How to wipe a hard drive using CCleaner

CCleaner logo

Many people don’t know this, but when you delete any type of data from the computer hard drive, Windows doesn’t actually delete the data, it only removes the pointer that is associated with that particular piece of data. Windows also marks that space, where the deleted data resides, as eligible to be overwritten if the space is needed, and that is when the data gets erased.

This could potentially be a problem, because it takes time until the deleted data gets overwritten (erased) and someone with the right software could recover those bits and get a hold to that data. This is when CCleaner comes in handy, now when you download and install the free cleaning tool, there is going to be a new option under the Tools section called Drive Wiper.

In Drive Wiper you can wipe or erase the hard drive’s free space or you can set it to wipe the entire drive (everything gets erased). 

There are two methods to erase your data in CCleaner

Method 1: Automatic wipe when performing cleaning:

1.  Run CCleaner, from the left pane click the Cleaner icon, on the Windows tab and at the bottom under Advanced, select the option Wipe Free Space.

CCleaner - Wipe Free Space

Note that using this option will use the default settings found in the Options section, which you can change at any time.

CCleaner - Automatic Wipe Options

2.  In the warning box, click OK and run CCleaner as you usually do.

Method 2: Manually wipe/erase drive data with Drive Wiper:

1.  Select Tools from the left pane and then click Drive Wiper.

Tip: If you want to erase data from an external drive, connect the drive first and then start CCleaner to enable this tool to discover and display drive in the list.

CCleaner - Tools - Drive Wiper - Settings

2.  Choose which drive(s) you want to wipe the data.

3.  Choose the type of wipe you need to perform:

  • Free Space Only will not delete your active data, it will only erase data that you already have deleted.
  • Entire Drive will erase everything that inside of that drive. Make sure that you have a backup of your important data if any. This feature is disabled for security reasons for the boot drive.

4.  Choose the type of security you want to use, for the most part Simple Overwrite is alright for the every day user. — There is a chance that even if you completely erase all the data from a drive it may still be recoverable — For those of you that are really concern or the data is really important, there are three more choices offered by CCleaner: DOD 5220.22-M (3 passes) which is the standard erase procedure for the Department Of Defense, NSA (7 passes) which is the standard erase procedure for the National Security Agency, and Gutmann (35 passes), which is another method to securely erase content from a computer hard drive.

5.  Then just click the Wipe button to complete the erase. Keep in mind that depending on sizes of the drive, the content and the settings you have chosen, this could take a long time.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].