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Is there a fast & free way to wipe a hard drive?
Old 08-17-2013, 10:45 AM   #1
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Is there a fast & free way to wipe a hard drive?

As part of downsizing we have several computers to donate but I want to wipe the hard drives first.

I've googled but there are lots of options. Any recommendations on the fastest, cheapest way to do it without destroying the computer?
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Old 08-17-2013, 12:09 PM   #2
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I use killdisk myself. The free version.

Freeware Download Active@ KillDisk

Start it up and after 30 minutes it's done.
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Old 08-17-2013, 01:34 PM   #3
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+ 1 on Killdisk.
I have used it many times. Does a single pass write-over similar to doing a format - also a free option. Simply install the target drive as a slave and do a complete format. Don't forget to delete any partitions.
I also have Acronis ($) software that does a more complete wipe with multiple passes, but takes a long time. The larger the drive the more time it will take.
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Old 08-17-2013, 02:01 PM   #4
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Thanks for the advice. I'll download KillDisc.

It was one of the options I read about but I'm glad to hear you recommend it.
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Old 08-17-2013, 02:41 PM   #5
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Darik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN) is my personal favorite for this kind of thing.

There is a pretty good overview here: Wipe, Delete, and Securely Destroy Your Hard Drive’s Data the Easy Way
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Old 08-17-2013, 02:53 PM   #6
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I typically use a linux boot cd with disk utilities installed. DiskWipe is a good one that is also portable, that is it doesn't require any installation an can be run from a flash drive. Also follows Dod standards for disk erasing.

Disk Wipe - Free software
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Old 08-17-2013, 03:32 PM   #7
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Darik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN) is my personal favorite for this kind of thing.
This is the one I use.
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Old 08-17-2013, 04:17 PM   #8
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What ever you use, check to make sure everything is really gone. We bought a used PC from a fellow who worked on them part time. His wife worked at a local bank, and he told us it had belonged to her bank, but he had cleaned the hard drive. When we got home and booted it up, it still had hundreds of bank documents on it. My DW called the wife of this fellow and she told us to delete the stuff, but not to call the bank. I did read one of the letters that caught my eye. It was to one of the richest men in the county about non payment on a loan. We zapped them all. But we never used the PC much, so I would guess it is still on the hard drive.
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Old 08-17-2013, 08:11 PM   #9
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I write over my hard disk with zeros (between 1 and 7 times). On a mac, you can do this with the built in disk utility.

I've also physically destroyed hard-disks with a drill (or opening it up and taking out the platters) for stuff I wanted to ensure was gone for good.
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Old 08-17-2013, 08:28 PM   #10
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I write over my hard disk with zeros (between 1 and 7 times). On a mac, you can do this with the built in disk utility.

I've also physically destroyed hard-disks with a drill (or opening it up and taking out the platters) for stuff I wanted to ensure was gone for good.
One write is probably plenty. If you're worried about the NSA finding someting, twice would be plenty to get rid of vestigial magnetism.
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Old 08-17-2013, 08:51 PM   #11
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for diskwiping.. I don't mind starting a wipe program and then let it run overnight as i go to bed.. then in the morning..the HD should be wiped.
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Old 08-17-2013, 11:45 PM   #12
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I physically remove it and take a hammer to it. Let them install a brand new one. I heard somewhere that you just can't remove all your data? Maybe an IT guru can enlighten us on that?
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Old 08-17-2013, 11:54 PM   #13
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You can write all 1's or 0's to the drive but it takes a long time
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Old 08-17-2013, 11:56 PM   #14
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I physically remove it and take a hammer to it. Let them install a brand new one. I heard somewhere that you just can't remove all your data? Maybe an IT guru can enlighten us on that?
I actually remove it and keep it, and get a wire connector thingie to plug it into a usb port if I need a file saved there. I have two old ones that I have needed a file from. You could always buy a new hard drive before donating the computer but I wonder if most of them get stripped for parts and metals.
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Old 08-18-2013, 07:09 AM   #15
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In the future I will probably go the "hammer and drill" route. I used to have some DOS utilities that I knew worked but of course they're useless on TB drives and I don't have access to the forensic software I used to use to verify that anything else works as advertised.

I met a guy who worked at NSA. He told me that what they did with their drives was to remove the platters, grind them into dust, and then incinerate the dust. Yup, I guess that would work!
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Old 08-18-2013, 09:08 AM   #16
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If the computer is dead, I either do the hammer approach (and save the magnets, because I am a pack rat, and they are amazingly strong), or like Bestwifeever, save the drive and use it with the USB cable adapter.

But the OP is talking working computer for donation. I think a basic 0/1 wipe program is fine. Just a 'trash/delete' would not be good enough, those are easily reversed, as the files are simply 'marked' for deletion - nothing is done unless the space is needed later to write something.

But I don't think anything more advanced than that is needed. Who is going to put in the time to try to do forensics on a random hard drive?

-ERD50
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Old 08-18-2013, 12:19 PM   #17
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If the computer is dead, I either do the hammer approach (and save the magnets, because I am a pack rat, and they are amazingly strong), or like Bestwifeever, save the drive and use it with the USB cable adapter.

But the OP is talking working computer for donation. I think a basic 0/1 wipe program is fine. Just a 'trash/delete' would not be good enough, those are easily reversed, as the files are simply 'marked' for deletion - nothing is done unless the space is needed later to write something.

But I don't think anything more advanced than that is needed. Who is going to put in the time to try to do forensics on a random hard drive?

-ERD50
You put on goggles, put the drive on a big rock or an anvil, and work it over with an 8 # hammer? Or maybe hold it is place and use a one arm hammer like a3#?

I used to crush them in a giant vise then burn them with acetylene but I no longer have this kind of equipment.

Ha
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Old 08-18-2013, 01:08 PM   #18
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Our son recently picked up an old Mac at a thrift store. It was full of personal info and documents. He browsed through it to look for programs to keep and then wiped the drives and reinstalled the OS. I'm amazed at the stuff that gets left on computers that are donated. He had another one last year that had personal pictures (family events, kids, vacations) and browser bookmarks that included login info and passwords. He buys these things because he likes tech history. But for someone looking to procure personal info, it's easy pickings.

If I was getting rid of an old computer I'd remove the hard drive, either to keep or to physically destroy. Hard drives are cheap if someone later wants to use your old computer.
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Old 08-18-2013, 02:02 PM   #19
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Formatting a drive is the equivalent of ripping the table of contents out of a paper book. That is never enough.

Writing over every sector on the drive multiple times is the only way to be sure if you insist on donating or passing on. I no longer donate machines with hard drives in them. I run 7 passes and then pull out the drive(s) and physically destroy the platters. There are folks who buy up old machines simply looking to steal data or otherwise nefariously profit from old data. The chance of having a personal data issue is not worth doing otherwise IMO, and if you ever have data related to w*(k or others on your machine, it's not even close to worth the risk.
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Old 08-18-2013, 02:23 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by haha View Post
You put on goggles, put the drive on a big rock or an anvil, and work it over with an 8 # hammer? Or maybe hold it is place and use a one arm hammer like a3#?

I used to crush them in a giant vise then burn them with acetylene but I no longer have this kind of equipment.

Ha
I unscrew what I can. The ones I've done come apart easily. Once you get it apart, it is not much effort to bust the platter(s) in a few pieces, or just scratch it up real bad. I can't imagine anyone going through the effort to try to recreate my heavily damaged platter.

-ERD50
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