By Emily / Last Updated March 10, 2022

Need to delete files from external hard drive

An external hard drive is mostly used to hold documents, images, music, videos and other personal files. Although many external hard drives come with significant storage space, you may receive low disk space warning after storing many large files/applications/programs to the hard drive. Then you might need to delete some files from it to release some space for new data. Or when you plan to discard or resell your external hard drive, it is also necessary to delete everything to prevent private information from leakage.

How to delete files from external hard drive successfully?

No matter what is your purpose of removing files from external hard drives, there are four different methods available in Windows 10/8/7.

Method 1. Delete files one by one in File Explorer (Recoverable)

First of all, we would like to show you the most traditional way to delete files from the hard drive in Windows 10/8/7.

1. Connect your external hard drive to your computer. Double click on “My Computer/This PC” to open File Explorer.

2. Double click the external hard drive. Browse through the files/folders to find the one you want to remove, right-click it and select “Delete” from the drop-down menu.

Delete Folder

Besides, you can also click on the file icon and drag it to your Recycle Bin directly. Take the same steps to delete all the unnecessary files from your external hard drives. To do further, you can empty the Recycle Bin afterward.

Method 2. Delete files from external hard drive using CMD

Deleting files one by one could take a long time especially when you need to remove a large number of files. In such a situation, you can try deleting files from external hard drives using Command Prompt. With that, you can run a command to clean a hard disk and inside data at one time.

To use CMD to delete all data from external hard drive, do as following:

1. Open Command Prompt window by pressing Win+R, inputting “CMD” in the Run dialogue and hitting on Enter.

2. In the elevated Command Prompt window, type “diskpart” and press on Enter to launch Diskpart.exe.

3. Then input the below commands in given order and press on Enter after each one.

  • list disk

  • select disk #: choose the hard drive from which you need to delete files

  • clean: or type “clean all” to remove all files from the selected disk

Diskpart Clean All Ssd

The last “clean” or “clean all” command can delete everything from the target disk at one time, and decrease data recovery possibility.

Method 3. Remove files by formatting/deleting external hard drive

Apart from running complex commands to delete files by cleaning the disk, you can also delete files from hard drives by formatting or deleting its volumes. For this task, you make use of Disk Management: right-click the partition containing the files, select “Delete Volume” or “Format …” and follow the prompts. If the Format or Delete Volume option greyed out, you can use the freeware: AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard. With it, you can easily delete/format/create/resize/move/copy partition.

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Part 1. Delete partition to remove files from external hard drive:

1. Download the freeware, install and run it on your Windows computer, right-click the target partition on your external hard drive and select “Delete Partition”.

Delete Sd Card Partition

2. Select a proper deletion method according to your requirements and click “OK”.

Deleting Method

3. Click “Apply” and then “Proceed” to commit the pending operation.

After this, the partition will turn into an unallocated space and the files within it are removed. You can right-click the unallocated space to create a new partition.

Part 2. Format partition to delete files from external hard drive:

1. Launch AOMEI Partition Assistant on your Windows computer, right-click the target partition and select “Format Partition”.

Format Partitoin

2. Choose a file system from the given options (Here we choose FAT32) and click “OK”.

Fat32 128gb Usb

3. Click “Apply” to start formatting the chosen partition.


No matter whether you remove files one by one, or delete/format the entire partition as the methods above, the removed files can be recovered with the right data recovery program. That’s because these methods just delete links to the data so they become invisible to you, but the actual data is still on the disk.

So these methods are good enough when the data security or privacy protection is not an issue. What if you don’t want someone else to recover your deleted sensitive data? Go for the next method to learn how to delete files from external hard drive permanently.

Method 4. Deleting files permanently by wiping the external hard drive (Unrecoverable)

In order to delete files from external hard drive permanently without recovery, you need to wipe the hard drive, rather than formatting or deleting disk partition. But Windows itself does not provide disk wiping solutions. Luckily, AOMEI Partition Assistant can help you in this case, too.

1. In the main console of AOMEI Partition Assistant, right-click the external hard drive and select “Wipe Hard drive”.

Wipe Hard Drive 16gb

2. Select the first way to wipe data from the hard drive and click “OK”.

Fit Sectors With Zero 16gb

3. Click “Apply” to execute the operation.

Apply 16gb

● If the external hard drive is an SSD drive, you need to upgrade to AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional which offers “SSD Secure Erase Wizard”, allowing you to clear data on most common SSD drives.
● To choose another three wiping methods in step 2, you also need to use the Professional Edition. It is quite worthwhile because it allows you to migrate OS to SSD, convert disk between MBR and GPT without deleting volumes, convert dynamic disk to basic without losing data, and more.

What to do if you cannot delete files from external hard drive?

Through the above methods are effective for deleting data from external hard drive permanently. In some special situations, you cannot delete files from external hard drive for one of the following reasons.

1. The file is open or occupied by a running program. Then you can close all running programs and try to delete files again.

2. The external hard drive is affected by virus or malware. So you can run reliable anti-virus software to eliminate possible virus.

3. The external hard drive is write-protected, thus you can remove write protection from it before deleting inside files.

4. There are file system errors on the external hard drive. In this case, you can use AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard to check partition or disk for errors and fix them.

Final words

In this tutorial, we have shown how to delete files from external hard drive permanently through 5 different methods. Now, you can choose a proper method according to your personal requirements.