As the world’s largest experiment in remote working (driven by Covid-19) begins to come to an end, small to medium-sized businesses across London are planning an orderly return to their work places. While social distancing, surface cleaning, hand washing and other health and safety measures will be key, there’s another form of sanitising you should undertake – digital sanitising. That means understanding how to wipe a business laptop before returning to the office with your remote working team, so they can be securely reintegrated into your network.

Post-lockdown, here’s how to wipe a laptop before returning to the office

The London business community has responded brilliantly to preparing their teams for secure remote working – using a wide range of resources from laptops and mobile devices to remote collaboration tools and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

But in this blog post, we describe how you can wipe a laptop safely, so you can be securely reconnected to your business network.

Why digital cleaning matters

It’s almost inevitable that in the last few months your remote workers will have, for example, checked their personal e-mail on a laptop or Mac owned by your business. This means they may have inadvertently allowed undetected malware to infect the computer, which could find its way onto your network.

It’s also possible that your people have checked their social media accounts, downloaded games or software, listened to music or watched movies on those computers. Not all of those activities will inevitably lead to threats to, or issues for, your business network. However, to be on the safe side you want to ensure your technology is free of all this digital detritus.

How to wipe a laptop securely, back up first

Before you start the digital sterilising of your business laptops and Macs it’s vital you ensure all the files and folders you need to keep are fully backed up and organised. You don’t want to accidentally erase anything that’s going to be important to your London-based business, now or in the future.

The size of the digital files you want to copy and keep will dictate the storage space you need. You have a number of options, including:

Google Drive, Dropbox & OneDrive

Backing your files up to one of these services is another option.

USB stick

If the files you’re saving are small, USB sticks (sometimes referred to as memory sticks, pen sticks or flash drives) are inexpensive and easy to store but they are also easy to lose – so do be careful!

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External hard drive

If you have more than just a few gigabytes of data, an external hard drive directly connected to each laptop or Mac is probably your best bet. You simply drag your files and folders and drop them into your external drive.

Once you’ve backed up the data you wish to keep, consider following what tech experts call the 3-2-1 approach to safe storage. This means keeping at least three copies of your data, with two backup copies on different media, one of which is located offsite.

How to wipe the hard drives in both Windows 10 and Mac OS

No matter what versions of Windows and Mac OS you’re using, wiping hard drives is relatively straightforward on both platforms. It can get a little more involved, depending on how secure you want your erased data to be, so below we cover several cleaning options for the most popular operating systems.

How to wipe a Windows 8 and 8.1 laptop

To wipe the hard drive of a Windows 8 or 8.1 laptop simply go to the Start screen, find the Charms bar, click on ‘Settings’, click on ‘Change PC Settings’ and then finally choose ‘Remove Everything.’ Once done just reinstall Windows.

Note that when you choose to erase data, make sure you click on the ‘Thoroughly’ option rather than the ‘Quickly’ option. This is safer as it means the disk will be erased and you can reformat it and install a new copy of Windows automatically.

How to wipe your Windows 10 laptop

Wiping or formatting a drive in Windows 10 will depend on whether the drive is simply used for storage or for your active Windows installation. We’ll explain both below, starting with wiping the drive you have Windows installed on.

Start by opening ‘This PC’ by opening the Windows search, typing ‘This PC’ and pressing ‘Enter’ to bring up a new window that shows some of your computer folders and the drives connected to it. Then right click on the drive you want to wipe and select ‘Format.’

The formatting menu that then opens up gives you several choices for clearing the drive as well as the option to name and set up the drive for new data after formatting. Simply select your format settings and press ‘Start’ to wipe the drive.

Note if you plan to continue using the wiped drive and want to be sure the data on it is erased completely, do not check the ‘Quick Format’ option.

If you prefer you can also format a drive in Disk Management (press Windows Key + X and then select ‘Disk Management’) where you’ll find your drives and their partitions. Right-click on the drive or partition you want to format and select ‘Format.’ Again, do not click  ‘Quick Format’ as it’s not as secure as a normal format.

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How to wipe your main Windows 10 drive

If you want to wipe the drive containing your Windows 10 operating system, you’ll need to perform a system reset (which you shouldn’t confuse with restarting your computer).

To do this type ‘Reset this PC’ into the Windows search bar and click ‘Enter.’ This will take you to the menu for resetting and restoring your computer. Then select ‘Get started’ under the Reset This PC section and in this new window, click on ‘Remove Everything.’ This will begin the process of wiping all of your personal files, apps, and Windows settings from the computer.

Note that if you have other drives installed on the computer, it can wipe them as well.

How to wipe a drive in Mac OS 10.14 Mojave

Open the Applications folder in Finder, then the Utilities folder, and find and open the Disk Utility. This will bring up a new window that shows you your Mac’s storage media. If your drives are not displayed, select the View drop-down menu, and choose ‘Show All Devices.’

Select the drive or volume you want to erase, press the ‘Erase’ button at the top of the Disk Utility window then choose a new name and format for the drive.

You will be presented with the options available to you for wiping the drive and these may differ depending on whether it’s a hard or solid-state drive (SSD). With a hard drive, Disk Utility will offer a Security Options slider, which can be moved to the right to ensure all the data is overwritten multiple times. This option isn’t available on an SSD.

Finally, click ‘Erase’ at the bottom of the pop-up window to begin the process of wiping the drive.

Note that if you want to erase your Mac’s primary drive, you’ll first need to open Mac OS Recovery by rebooting the Mac and holding Command + R while it powers up, before the Apple logo appears, then selecting Disk Utility from the Mac OS Utilities window that will appear. Also note also that if your machine is running an operating system that’s earlier than Lion or Mountain Lion, you’ll need to use a system disk.

Where to go for further help or advice

We routinely undertake these sorts of tasks for our London-based small to medium-sized business clients. So if you’d like to know more about cleaning your laptops and Macs before re-connecting them securely to your business network, call the award and accolade-winning go to IT support team for London here at totality services.

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If you’d like a quote, simply complete this form and we’ll get back to you. Alternatively, please call us on 020 3744 3105.
COVID-19 Update: Face-to-face IT meetings have been temporarily replaced with Microsoft Teams sessions, and our engineers will be able to carry out IT assessments remotely.