Clean (Wipe) an Encrypted Disk on Windows

This article is for those who get stuck with an encrypted disk and can’t use either Windows’ Disk Management or the disk encryption software supplied by the vendor (company) that encrypted the disk in the first place (ironic?…yes)

The main problem with dealing with such encrypted disks is that you can’t get rid of the return the disk back to it’s original state (unencrypted and managed by windows) no matter how much you format it.

The reason for that is because the encryption software (in my case it was PGP by Symantec) creates something called a “boot guard” a gate keeper to the hard drive, if you will, on the head of said disk. The header can’t be accessed using the normal format utility of windows or third party software.

However, there is hope for those stuck because there is a utility called “DiskPart” that is built in Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 that performs low level formating (explained later in this article) and as a result helps destroy the instrumentation data contained in the bootguard. That way the disk just “forgets” it is encrypted with the vendor’s software and you will then be able to do as you please with the disk.

Ok enough with the introduction, let’s start solving the problem

1. Open up a Windows command prompt:

  • Windows XP: Click Start > Run and then type cmd and press Enter.
  • Windows 7 & Vista: Click Start and type cmd in the start search field and press Enter.

2. The command prompt should pop up and look something like this:

You will then open the DiskPart application by typing “diskpart” followed by Enter.

3. Now we need to select the disk we will clean/wipe. Let’s first list the disks by typing “list disk” then press Enter.

You should be able to identify which disk you want to clean, in my case it is disk 5

4. Now I select it by typing “select disk 5”

You should see an * on the left of Disk 5 signifying that it has been selected

6. Once the disk is selected type, you should be able to wipe the disk by entering “clean all”, this operation may take some time (few mins to a few hours depending on the size of the disk)

7. Once the disk is clean you will get the message “DiskPart succeeded in cleaning the disk”

Congrats now you can use Disk management or any third party software to partition your disk and you will notice that PGP or any other disk encryption software will see your disk as unencrypted and not managed by it.

The reason DiskPart works in contrast to other methods is because as we mentioned before it performs “low level formatting” , that means it formats down to the level of the disk sectors as opposed to the normal format (also called high level formatting) which operates at the file system layer. To find out more about low level and high level formatting, you can refer to the following article here.


If you found this article useful, don’t forget to share it by clicking one of the buttons below. You can also share your thoughts in the comments section below.

That should fix any problems you have with encrypted disks, if you have any problems, questions, or concerns please leave a comment below. You can also follow me on Twitter, add me to your circle on Google+, or like my Facebook page to keep yourself updated on all the latest of Hardware and Software reviews.

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8 Responses to Clean (Wipe) an Encrypted Disk on Windows

  1. дать объявление о продаже Сумы says:

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  2. K Xfield says:

    Tried Diskpart- got so far but it was unable to find the flash drive in list disk All it showed was my C drive.
    I am using storagecrypt software. Any assistance welcomed. Still using XP.

    • diskpart is a low level tool so if the flash drive is not shown in the disk list then it is possible the PC does not detect the hardware.

      Do you see your flash drive in the windows explorer?

  3. Jonas says:

    How do I do all the above steps when the system drive itself is encrypted and cant login? do I need to open the laptop, take the hard disk out and connect it to another system? I have only one laptop

  4. Duncan Scott says:

    Didn’t work. Says disk is invalid when clearly i have the right disk number.. This doesn’t help at all..

    • Sorry to hear you’re having difficulty in cleaning the disk. Can you send the exact commands you have used along with the outputs displayed so I can help resolve the issue?

  5. Erika KX says:

    It looked very promising but it gives me error message virtual disk service error: clean is not allowed on the disk containing the current boot, system, pagefile, crashdump or hibernation volume. Any idea how to create another disk, partition or volume?

  6. Marlo says:

    Looks like this article is a bit behind the times. We use McAfee Encryption. I’ve dealt with Bitlocker and some of the others before and you can always at least count on salvaging a drive for re-use/ re-circulation by simply using diskpart. Even Bitlocker drivers would show up in disk management, but could not be deleted anywhere but in Diskpart.

    This McAfee, however, is a bear. It will not show up in Windows at all. The only place it shows up at is in the pre-boot environment. I tried Knoppix and Gparted, and it won’t show up there either. The only thing that I have read works is PSID Revert methods, but that will take me some learning.

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