How to wipe a Hard Drive Safely and Securely

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How to wipe a Hard Drive Safely and Securely

How to wipe a Hard Drive Safely and Securely. How can I wipe my computer and leave no traces of what was on my it at one time? Wiping your hard drive beyond recovery is a must.  A lot of people want to be wipe their hard drive because they are going to sell their computer, they want to put a new operating system on it, or they just want to start fresh. A lot of people make the mistake of doing the windows restore, or reverting to an old backup. That does not wipe your hard drive, or even give you any form of security from what people may find on the drive. Many people don’t want to have to deal with the hassle of wiping the computer, putting the operating system on, installing the drivers, and making sure they work correctly. They usually just do a windows restore, or just delete some files and go and sell the computer. This is extremely dangerous, and offers no form of security.

Yeah Yeah, just tell me How to wipe a Hard Drive Safely and Securely

There are many different ways to wipe a hard drive. There are many different programs, and many different styles that they wipe in. My number one favorite way to completely wipe a hard drive, or a computer is Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN). DBAN is one of the most friendly and secure ways to wipe a hard drive. It has many different ways/styles to wipe a hard drive. It offers  simple and easy wipe if you don’t care whats on your hard drive (1 pass), the government style of deleting files (usually 7 passes), , or an extremely secure file deletion that makes it impossible to recover any form of your files (35 pass Gutmann), and a couple other options. DBAN is one of the most secure file deletion programs because it is its own OS. You download the .ISO. You burn it to a disk, or burn it to a flash drive. You turn off your computer, then hit F12 (or whatever your computer uses to change the boot order), then boot from your CD, or flash drive. From there it is pretty simple. It gives you directions on what it will wipe, and what form of wiping you should use. The reason it is so secure is because it boots into its own OS. Its not using windows, mac, or any other operating system on your hard drive. Its booting off of a modified version of Linux. It is only using the CD, or flash drive to boot the computer up. This allows the hard drive to be completely free of use. The program will then locate your hard drive and completely NUKE it. The different pass modes “generally” 1, 3, 7, and 35 all wipe your hard drive in the end, but its how they do it. I like tothink of it as a piece of food. Take an apple and cut it in half, then throw it away (1 pass). You will have to go in the trash and find both pieces but it will still be very easy to put back together. Cut the apple into 3 and throw it away, it will be harder to find all three pieces, and you may not be able to put it back together. Take the apple, cut it into 35 pieces, and throw it away. It will almost be impossible to put the apple back into its original form, when its chopped up that many times in different size pieces. That’s the way the data works. When you format a hard drive, most programs half-ass it. You would still be able to find most if not all your data if you analyzed your hard drive, or micro-analyzed it. When you use these programs you are chopping the data up instead of throwing it away. This would make it extremely hard to find traces of data on your hard drive. 7 passes is recommended when wiping a hard drive. It offers a semi-fast and very secure deletion. 35 passes is for the elite. This is if you want the data to never ever be seen, or be able to be recovered in any way. Some people that wipe their hard drive with the Gutmann method (35 passes), generally wipe it multiple times with the Gutmann method. It is the most secure method, but takes a very long time.

Which way should I wipe my hard drive? How many passes?

Its is up to the hard drive owner on how many passes they want to wipe their hard drive. If you just want to completely wipe your computer to start a new slate 1 pass is fine. If you just want to give it to a family or friend, 3 passes is fine. If you are going to sell it to someone you don’t know, 7 passes is recommended. If you are very worried, and never want any form of data on the drive to ever be recovered 35 passes is recommended. A lot of works, and government agencies use Gutmann so that the data can never be found if anyone were to look over, or hack their drives/servers. Another factor on wiping your drive it how fast the drive is, and/or its age. If your computer is very slow, 7 passes or more may take multiple days to wipe it. But, a lot of hard drives/computers are slower when using them. That’s because you are utilizing multiple features at once. An old computer of mine took at least 10 minutes to boot up, and could barely open a folder without the whole computer freezing. It would read and write at about 800KB/s. Which is very slow. I removed the hard drive and wiped it 7 passes. It only took about 2-3 hours. Considering if the drive actually only read and wrote at 800KB/s, 7 passes would have taken multiple days. The last thing to consider is the space on the hard drive. For me to wipe a 150gig on 7 passes took about 5 hours. For me to wipe 1TB on a 7 passes, took about 26 hours. For me to wipe a really old 100gig on 3 passes took about 5 hours. It depends on the size, hardware (not so much hard ware, just that the computer can get itself moving), and how fast the hard drive can go. If you have a full stock 1TB drive, 35 passes would probably take close to 16 days to wipe. But a semi-full 350gig on 35 passes may only take 4 days. When wiping your computer, make sure it is in a well ventilated cool area. The computer may get extremely hot as it is using all its resources at full speed to wipe the drive. Just keep in mind how much time you have on your hands.

