If you’re selling your computer, sending a faulty drive back to its manufacturer, donating your PC, or sending it to the curb, you should take precautions to ensure your data is properly erased. This guide explains:
- Why you should properly erase your data.
- What precautions you should take when erasing data.
Then I’ll show you three different techniques you can use to completely erase your hard drives:
- Using Windows Explorer to format your drive.
- Using Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN.)
- Using a drill.
Okay, I won’t show you how to do number three but it’s a perfectly feasible option.
Why Properly Erase Data?
Think doing this before getting rid of a drive is enough?
Think again… just because you deleted your files (and emptied the recycle bin) doesn’t mean your data is gone forever. Free tools like Recuva can retrieve deleted data in seconds.
If you’re donating your drive, selling it, or even throwing it away, letting your drive get in the wrong hands could expose you to leaks of your bank data, identification numbers, family pictures, and more. That’s why you should take one of the precautions below to ensure your data is protected.
Please read through this guide very carefully. Formatting the wrong drive, using DBAN on a functional computer, or playing with drills can all lead to irreversible consequences. Please take your time when destroying data.
Using Windows Explorer to Format Your Drive
As long as you skip the Quick Format option, you should be safe using Windows Formatting tool to clear your data. To format a drive using Windows:
- Open Computer, right click on the drive you’d like to format, and click Format…
- Uncheck Quick Format, give the drive a label in the Volume Label field, and click Start. If you’re formatting a large drive, this may take a long time.
I checked the drive afterward with Recuva and didn’t find a single file on both the quick and deep scans:
However, if someone really wants your data, they can use expensive tools and software to get to it. If you’re really paranoid, check the next option.
Using Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN)
Remember the precaution above? Please take your time with this one and follow this tip:
Only use DBAN on:
- A computer used specifically to house the drive you’d like to clean.
- A computer in which ALL connected drives can be erased.
DBAN is designed for a firecall deletion of all drives. You know, if you need that kind of thing. But, if you’re not a top secret agent or smuggler of Furbies, you can still use this program.
First you’ll need to download it. You can either download the dedicated ISO or download the Ultimate Boot CD, in which DBAN comes bundled:
- Download DBAN
- Download the Ultimate Boot CD
Now boot from your burned disc. If your using the Ultimate Boot CD, go to option HDD > Disk Wiping > Darik’s Boot and Nuke version x.xx.
On the first screen, press Enter.
Type the command for the method you’d like to erase the data. The default (had you chosen autonuke on the previous screen) is the DoD method (9 passes, 2 rounds.) I recommend this but all work just as well (avoid the gutmann as it overwrites 35 times and can take WEEKS and really is a waste of time and power.)
Wait for some time and voila–your data is erased:
Once again, Recuva couldn’t find anything on the drive but this time it’s unlikely that special equipment could be used to find residual charges on the drive to find previously-stored data.
Using a Drill
Using a drill is a quick method (if you have a drill) and will deter anyone without equipment from attempting to retrieve any data. However, this is only useful if you are throwing your drive away and not transferring ownership.
No instructions here: just make sure you drill top to bottom and use a masonry drill bit and please, be careful.
What Methods Do You Use?
What methods do you use to wipe your drives? Let us know in the comments.