Computer disposal


Before discarding, recycling or giving away computers, departments must remove all data and programs to comply with software licensing agreements and to prevent data theft.

The purpose of this web page is to describe how to format a computer hard drive before discarding, recycling, or turning such computer over to Inventory.

Please Note: This procedure will erase all hard drive data so be sure to first save or backup any important files you may need later.

The information provided below is good for most cases. However, if your computer contains very sensitive data, then you may require advanced security software, such as Eraser for Windows, to truly eradicate all data from a hard drive.

If you need help, please contact the Information Services Help Desk by telephone at 472-3970 or (866) 472-3970 toll free, or via E-mail at or stop by and visit them in Room 105 of the 501 Building on the west edge of city campus.

Macintosh & PC: Using A System Restore CD

Most computers are sold with some sort of System Restoration CD. If you have yours, boot from the System Restoration CD that came with your computer and use it to reinstall the original operating system (and original applications), thus restoring the computer to its original state.

If you don't have a System Restoration CD, or if your computer contains multiple partitions/hard drives, then reformat the hard drive as described below.

For legal reasons, when you dispose of a computer, keep the System Restoration CD with it. Shutdown the computer with the disc in its tray, or tape the System Restoration CD to the side of the computer.

Macintosh Formatting

Insert a Macintosh Operating System CD into the CD-Drive.

Restart the Macintosh while holding down the C key, to force the Macintosh to boot from the CD-ROM.

Booting From A Macintosh OS8 or OS9 CD-ROM

  1. Double-click the Utilities folder to open it.
  2. Double-click the Drive Setup icon to launch that program.
  3. Click on the first (top line) volume to select it.
  4. From the 'Functions' menu, choose Initialization Options.
  5. Check the box next to Low Level Format.
  6. If data is especially sensitive, check the box next to Zero All Data.
  7. Click on the Initialize button, and click Initialize to confirm.

Booting From a Macintosh OSX CD

  1. When the Select Language screen appears, DO NOT press Continue.
  2. Instead, click on the Installer menu, then the Open Disk Utility sub-menu.
  3. A new window opens. Click on the Drive Setup icon.
  4. Click to select a drive (usually the first one) to initialize.
  5. Click on the Partition tab to switch view within the window.
  6. If present, click on the Options button, then select a low level format, zero all data, and click OK.
  7. Click the Partition button, then click Partition to confirm.

As needed, repeat steps 4 through 6 for all drives and partitions of that computer.

PC: Creating a Boot Disk

You can use a boot disk to format more than one computer, regardless of the operating system installed.

Creating a Windows 95/98/ME Boot Disk.

  1. Insert a 3.5? 1.44MB diskette into the floppy drive.
  2. Click Start ? Settings ? Control Panel, and double-click the Add Remove Programs icon.
  3. Click the Startup Disk and create a disk.

Creating a Windows NT4 Boot Disk

If possible, try to borrow or create a Windows 95/98/ME boot disk. It's a much faster process. Otherwise, borrow or create and use a Windows 2000 or Windows XP boot disk.

Creating Windows 2000 Boot Disks

If possible, borrow or create a Windows 95/98/ME boot disk. Otherwise, create Windows 2000 boot disks as described next.

  1. The process will require four 3.5? 1.44MB diskettes, numbered 1—4.
  2. Insert the first 3.5? 1.44MB diskette in the floppy drive.
  3. Insert a Windows 2000 or Windows XP disc in the CD-ROM drive.
  4. A Microsoft Windows 2000 CD dialog appears.
  5. Click on its Browse This CD button.
  6. A new window opens. From it, open the boot disk (BOOTDISK) folder.
  7. Double-click makeboot(.exe) and click OK to launch the program to create your 4 disks.

Windows XP Uses the System CD-ROM

Normally, Windows XP computers came with a bootable system CD. If you lack this disc, try to borrow or create either a Windows 95/98/ME boot disk, or a Windows 2000 boot disk series.

PC: Formatting

Using a Windows 95/98/ME Boot Disk

  1. Insert the boot disk into your computer.
  2. Turn your computer OFF, and then ON, to begin the boot process.
  3. As the computer boots, answer any questions you are prompted for.
  4. Once at the A:\> prompt, type format c: and press Enter.
  5. Confirm that Yes, you want to format your C: drive, and let it run.
  6. As needed, repeat steps 4 and 5 to format any extra drives on your computer.

Using Four Windows 2000 Boot Disks and CD-ROM

If possible, use a Windows 95/98/ME boot disk to format your Windows 2000 computer. Otherwise, and this is much slower, use Windows 2000 boot disks as described next.

  1. If present, remove the Windows 2000 disc, to prevent booting from it.
  2. Insert the first boot disk, Disk 1, into the computer.
  3. Turn OFF your computer, then ON, to boot from the floppy.
  4. When prompted, remove the current disk and insert the next one.
  5. Repeat until the last disk is read.
  6. When prompted, press Enter to setup Windows 2000 or Windows XP.
  7. When prompted, insert the Windows 2000 or the Windows XP disc and press Enter.
  8. Read and accept the licensing agreement.
  9. When prompted, press Esc to install a fresh copy of the operating system.
  10. When prompted, press D to delete the current partition.
  11. Press Enter, then press L when asked to confirm the deletion.
  12. Press C, then press Enter to create a partition using all of the available space.
  13. Press Enter, then Enter again, to format the partition using default settings.
  14. Remove all disks and CDs, and let the format action run (this may take thirty minutes or more).
  15. Lastly, ignore any final error messages and shut down your computer.

Using a Windows XP System CD-ROM

Again, if possible, use a Windows 95/98/ME boot disk to format the Windows XP computer. Otherwise the much-slower alternative is to use a Windows XP System disc as described here.

Boot from the Windows XP CD-ROM. Often, OEM vendors (Dell, Gateway, etc.) tailor their system CDs to include various default settings and installations. All of them should offer tools/utilities, and an option to initialize/format your hard drive.

You can also use any licensed Windows XP professional disc.

  1. Boot from the Windows XP Professional CD.
  2. When asked, press Enter to setup Windows XP.
  3. Jump to Using Four Windows 2000 Boot Disks and CD-ROM, and follow steps #8 (License Agreement) through #15.