Wipe everything off a removable disk

If you have a removable disk, like a USB memory stick or an external hard disk, you may sometimes wish to completely remove all of its files and folders. You can do this by formatting the disk — this deletes all of the files on the disk and leaves it empty.

Format a removable disk

  1. Open Disks from the Activities overview.

  2. Select the disk you want to wipe from the list of storage devices on the left.

    Make sure that you have selected the correct disk! If you choose the wrong disk, all of the files on the other disk will be deleted!

  3. In the toolbar underneath the Volumes section, click the menu button. Then click Format Partition….

  4. In the window that pops up, choose a file system Type for the disk.

    If you use the disk on Windows and Mac OS computers in addition to Linux computers, choose FAT. If you only use it on Windows, NTFS may be a better option. A brief description of the file system type will be presented as a label.

  5. Give the disk a name and click Next to continue and show a confirmation window. Check the details carefully, and click Format to wipe the disk.

  6. Once the formatting has finished, click the eject icon to safely remove the disk. It should now be blank and ready to use again.

Formatting a disk does not securely delete your files

Formatting a disk is not a completely secure way of wiping all of its data. A formatted disk will not appear to have files on it, but it is possible that special recovery software could retrieve the files. If you need to securely delete the files, you will need to use a command-line utility, such as shred.