Q&A Monday: Hard Drive Wipe


At my company we are throwing out a bunch of older computers, and I want to make sure that all the data on the computer and servers are completely non recoverable, is there an easy way to do this?

I’ve seen two major approaches to this kind of problem.  One of them is the low-tech approach, where you just physically destroy the hard disk drives, usually by drilling them or by just smashing them…and even in one case putting them through an industrial shredder.  This way, you have to make sure that the disks inside the hard drive case are destroyed.  This was usually a great task to accomplish after some particularly frustrating days in the office.   But there was only so much that could be done in a given time.
A second approach is software that will erase the hard drive information.  I’ve seen some first-time admins, just format the hard drive, and this isn’t 100% guaranteed to make all the data unrecoverable.  I’ve seen companies pay a lot of money for a secure format of their hard disks, but for my general use, I’ve been using Darik’s Boot and Nuke as my personal program of choice.  It is a simple program to use.  You download it from the website and burn it to a CD.  Then reboot the computer and boot to the CD, follow the prompts, and then wait…one it is done running your hard drive will be good to throw in the trash and be confident that your hard drive will be safe.  I’ve burned multiple copies of this CD, lined up a bunch of computers, and just let them sit and erase.  This does take some time, so I found it’s usually better to set it up at the end of the day and then just check on them the next morning.

If you have any questions that you want Jim to answer, from business servers to home computers, drop him a line at me@jimguckin.com, and he’ll try to answer your question.  Check back every Monday for a new Question and Answer session, and check back Wednesday and Friday for other technical insights

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