Dell Business models such as the OptiPlex, Latitude and Precision series that are manufactured in 2016 or later and have a UEFI BIOS that it SMBIOS Version 2.9 or later have the ability to use Dell Data Wipe which securely wipes all internal hard drives and can be launched from the UEFI BIOS setup. The UEFI BIOS user interface shown below is for non-touch systems. If your system has a Touch screen you might have a touch optimised UEFI BIOS setup see here. For older systems you can use Parted Magic instead.
Introduction – Format vs Secure Wipe
If you are confused between the difference between Format and Wipe, have a look at the schematic below. When one formats a drive, they assign all the space on the drive as free space for use by the operating system. This means the data is still there, just that it cannot be read directly using the OS. Third party programs or data recovery programs can still read the free space on the drive and restore the data, moreover malicious software can lie on this space and automatically reinfect your Operating System.
A Secure Wipe on the other hand rewrites everything to 0, meaning all the data is wiped and such programs cannot recover the files and malicious software cannot survive.
Dell Data Wipe
I will demonstrate on my OptiPlex 7040. Power up the OptiPlex 7040 and press [F2] to get to the UEFI BIOS Setup:
The UEFI BIOS setup will open:
Press the [↓] arrow key to get to maintenance:
Press [Enter] to expand the category:
Here you will see Data Wipe:
Check Wipe on Next Boot:
Select OK to perform the Data Wipe – this will clear the data from all internal storage devices:
To proceed you will need to select No at the dialogue which asks Do you want to cancel this operation:
Now to the bottom right, select Exit:
The UEFI BIOS splash screen will display:
You’ll be taken to Dell Security Manager. Again it will ask you if you want to cancel, with the default setting set to cancel:
Use the [←] arrow to highlight Continue and press [Enter]
It will warn you one last time, with the default option being set to cancel:
Press the [→] arrow and highlight [Erase] and then press [Enter]:
It will now start to erase internal SATA devices:
For a system with a HDD as an internal drive the Wipe may be time-consuming (~1 hour) as each bit has to be zeroed individually as demonstrated in the below schematic:
If (as in my case) the internal drive is a NVMe SSD. Primitive wiping routines designed for conventional HDDs don’t work with SSDs as the storage controller continuously reconfigures data to optimise performance:
Instead a Voltage Spike is applied to the SSD which simultaneously clears all data stored in the SSD to 0. This method to WIPE the SSD is very fast (~1 minute) and is preferred as it limits the damage done to the drive by intensive writes.
You will be informed the Wipe is successful:
When it is done, it will tell you Data Wipe Completed Successfully. Press [OK]:
If you get an unsupported error message, Bitlocker may have been enabled and encrypted your drives. You may need to unlock the PSID in order to proceed. I demonstrate this for a Crucial here:
You will return to the Dell UEFI BIOS splash screen:
It should then have an error stating no Bootable Devices found, this is because your internal drives are blank. You’ll need to clean install Windows 10 now: