How to Destroy the Data on your Computer and Smartphone

Last week we showed you how to backup your data, either to a hard drive or the cloud. This week, we will show you how to destroy the data on Mac OS, Windows, Chromebook, Android and iOS devices.

Further Reading

How to Backup your Device to a Local Drive or the Cloud

Stagefright 2.0 Discovered By Google, Here’s What You Need To Know

Wiping Your Computer

Depending on your operating system, there are a couple of ways to wipe your computer.

  1. Turn on your Mac and hold down Option-Command-R. This boots into Recovery Mode. Hold the keys down and release them once the Apple logo appears onscreen.
  2. Open Disk Utility from the macOS Utilities window. You can use Disk Utility to erase your drive. Just select your hard disk/startup disk in the left sidebar. Click the Format pop-up and choose macOS Extended (Journaled) format. Quit Disk Utility.
  3. Next, choose Reinstall macOS from the Utility window. Follow the onscreen instructions. The new version is ready for a new Apple ID.
  4. When done, your Mac restarts to the setup assistant. Press Command-Q and click Shut Down.

Image from Apple Support


Wiping a Windows computer is harder than a MacBook. A great tool to use is Darik’s Boot And Nuke (DBAN). Other options include KillDisk and DP Wipe. This tutorial will focus on DBAN

  1. Go to the DBAN website and download their software. It comes in a .iso format. You will have to boot from a USB drive or burn it to a blank CD or DVD.
  2. Next, restart your computer and go into the BIOS settings. This usually differs between manufacturers, so you will probably have to Google <yourcomputermanufacturer> BIOS settings. Change the boot order so that it lists Removable Devices is first.
  3. Once the computer starts up and loads DBAN, press Enter and choose M to get to the method screen. Then, you can decide which type of data destruction method suits you best. The more thorough the destruction, the longer it takes. For most people, DOD 5220.22-M [PDF] is enough.
  4. Select which drive you want to delete, then press F10 to start. Now make a cup of coffee because it takes a while. Depending on the size of your hard drive, this can take hours or days.
Image from DBAN

Image from DBAN

Chrome OS

If you have a Chromebook, wiping your device is easy. Make sure you delete any downloaded files and remove accounts.

  1. Open the Chrome browser and type chrome://settings.
  2. Go to Settings > Show advanced settings.
  3. Scroll down until you see a button that says Powerwash.

chromebook-resetWiping Your Mobile Device

It is easier to reset your mobile device. Both Android and iOS have built-in tools.


On an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > General > Reset. Then, tap Erase All Content and Settings. This resets your iDevice to factory settings.

Andrew Orr

Andrew Orr


On an Android phone or tablet, go to Settings > Personal > Backup and Reset. Look for an option called Factory Data Reset. Depending on the manufacturer, this might be in a slightly different place.

Image from AndroidPit

Image from AndroidPit

Starting with Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google includes something called Factory Reset Protection. It is a feature that helps prevent criminals from stealing your phone and wiping/reselling it. However, it also prevents you from buying and selling used Android phones unless you disable it. These steps differ slightly, depending on your phone’s manufacturer.

  1. Go to Settings > Lock screen and Security > Screen lock type. Choose None.
  2. Remove your Google account.  Go to Settings > Accounts > Google > More > Remove Account. If you have more than one Google account, make sure to remove all of them.

After that, you can do a factory reset.