and won’t work on a defective drive, but it can also be free and effective, and it means the drive can be reused afterwards.

Free hard drive wiping software

To use software, head to dban.org and download the free open-source data wiping software found here. The instructions will guide you through the process, it’s nice and simple to use. Do be very careful and make sure you are wiping the correct drive, as you won’t be able to get the data back. That's the whole point!

Note that this app does not support SSDs, so scroll down to see how to erase a solid-state drive.

Hard drive erasers

The hardware solution is very effective, and doesn’t require a computer. However, they are rather expensive so are only a viable option if you need to erase a lot of drives. 

The Star Tech hard drive eraser, for example, costs £211 from Amazon and $205 from Amazon US.

How to securely erase a hard drive

The hammer and nail method is for those who really want to be sure and want the physical proof of their work. Make sure you wear the appropriate safety equipment!

You must destroy the platters inside, so a hammer may not be the correct tool for the job. We prefer an angle grinder.

How to securely wipe all the data on an SSD

Solid state drives (SSDs) are a little more complicated when it comes to wiping data because of the way the data is stored.

The safest way to go about it is to find your way to your SSD manufacturer's website and download a utility which you will typically find in the downloads and utilities section.

This will usually overwrite all data with zeros, and takes a long time.

You can also fall back onto the physical destriction option here too. Get out your trusty hammer or angle grinder, and go to town (once again, being very careful, doing it in an appropriate place, using safety equipment). There will be several large memory chips on the inside of your SSD, so aside from the blunt force of hammer strikes, you can drive a nail through them if you want to be certain no-one can recover any data.