You spent a lot of time and effort, guarding your files and data from crashes, corruption, viruses, Internet bandits and the like. Now you want to surplus your desktop or laptop computer to make room for a replacement. When you surplus your machine, you are handing it over to a stranger. You owe it to yourself, your department, and the University to make sure that sensitive files and other personal and business information are removed from your hard drive before you give it to the Surplus Department.

Did you know that your operating system will often store your password(s) on the hard drive? What about the other files on the hard drive that belong to you or your department or the university? Sensitive data SHOULD be encrypted, but it is still possible for someone to piece together various bits of data and glean useful information from it. Consider that your Email, your address books, your contact information for others, your projects, your databases, all probably reside on your computer. Did you know that files that are simply deleted from the hard disk are generally easy to recover in full or in part, even if your operating system requires a password to log in! Think of how easy it would be to get them if they were not deleted at all.

The following steps are intended to help you prepare a computer to be surplussed, by overwriting all data and free space on each functioning hard drive attached to the machine. These instructions are intended for machines that are still functioning properly. If you computer is malfunctioning and you cannot access one or more of the hard drives, then before you surplus the computer, you should have someone remove the hard drive and use other methods to assure that data cannot be retrieved from the drive.

The below process is designed for desktop systems with traditional (spinning) harddrives. For advice on wiping data from servers with RAID configurations or any system with solid-state drives (SSD), you should contact your department's IT representative or the IT Security Office at

Steps to prepare your computer for surplus turn-in:

1.  Back up data. Make sure to copy all the files that you wish to keep beforehand.

2.  Darik's Boot and Nuke is a free software used to securely erase hard drives and will be used in this tutorial. Download the DBAN file (

3.  Use an ISO Burner with the file to write onto a CD or DVD. Alternatively, to use a USB flash drive instead, you can use Universal USB Installer, select DBAN from the first dropdown list and follow the instructions provided.

4.  Set your computer to boot from CD/DVD (or USB-HDD if you are using a USB flash drive).

4a.  For PCs, reboot your computer. Upon starting up, press the key that is briefly indicated on the screen (Often F10 or F12) for the BIOS menu. In the BIOS menu, select the Boot menu and change the first boot device to CD/DVD (or USB-HDD). Note that different computers have variations of naming the boot menu and boot devices. Save your changes and exit to restart your computer from the selected device.

4b.  For Macs, reboot your computer. Upon starting up and shortly after the chime, hold down the Option key. You will then see a list of drives. Select the CD (or USB) drive and hit enter to start your computer from the selected device.

5.  After booting from the disc or USB, type 'dod' or 'dodshort'. Both of these methods are secure and meet the standards of the U.S. Department of Defense. Note: if using a USB drive, DBAN will also erase its content.

6.  The process may take anywhere from several hours to over a day.

7.  Once the process is complete, remove the CD / DVD / USB Drive.

8.  Surplus the computer by following the instructions on the Procurement Department's Surplus Procedures page.