Looking to sell an old computer and want to wipe the hard drive clean before you sell it? Whatever your reason may be, there are lots of programs out there that can help you to not only erase the data on a hard drive, but erase it in such a way that it can never be recovered again. If you have a lot of sensitive information, perform a secure wipe of your hard drive is highly recommended.
A secure wipe basically performs a low-level format so that the entire disk is overwritten with 0′s. Other software will write junk data multiple times over the disk so that there is no trace of what was there before. Either way, no one is going to be able to get the original data off the hard drive because it’ll be completely gone.
In this post, I’ll mention five fairly popular programs that you can use to really erase a hard disk properly. There are so many good free programs, that it’s really not necessary to spend any money on doing something like wiping a hard drive. You’ll pretty much get the same results using freeware.
DBan (Darik’s Boot and Nuke)
This is probably the most popular program and is basically a self-contained boot disk. Create a bootable CD using CDBurnerXP or whatever burning program you like and boot to the CD when prompted after restarting your computer.
You can choose from different wipe methods including Gutmann Wipe, Department of Defense Short and Medium and others. I’ve used this program several times and have found that it does an excellent job erasing data on many different types of hard drives. If, for some reason, DBan does not work for you, you can try out the other programs mentioned below.
KillDisk comes in two flavors: Free and Professional. The professional version is definitely better than DBan in terms of options, but it’s not worth shelling out $40 or $50. The free version only has one way to delete the data on a hard drive (erasing with one-pass zeroes), but it’s still good enough for a decent hard drive wipe. Definitely DBan is better since you can use the DoD 5220.22-M protocol.
If you do purchase the program, then you have a great set of 17 choices for deleting your data:
You can use the program from within Windows directly, via DOS or use bootable media so you can wipe any disk whether it was running Windows, Linux, OS X, etc. If you need to erase a large number of disks, it might be worth the monetary investment, otherwise you’re good with the free version.
Another good freeware app is Disk Wipe. The only downside is that it is a Windows app, so you have to run it from within an already existing operating system, whereas the other two mentioned above can be booted to using a CD or floppy disk. And since it’s a Windows app, it can really only erase hard drives that are Windows formatted (NTFS, FAT32, FAT, etc).
However, if that is not a problem for you, then the program is great! It’s portable and doesn’t require any installation, so you can carry it around on a USB stick or just email it to yourself. It can wipe hard drives, memory sticks, SD cards, etc.
It also supports the advanced algorithms like DoD 5220-22.M, US Army, and Peter Guttman.
Another program that is similar to Disk Wipe is Eraser. The software is open-source and is routinely updated. The latest version supports Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008. Again, the downside is that it only supports the Windows operating system and can only erase the data on drives that support Windows.
Eraser does not support as many advanced algorithms as the other programs mentioned above and is therefore not the best option if you really need to securely erase your hard drive. It’s a free option and does the job, but there is more risk using this program.
HDD Low Level Format Tool
This program is free, but has a speed cap on it, which is around 180GB per hour. If you spend a whopping $3, you can get the program without any speed cap. It supports SATA, IDE, SCSI, SAS, USB and Firewire drives, which is nice.
Again, like the last two mentioned, it only supports the Windows operating system, so if you have a hard drive from a different operating system, you’ll have to plug it into the Windows PC you are using.
Overall, your best options are DBan and KillDisk for really getting just about any hard drive wiped with the highest level of security. If those don’t work for you or the cost is too much, you can try any of the other three programs mentioned.
Is there a program that you use to wipe data securely? If so, post a comment here and let us know. Enjoy!