If you’re serious about keeping your personal information safe, then make sure you wipe your computer’s hard drive with something like Eraser or Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN) (both free) before handing it off to a friend, family member, or random stranger. [New York Times]


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  1. snoop-blog says:

    a wood chipper, sledge hammer, or metal shredder would also work for probably a lot cheaper.

  2. mac-phisto says:

    i use dban – easy as hell to use. run x3.

  3. Schlarg says:

    @mac-phisto: I second that motion. I personally use dban ([dban.sourceforge.net]) and require that it be used at my company. It’s free and effective.

  4. easy2panic says:

    HOLY CRAP!!!

    I bought an external case for an extra 2.5″ hdd I had to give to someone as a portable backup (USB Powered). To make sure the drive was clean I used a program called Eraser. This program can overwrite the empty space on a hdd so that no deleted files can be recovered. It has built in settings for the US Department of Defense’s standards (both 3 and 7 passes or overwrites). It also has a standard that I have not heard of: Gutmann. Intrigued I selected that setting, one which uses 35 passes! So I started it and it said it would take over 1600 minutes, well a day later it was done. This is the stats it gave me when I was done:

    Erased area = 57212 MB
    Cluster tip = 27 kB

    Data written = 2002410 MB
    Write time = 117921.68 s
    Write speed = 17388 kB/s

    THAT IS TWO FREAKIN TERABYTES!!! I was shocked lmao.

    At least I feel comfortable that it is really clean.

  5. mac-phisto says:

    @Schlarg: keep in mind that you should be using eban if your company is required to be compliant with sarbox, hipaa, et al. it’s not free, of course.


  6. Xerloq says:

    I do this each time I send my computer off for service. Trouble is it takes a long time to wipe 200 GB.

    I’m looking forward to cheap SSDs for computers that will be much easier to erase.

  7. catcherintheeye says:

    @easy2panic: The Gutmann method is a method of overwriting data created by a guy named Peter Gutmann, using a method of 35 different patterns.

    He wrote a whole big paper on it, which is interesting if you’re into computer security, but pretty dry overall.

    Even Gutmann himself says that his method is overkill, and that wiping something 35 times really doesn’t do much better than wiping something 15 times. According to Gutmann, intelligence agencies are able to read data using magnetic information, so the number of times to overwrite is insignificant. How this applies to parallel storage drives versus perpendicular I’m not sure.

  8. catcherintheeye says:

    @catcherintheeye: That being said, dban is great for boot wipes, while eraser is better for using in the OS.

  9. mrosedal says:

    The only true way to ensure that none of your data can be read on a drive is by giving it an acid bath or launching it to the sun. There is no way on earth that I would give a hard drive to a stranger that ever had personal information on it no matter how many times I whipped it with dban (which I use religiously when I reinstall an OS in case you were wondering). I would trust dban on a family member, but if I were selling the machine to someone I didn’t know than he would be paying for the cost of a new hard drive.

    At the University of Illinois we are required to do 10 passes which takes quite some time.

    dban is my default when reinstalling an os particularly Windows because a reformat does absolutely nothing, and I have run into many instances of a FUBAR Windows installation due to a reformat without first whipping the drive.

  10. bilge says:

    @snoop-blog: DBAN is free.

  11. digitalgimpus says:

    Destroy the drive… storage is cheap enough. Just not worth the risk, time, effort, and electricity.

  12. Schlarg says:

    @mac-phisto: Thanks mac-phisto. I wasn’t aware of the enterprise product.

  13. ColoradoShark says:

    @Xerloq: For now, SSD write more slowly than real hard drives.
    Specific software could be developed that tells the solid state devices to erase themselves several times. This is in contrast to the real hard drives where you actually have to shovel data at it in different patterns.

    Of course, a drill through a few key points of any device does a dandy job also.

  14. swalve says:

    There is no evidence that data that has TRULY been overwritten, even once, has ever been recovered.

  15. Rusted says:

    @snoop-blog: High level format works pretty well, but yeah, I dissect them for the magnet.

  16. ravensfire says:

    @SWALVE And this is why the US Government, including USSS, wipes drives at least 3X. My understanding, my Masters project was in the area of Digital Forensics, is that 3X is overkill. If you are using a good disk overwriting tool, 1X is plenty. The 3X rule came about because Computer Scientists are an obsessive lot, which I can vouch for since I am a Computer Scientist.

    My tool of choice for overwriting disks is dd. Its built-in to just about any Linux or Unix distro and there are Graphical User Interfaces one can get for it if scared by the command-line. If like most people, you don’t use *nix, you can download a bootable CD that can be used to run linux without actually installing it. Why go to all this trouble? Because dd is also useful for doing exact copies of hard disks. So rather than shelling out around 70 bucks for Norton Ghost 12 you can have this lovely tool for only the time it takes you to download and burn to a CD some bootable Linux-distro.