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How to Completely Erase an Ubuntu Computer

Erasing a Ubuntu computer typically means wiping the hard drive and removing all data, including the operating system, personal files, and applications. Here’s how to completely erase a Ubuntu computer:

Using a Live USB/CD (Recommended)

The most thorough way to erase your Ubuntu system is by using a live USB or CD.

  1. Create a Live USB/CD: Download the Ubuntu ISO from the official website and create a live USB/CD using tools like Rufus (for Windows) or the Startup Disk Creator (if you’re already on Ubuntu).
  2. Boot from Live USB/CD: Insert the live USB/CD into the computer and reboot. You may need to enter the BIOS or UEFI settings to change the boot order so that the computer boots from the USB/CD.
  3. Choose “Try Ubuntu”: When the option appears, select “Try Ubuntu without installing” to launch a live session.
  4. Open GParted or Disks: Once in the live session, open the application drawer and search for GParted (you may need to install it from the Ubuntu Software Center) or use the pre-installed Disks utility.
  5. Erase Hard Drive:
    • In GParted: Select your hard drive from the drop-down menu. Right-click on each partition and select ‘Delete’. Then, click on the ‘Apply’ button to apply the changes.
    • In Disks: Select your hard drive, choose the partition, and click the minus (-) button to delete it. If you want to perform a secure erase, click the gear icon and select ‘Format Partition’ with the ‘Erase’ option set to ‘Overwrite existing data with zeroes’.
  6. Apply Changes: Confirm that you want to delete the partitions. This will completely erase all data from the hard drive.

Using Terminal Commands

If you prefer using the terminal and are comfortable with command-line tools, you can use the dd command.

  1. Boot into a Live Session as described above.
  2. Open Terminal: Press Ctrl + Alt + T to open the terminal.
  3. Identify the Disk: Use lsblk or sudo fdisk -l to identify the disk you want to erase.
  4. Use dd to Wipe the Disk: Execute the following command, replacing /dev/sdX with your actual device name (e.g., /dev/sda):
    sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdX bs=1M status=progress

    This command writes zeroes to the entire disk, effectively erasing it.

Warning: The dd command is very powerful and can cause irreparable data loss if used incorrectly. Double-check the disk identifier (/dev/sdX) before executing the command.

Post-Erasing Steps

After erasing the data:

  • If you’re disposing of the computer, no further action is needed.
  • If you’re reinstalling Ubuntu or another OS, create a bootable USB/CD with the desired OS and follow the installation instructions.

Remember, erasing your disk using these methods is usually irreversible, and all data will be lost. Always ensure you have backups of any important data before proceeding.

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