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Erase Hard Drive Permanently on Windows XP OS

by k1mberley / November 4, 2007 7:12 AM PST


I have an old work PC I am looking to sell on that contains a lot of personal and client private information.

Please can you advise on the most comprehensive hard drive erasing software?

Are there any limitiations to the software recommended?

You recommendations are appreciated.



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Erase HDD Permanently
by VAPCMD / November 4, 2007 8:44 AM PST

There are commercial programs that do this such as 'Wipe Drive", free programs like 'Eraser' and 'Dban', that do this and several drive mfgs Seagate, Western Digital, etc., include overwrite/wipe utilities with their diagnostic software. These may be downloaded from the mfgs websites. I have not read all the details about the latter products so do a little reading before use.

Here are some links you might find useful.





PS...Programs which specify data destruction to the DoD Standard 5220.7-M for data destruction should also suffice.

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Beside the other advice
by Steven Haninger / November 4, 2007 9:52 AM PST

"Killdisk" will do much the same. Most of these are free unless you need erasure that meets Department of Defense standards. Most folks don't as to recover data from erased drives isn't easy or cheap either. I'll offer one other way and that's to sell it without a hard drive. I doubt that will devalue it much. You said the PC is old so the HD probably is as well. Hard drives are cheap and easy to replace. You might consider removing and physically destroying it if the data is that sensitive.

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I am thinking the job would be adequately performed
by Steven Haninger / November 5, 2007 10:16 AM PST

by using the already mentioned method of writing zeros to all disk locations. Deleting partitions and files does not remove all the ones and zeros created by magnetizing areas of the media. This just tosses out the catalog and roadmap needed to find where the data is stored. That's why you need to visit each location on the disk with a magnetic device to alter the molecular lineup of the magnetic particles. Most drive manufacturers create testing utilities that can do a destructive read/write test. These, essentially, will adequately wipe the drive for you making data locations unreadable by regular PCs. Now, because the magnetic change is not 100% made with one pass of the heads, a very sensitive instrument might be able to pick up the ones and zeros anyway. A work around is just to make several wipes of the drive. Each pass further neutralizes the magnetism. Such prudence might be needed in critical military applications. It's very unlikely your PC will end up in the hands of someone who's paid huge amounts of money for the very specialized equipment needed to extract data from drives that have been erased in this manner. So, my recommendation for simple purposes would be to look at the drive for the manufacturer's name and visit their web site for such a utility. It should be perfectly adequate. Sorry for the long explanation but sometimes it helps to know more about a process to gain confidence in it. Don't want you losing any sleep over this. Happy

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Can any program actually delete everything?
by mopscare42 / November 5, 2007 11:02 PM PST

The reason I ask is because before I retired I did networking for a major bank.
When we replaced the servers we had to take out the two disc drives, Drill 5 holes hole with cobolt bits in each drive and then take a metal grinder and go over the plate several times, have the manager sign off that it had been done and that was just for shipment.
When they got to the final destination they were melted down in a blast furnace.
That may have been overkill but it made sense to me that they had to be totally distroyed or there were ways of getting data from them.

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If the process you discribe is for real
by Steven Haninger / November 6, 2007 6:25 AM PST

I'd say that's a bit of overkill. The blast furnace alone would have done the full job without the wasted effort of the interim steps. But there's a balance between reasonable security and bullet proof security where the cost and energy rise by logarithmic proportions. The person asking advice will need to weigh the value danger of having the data resurface against the odds someone out there is aggressive enough to want it and decide the best path to take. Now, what chance do you think there is that a band of professional para-military style jewel thieves would put together a plan to raid a Wal-Mart for its earrings and necklaces? Confused

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Deleting info on hardrive
by lizwilliams / November 9, 2007 8:25 AM PST

I am not saying that any of the products or steps mentioned will not work - but why not just remove the hardrive totally and resinstall it in the new computer (which I am presuming you are going to buy), and that way you will be sure none of your info gets out there.

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Did you mean to reply to the original post?
by Steven Haninger / November 9, 2007 10:10 AM PST

I mentioned the possibility of removing the drive and selling it that way. This might limit the number of potential buyers but wouldn't devalue the PC that much. As well, being an old machine, I can't think of much reason to use the old drive in a new machine. I'd guess any data that needed to be saved had already been copied so there'd not even be much reason to keep it as a secondary drive.

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Can I just remove the HD and keep it in a safe place?
by morninglory / November 10, 2007 12:41 AM PST

I too have an old Gateway that is probably going to a needy school child or elderly person who cannot afford to buy a new computer; can I not just remove the hard drive and store it in my house or take it to my landfill and pitch it? The receipient would only have to buy a hard drive for under $100.

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If you've nothing on the drive that's personal
by Steven Haninger / November 10, 2007 2:24 AM PST

and don't care who might find the drive and take a peek, you can certainly do that. I help recycle computers that a school is getting rid of. The hard drives are removed and kept for a reasonable amount of time to allow teachers/students the opportunity to suddenly remember a file they wanted. When this time passes, the drives are erased or physically destroyed. I doubt there's much in the way of sensitive data on these but, as a courtesy and a lesson, they are treated as such anyway.

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To Steve's reply
by morninglory / November 10, 2007 5:28 AM PST

Thanks, Steve. I do have personal info (bank acct., telephone, etc.) on this old hard drive. Could my husband just use it for target practice? He would do a great job of destroying it!

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Depending on the firearm and ammo
by Steven Haninger / November 10, 2007 6:56 PM PST

that could work. It's probably not on the list of approved DoD methods, however. Get video. Happy

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Fill it with garbage
by mwooge / November 9, 2007 10:56 AM PST

The simple way to erase all the data on a hard drive is to just fill it with garbage. Delete everything in the normal way (being sure to empty the Recycle Bin), then copy a file or folder over and over again until the drive is full. This will over-write everything.

Works best if it's a second drive, not the C drive, where Microsoft stores a lot of stuff in all sorts of places.

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less is more
by jdrano / November 9, 2007 2:16 PM PST
In reply to: Fill it with garbage

the fbi is now tracking your message since it looks like you have something to hide. get real. two hammer shots takes out the old hard drive and 10.00 buys you a used one.

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This might not be perfect...
by jhE6600 / November 9, 2007 2:46 PM PST
In reply to: Fill it with garbage

This solution is adequate for most people, but if someone really wants to get the data back bits and pieces might still be recoverable. This is because hard drives store information in allocation units, and if the file you're copying over the entire drive does not fill up the entire allocation unit, the rest of the allocation unit still retains old data. This part of the allocation unit that slipped the erasure is known as slack free space, and commercial data recovery programs or forensic applications can recover old data from this area of the hard drive. As allocation unit sizes vary from drive to drive, you'll have to create a custom file that was exactly the size of the allocation units in your hard drive, down to the last bit. This is overly tedious and a free program like killdisk would do a better job anyway.

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Erase Hard Drive Permanently on Windows XP OS
by beaverlaker / December 7, 2007 7:34 AM PST
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