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 touch systems. If your system is non-touch screen (or a Desktop) you might have a different style of 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 have followed our feedback and now have incorporated a Maintenance Tool in the UEFI BIOS which allows one to Securely Erase all Internal Drives.
This Tool is available only on newer Business Models such as the Precision, XPS, OptiPlex and Latitude models built in 2017 or later which have an SMBIOS version of 3.0 or later (some systems with a SMBIOS version of 2.9 also possess Dell Data Wipe but have a different UEFI BIOS User Interface to this guide).
Dell Data Wipe (UEFI BIOS Setup)
WARNING: This Guide will instruct in the Secure Erasure of all Data on your systems Internal Drive. Data will not be recoverable.
Power down your Dell and wait 10 seconds. Then power it up, immediately pressing [F2].
The system will prepare to enter the UEFI BIOS Setup:
The System will Enter the UEFI BIOS Setup. This new UEFI BIOS setup is Touchscreen friendly (as well as Keyboard and Mouse friendly) and has a User Interface Similar to Settings in Windows 10. To the bottom left select Maintenance:
Then select the Data Wipe Tile:
Check Start Data Wipe:
Select Ok at the warning:
It will ask you whether “You want to Cancel this Operation?” Select No to proceed:
After that’s done select Exit BIOS:
You will be asked “Do you want to save the changes?” Select Yes:
Your computer will shut down. When you next power up you will be greeted with the Dell UEFI BIOS splash screen:
The Wipe will begin:
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:
After the Wipe is successful you can power your Dell down.
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:
The next time you power it up, it will be unable to boot as no OS is present:
Therefore the diagnostics will begin:
Unfortunately the error message is somewhat misleading in my case and says “Hard Drive – Not Installed” and not “Hard Drive Detected but No Boot Entry on Internal Drive”. This error message comes about because no OS is present on the SSD and can be rectified by Clean Installing Windows see Windows OEM FAQs and Downloads.