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Monday, August 21, 2006

Disk Wiping Utilities: How to Get Rid of Your Data Permanently

On one sunny summer day, Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Those 2 characters are completely fictional and are in no way related to anyone) decided that they'd had enough with their old, sluggish computer and wanted to get a brand new one. After doing a traditional format, Mr. Smith decided to put up the system for sale on ebay and prayed that they would get a good bid for it. 2 days later, a guy named John Doe offered a decent amount for the system, so Mr. Smith immediately sent it to him via an interstate courier. Everyone was happy. Mr. Smith received some good money for his old piece of crap, and Mr. Doe had a new computer to play with. Two months later, while having dinner with his wife, Mr. Smith received a phone call from one of his friends telling him that pictures of him dressed up as a baby and wearing a diaper were being circulated on the web. Our poor friend was furious! He thought that by formatting his drive, he could then prevent anyone from recovering data from it, but guess what? He was wrong! Recovering files from a formatted drive is easy when using the right tools, so you have to take extra steps if you want to to make sure that the information on your disk gets deleted permanently. There are many solutions on the web that can help you do this, and fortunately, a lot of them are free!

Here are 3 of the most popular ones:

All these utilities are self-contained boot floppies that will help you securely erase data from any hard drive using one or more of the following wiping techniques (Via the Wipe Page):

  • Quick Erase: Fills hard drive with 0's
  • Gutmann: 27 random-order passes using specific data combined with eight passes using random data.Due to changes in the different data encoding schemes now used by modern hard drives, Gutmann no longer recommends 35 passes. A few random passes should suffice.
  • American DoD 5220-22.M: A seven-pass wipe using random characters, complements of characters, and random data streams.
  • Canadian RCMP TSSIT OPS-II: 8 drive-wiping passes with a random byte in the overwrite sequence changed each time.
  • PRNG Stream methods: Overwrites the drive with a stream from a Pseudo Random Number Generator (PRNG)

Here's how to use them:

1- Create the boot disk via the provided setup file and use it to boot your computer
2- Select the disk to wipe
3- Observe the process while laughing maniacly (Optional)

That's all there is to it folks. Happy disk wiping everyone!

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  • Hey great advise you have regarding Data erasures. I always thought that when you format your system all the data will be removed completely.Thanks.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:13 AM  

  • Great article! I also think Derik's "Boot & Nuke" is the best one as well. It also works great in a corporate environment since it is free of charge.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:43 AM  

  • Hey Great articles you have there. I've been finding utilities to shread the data off my hard drive for a time now... what's more, it's free.. Thanks a lot.

    By Blogger SioW JM, at 1:54 AM  

  • There's a very useful bootable utility CD called 'UBCD' which contains (amongst other things) disk erasing applications.


    I recommend it to all my friends.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:59 PM  

  • On a Mac, boot from a system CD (hold down the C key), run Disk Utility and your get three options for overwriting your disk with zeros, 7-passes with random data, or for the paranoid, 35-passes with random data.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:43 PM  

  • CopyWipe from Terabye Unlimited is a "utility for copying or securely overwriting (wiping/erasing) entire hard drives". Comes in Windows and DOS versions (as a self-bootable CD or floppy) and also has a PEBuilder plug-in. And it's all free.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:50 PM  

  • Help! Our living room is becoming a junkyard of old Macs (going back to a Mac CI!).

    How can I permanently erase my HD on old Macs with OS 9? I do have a SCSI Zip drive I could use to create a boot Zip disk.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:31 AM  

  • Thanks for the link to the DoD spec. For a long time, we assumed that hard disk destruction was the only allowed proceedure.

    The procedure appears on pages 8-3-5 and 8-3-6. The allowed proceedures for a hard disk are:

    a. Degauss with a Type I degausser
    b. Degaus with a Type II degausser
    d. Overwrite all addressable locations with a character, its complement, then a random character and verify. THIS METHOD IS NOT APPROVED FOR SANITIZING MEDIA THAT CONTAINS TOP SECRET INFORMATION (their emphasis)
    m. Destroy - Disintegrate, incinerate, pulverize, shred, or smelt.

    So, option d can be automated, and we can donate these old PCs with a hard drive attached!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:09 AM  

  • A great tool for Windows systems is Eraser


    It let's you erase files or directories - up to Guttmann standard. Wipe specified files at scheduled intervals. Wipe files like IE's index.dat on reboot. You can also wipe unused disk space and cluster slack space.

    And the download includes Boot & Nuke for full disk wiping.

    Free and open source.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:08 AM  

  • Hi, this is a great post - thanks.

    Just to let you know the Dod 5220
    .22 - M changed in feb of this year. It is now not so clear as to the wipe standard. The older version (1995) was very clear, but this one does not give the same specifics.

    The 2/06 version negates and over rides the 1995 version.

    I have asked the Dod and others, but am having a hard time finding the specifics on it.

    I had heard that it increased from 7x to 10X but I dont see that anywhere in the New February version of the 5220-22-M.

    If anyone can find the specific reference, please post!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:38 AM  

  • This is an interesting topic as well as the comments that have followed. I have been using StompSoft's Drive Washer to clean up old and unneeded hard drives. This software is as others compliant with U.S. Department of Defense 5220.22-M standard for disk-sanitization. But, with this software title you also can use advanced settings that let you configure your own overwrite patterns using customizable settings, which to me is the ideal option for these types of software.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:32 PM  

  • I personally use Stompsoft's (www.stompsoft.com) Drive Washer. When I donated a computer about a year ago, it came back to bite me in the rear that I didn't erase the hard drive. Ever since that experience, I learned my lesson and I use Drive Washer anytime I get rid of a computer.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:33 AM  

  • thanx for stopping by my site. i like the boot floppy links you have included here. i have read some of the horror stories with people just selling their hard drives or doing high level disk formats. pretty scary.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:51 PM  

  • why not try evidence eliminator, which allows you to delete all files on your computer without the need for reformatting the hard drive. Unfortunately it is a costly software application, but you do get 30 days trial with it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:23 PM  

  • The best utility you could use to delete all data is "FDISK". When you remove the HD Partition, It is completly unrecoverable!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:24 PM  

  • Eraser is a free program. Its great to use if you want to wipe certain files from your hard drive, without wiping the whole drive clean.

    You can erase individual files, as well as partitions, or you can just wipe free space.

    Very handy tool.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:15 PM  

  • Whoever wrote 'use FDISK to completely delete a partition' is an idiot. It is a piece of cake to bring back a partition after this operation. Don't give technical advice if you're not technical.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:17 PM  

  • I luckily own nothing but MAC's. This entire utility is contained in the "secure erase" option on the MAC menue.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:22 PM  

  • How long would it take to wipe a 9Gb drive?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:58 AM  

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