What if I want to wipe a random hard drive I have sitting around, while still using my computer?

A very common question I get is how to wipe an old hard drive to use it for external storage. DBAN doesn’t allow you to use the computer while wiping a drive. So 16 days of no internet does not sound to fun if you are just wiping a separate drive, and not your main drive. There are many different programs available. My favorite is CCleaner. CCleaner is a computer optimizer, but has many different uses. One of the best tools on CCleaner is the drive wiper. Go to tools and drive wiper. It lists all drives, or hard drives that are plugged in, or have been plugged in, in the past. Choose whether you want to wipe free space on the drive (keeps data, but may make drive faster), or if you want to wipe the whole drive. Select the drive/s, then choose the pass amount (the second paragraph explains the different passes and what they do), then click wipe. You may have to type in “ERASE”, or something just in case to clicked the wrong drive. But once you delete it, there is no going back. If you stop midway, the drive will be inaccessible. You will have to format it via windows format. It will say its inaccessible, then you will have to click format, and it will be wiped non-securely. But you can always wipe all the space again via CCleaner. It will still securely clean the hard drive, even it you formatted it, because it will still be dicing up the data, even if there is no data it sees. Other alternatives are Eraser, WipeDrive, No File Recovery, Drive Scrubber, and some others. The only two I personally recommend are DBAN, and CCleaner.

How can I trust these programs?

A lot of people wonder if the programs are fake, or if they are government coverups to send all your data to them. This is untrue. DBAN is open source and has been tested by thousands, it is even used by the government at times. A simple search online can show you the extensive research, and the testing on DBAN. Many say it helps hackers, and criminals wipe their drives and get away with crimes as it leaves no traces, but it simply offers a form of privacy and secure deletion, which the government does not like.

When should I wipe my hard drives?

Many people ask when they should wipe their drives. Some say yearly, some say only when you sell it, and others say never. Its really up to you. I only wipe my drives on a couple occasions. One thing I try and stress heavily is to wipe a drive when you get it. It doesn’t matter if its used, been wiped, or brand new from the store. You never know what may be on the hard drive. I always DBAN any drive right when I get it. Other peoples data might be on there that you could get in trouble for, malicious viruses may be per-installed, or some companies may install snitchware to watch what you do. Always always always wipe a hard drive when you get it. Other times are when I want to get optimal speed. Sometimes my drives clog up with random unused data. I usually plug them in, and use CCleaner so I can use my computer while wiping another drive. I usually just wipe old files, or junk off them. I sometimes even just wipe free space to keep the drive fresh and fast. Lastly I wipe my drives whenever I give them away, throw them away, or stop using an old computer. If I get a new computer the first thing I do is wipe all my old computer/s. I usually just leave them blank, or install Ubuntu on them (just to use if I go on vacation and/or need a laptop). Why? It is just for better security in my opinion. My main thought is if it got stolen, I lost it, or someone else wanted it. I would just want to have it wiped off so no one would be able to have my old data, even if it is useless junk.

Overall

How to wipe a Hard Drive Safely and Securely . Secure file deletion (click here to learn how to delete files securely) is a must have these days. With companies that can restore old data on the drive, a secure wipe is a must do. You don’t want to get in trouble for another persons old hard drive data, or have someone else having your data. Gutmann it.

About Author

Brandon Stosh is the founder and CEO of www.freedomhacker.net. Stosh is a cyber security researcher and professional consultant who strives to provide reliable news on cyber-security based topics.

5 Comments

  1. Helpful article thanks.

    Been reading online how to wipe my laptop hard drive, as I’m going to install a retail version of Windows 7 and want all data gone from the drive first. The drive is only a year old.

    Almost no-one in the privacy industry talks about what seems “logical” to beginner me i.e. ; taking the hard drive out of the first laptop, then attaching it as an external drive in a case with a usb connection to a second fully functioning laptop, then using ccleaner installed on the second laptop to wipe the drive of the first laptop. But to a novice like me, this seems simple and easy to do.

    Q. Would a hard drive wiped in this above manner still work normally if installed back in the first laptop?

    After reading your stuff here, I can see that because dban is running it’s own Operating System it is capable of locating and wiping the hard drive, because it’s not part of the hard drive in the first place. That is the part which was tripping me up – I could not see how a wiper could be itself wiped.

  2. I’m just selling a laptop, nice article, thank you! You just got me awfully paranoid :D Helped a lot, though :)

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