Find out how the Microsoft Surface Data Eraser tool can help you securely wipe data from your Surface devices.
Microsoft Surface Data Eraser is a tool that boots from a USB stick and allows you to perform a secure wipe of all data from a compatible Surface device. A Microsoft Surface Data Eraser USB stick requires only the ability to boot from USB. The USB stick is easy to create by using the provided wizard, the Microsoft Surface Data Eraser wrapper, and is easy to use with a simple graphic interface, no command line needed. To learn more about the data wiping capabilities and practices Microsoft uses during the service process for Surface, see Protecting your data if you send your Surface in for service.
Microsoft Surface Data Eraser uses the NVM Express (NVMe) format command to erase data as authorized in NIST Special Publication 800-88 Revision 1.
Compatible Surface devices include:
Surface Pro 4
Surface 3 LTE
Surface Pro 2
Some scenarios where Microsoft Surface Data Eraser can be helpful include:
Prepare a Surface device to be sent for repair
Decommission a Surface device to be removed from corporate or organizational use
Repurpose a Surface device for use in a new department or for use by a new user
Standard practice when performing reimaging for devices used with sensitive data
Third-party devices, Surface devices running Windows RT (including Surface and Surface 2), and Surface Pro are not compatible with Microsoft Surface Data Eraser.
Because the ability to boot to USB is required to run Microsoft Surface Data Eraser, if the device is not configured to boot from USB or if the device is unable to boot or POST successfully, the Microsoft Surface Data Eraser tool will not function.
How to create a Microsoft Surface Data Eraser USB stick
To create a Microsoft Surface Data Eraser USB stick, first install the Microsoft Surface Data Eraser setup tool from the Microsoft Download Center using the link provided at the beginning of this article. You do not need a Surface device to create the USB stick. After you have downloaded the installation file to your computer, follow these steps to install the Microsoft Surface Data Eraser creation tool:
Run the DataEraserSetup.msi installation file that you downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center.
Select the check box to accept the terms of the license agreement, and then click Install.
Click Finish to close the Microsoft Surface Data Eraser setup window.
After the creation tool is installed, follow these steps to create a Microsoft Surface Data Eraser USB stick. Before you begin these steps, ensure that you have a USB 3.0 stick that is 4 GB or larger connected to the computer.
Start Microsoft Surface Data Eraser from the Start menu or Start screen.
Click Build to begin the Microsoft Surface Data Eraser USB creation process.
Click Start to acknowledge that you have a USB stick of at least 4 GB connected, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Start the Microsoft Surface Data Eraser tool
Select the USB drive of your choice from the USB Thumb Drive Selection page as shown in Figure 2, and then click Start to begin the USB creation process. The drive you select will be formatted and any existing data on this drive will be lost.
If the Start button is disabled, check that your removable drive has a total capacity of at least 4 GB.
Figure 2. USB thumb drive selection
After the creation process is finished, the USB drive has been formatted and all binaries are copied to the USB drive. Click Success.
When the Congratulations screen is displayed, you can eject and remove the thumb drive. This thumb drive is now ready to be inserted into a Surface device, booted from, and wipe any data on the device. Click Complete to finish the USB creation process, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Complete the Microsoft Surface Data Eraser USB creation process
Click X to close Microsoft Surface Data Eraser.
How to use a Microsoft Surface Data Eraser USB stick
After you create a Microsoft Surface Data Eraser USB stick, you can boot a supported Surface device from the USB stick by following this procedure:
Insert the bootable Microsoft Surface Data Eraser USB stick into the supported Surface device.
Boot your Surface device from the Microsoft Surface Data Eraser USB stick. To boot your device from the USB stick follow these steps:
a. Turn off your Surface device.
b. Press and hold the Volume Down button.
c. Press and release the Power button.
d. Release the Volume Down button.
If your device does not boot to USB using these steps, you may need to turn on the Enable Alternate Boot Sequence option in Surface UEFI. You can read more about Surface UEFI boot configuration in Manage Surface UEFI Settings.
When the Surface device boots, a SoftwareLicenseTerms text file is displayed, as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Booting the Microsoft Surface Data Eraser USB stick
Read the software license terms, and then close the Notepad file.
Accept or decline the software license terms by typing Accept or Decline. You must accept the license terms to continue.
The Microsoft Surface Data Eraser script detects the storage devices that are present in your Surface device and displays the details of the native storage device. To continue, press Y (this action runs Microsoft Surface Data Eraser and removes all data from the storage device) or press N (this action shuts down the device without removing data).
The Microsoft Surface Data Eraser tool will delete all data, including Windows operating system files required to boot the device, in a secure and unrecoverable way. To boot a Surface device that has been wiped with Microsoft Surface Data Eraser, you will first need to reinstall the Windows operating system. To remove data from a Surface device without removing the Windows operating system, you can use the Reset your PC function. However, this does not prevent your data from being recovered with forensic or data recovery capabilities. See Recovery options in Windows 10 for more information.
Figure 5. Partition to be erased is displayed in Microsoft Surface Data Eraser
If you pressed Y in step 6, due to the destructive nature of the data erasure process, an additional dialog box is displayed to confirm your choice.
Click the Yes button to continue erasing data on the Surface device.