Skip to comments.How To Wipe Your Hard Drive
Posted on 09/03/2006 8:58:26 PM PDT by canuck_conservative
Erasing data from a computer is not as simple as the manufacturers would have you believe. Just deleting it or reformatting the hard drive does not remove the data, and the secure removal of data about individuals by companies is now a legal requirement.
There are a number of methods used to "delete" data from a hard drive. These methods do not remove the data, they simply make space available for the system to use when next required. The data remains on the disk. Readily available software tools can be used to restore the data. Some are even free.
When data is deleted, all that actually happens is that the computer marks the space as available for reuse - it does not remove the data. The only way to remove it is to overwrite it. But failing to delete data may result in identity theft, financial loss, fraud or blackmail. Such concerns have prompted Microsoft to add a drive encryption feature called BitLocker into its new Windows Vista system to protect data on a PC.
According to Nick Coleman, chief executive of the Institute of Computer Security Professionals, the Glamorgan research highlights a glaring problem for the computer industry. "This is about how you manage data to the end of its life and what is best practice. People are used to buying shredders to get rid of paper information; now they need to be pointed in the direction of properly accredited people who they know are competent to destroy the data for them."
There are disk wiping utilities and programs available that will erase data if correctly used. Some programs erase the entire disk, while others allow you to select which files or folders to erase. It is important that the utility or program provide an option to erase free space.
Life Cycle Services has a list of data removal programs and instructions at:
I've got nothing to hide. I am not a doctor with personal patient information on the HD either.
In my many years of computers, did have one HD fail. An 8 year old IBM thinkpad.
Another tale from my mainframe days (mid 80's) ...
We needed more disk space on our computer, so we purchased some used 3380 hard drives. These things came in cabinets the size of double refrigerators. A cabinet held a pair of modules (if memory serves), and each module consisted of two spindles with a common drive mechanism. We're talking a dozen or two gigs for the price of a house (new).
Anyway, the drives were delivered, moved into place, and cabled up by our IBM Customer Engineer. But before we could use them, the needed to be sysgened (configured to the operating system). There was blizzard on, and I didn't want to drive home just yet, so I took on that task.
But first I decided to preview the drives by attaching them to my virtual machine (yes, we had VM back then). They turned out to contain a full set of source code and data tables for a mainframe payroll system that their former owner published (licenses cost a bundle!).
Oh, and then there was the time we got a bunch of magnetic tapes from a new client that held the client's records, which we were being hired to maintain. I noticed a bank sticker on one of the reels. Remembering that the client's previous service provider rented computer time from that bank, I got curious.
I used a utility I had written to force the tape past the double tape marks that demarcated the end of data, partway through the reel. As expected, the next data block was invalid. But there were a whole bunch of clean blocks after that one. It turned out the bank had used the tape as a "print tape", and the residual data was customer checking account statements!
I'm running a RAID U320 system with 5 SCSI 15K RPM Hard Drives. Just because I know how to build it. And there is a computer widow yelling at me to pay more attention to her. Good night.
I was not installing Windows. My hard drive stopped functioning. I want to retrieve data.
BUMP FOR LATER
Sorry, I was just comparing all those pictures of nukes going off with a Windows installation.
I see common sense is your strong suit. Great dumb question. I had the same question.
A campfire sounded a whole lot easier but you doused that hope with your article. Thanks for the link on an interesting read.
For data removal, just call me, I manage to wreak havoc on hard drives without any special know how. I've got several that are beyond the point where data can be retrieved, or so I'm told, since they won't spin. Or I can pay somebody giga-bucks to try and retrieve the info. And I would really like to get the stuff off of them; projects I did, etc. Yes, I use a separate hard drive now to back up everything...
C:\ Format C
That's a lot of trouble someone would have gone through just to see a bunch of pictures of my animals running around :~)
My wife handles data distruction for me.... I kept asking her not to reach across the desk and over my external harddrive.... She did it anyway....and eventually exceded even my darkest expectations...
A campfire sounded a whole lot easier
Thermite is recommended if it's really important, as in this movie. "It's really hard to get the data back once you've melted the platters."
But your idea is certainly less trouble, as long as you can be sure the trash man isn't slowly reassembling your drive back at headquarters.
Another thing that's easier on a Mac: the Secure Empty Trash feature does the job of wiping files up to DOD specs. It can take a while for large files, but I just use it as a matter of course when 'emptying the trash'.
Here's a story about a murder suspect who attempted to destroy evidence by cutting up a pair of 5.25 inch floppies with scissors. Unsuccessfully.
Contact the hard drive mfr. If it has stopped spinning then the motor is bad. The mfr can replace the motor.
If the motor spins but the solenoid is bad then the mfr can replace the solenoid.
If the electronics is bad they can replace the electronics.....BUT
You're going to have to pay through the nose.
If the mfr won't do it, go to http://www.ontrack.com
My choice as well.
bump for later
I probably will never sell a computer. Too much credit card/info on there to ever be sure it's totally wiped.
There's a lot more to it than that. Randomizing after zeroing, then much stronger encryption (as and where allowable) are advised. Everything must be encrypted for the method to be effective, including the swap partitions. And don't use drive caching. ...works fast enough, if one has fast enough striping setups for the arrays.
None of the programs work. Some are worthless. Some may keep your boss from reading your files. None will keep a determined professional from doing so.
Only reliable method is as follows:
take out the hard drive
put it on a sturdy surface.
hit repeatedly with a ball pine hammer until flat and parts are flying
place it where you see used coffee grounds
Now that that is taken care of, what are you going to do about the several components that have buffers?
Did you know that your printer buffer may have hundreds of pages stored? Or the video card? Etc.
Here's a little insight into the problem:
> Thermite is recommended if it's really important
I remember a story a friend told me about one of his duties at an Air Force base in the early 70's. They loaded up the hard drives to be decommissioned into a Jeep and accompanied by an armed guard drove to a fenced in area of the base where a series of holes had been made in the ground. Each hole got a hard drive and a thermite charge. Nothing left but a glob of molten metal.
"Wiping a 250 GB hard drive takes a long time -- multiple hours."
12 seconds last time I wiped a hard drive.
same here , bookmk ping-a-ling [tech]
Absolute data destruction.
I use an arc welder. Turn the amps all the way up, ground the case, and feed a stick of 6011 through it, side-to-side. Doesn't take long, makes a real mess inside the drive.
It takes two minutes.
Although I may upgrade to the .50BMG method one day... ;-)
That's also a handy anti home intrusion device. One wack can chop off crook's arm or head.
I'm sure it's faster with an internal drive, but messing with internal drives isn't for everyone. Even with an internal drive, 12 seconds only wipes the file directory, not the data on the disk.
My son (computer skilled) recovered all of a friend's data which had been removed using Eraser, except for a few files which were partially unreadable. Eraser is worthless.
Ahh... No. It takes 12 seconds. Each hammer blow takes about 2 seconds. Usually it takes 6 shots to make the drive useless.
bump for later