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How To Securely Wipe A Hard Drive


Planning on selling your old computer? Is your system running slowly? Are you buried in files and programs and just want a fresh start? It’s best to wipe a hard drive completely. But how to wipe a hard drive completely can you be sure? Readers have written in with several related questions, so let’s talk this week about how to wipe a hard drive.

"I have an old HP laptop that I want to sell because I'm getting a new one. So before I sell it, I want to completely wipe the contents of the hard drive so the buyer doesnt have access to any of the information. What is the most effective way of doing this?" From Mike

"I’m looking to resell my current Mac, how do I wipe my hard drive and knowing the new buyer has a cleaned-up computer, and my files are now here to be found on it? From Nicky

"In case I sell my laptop and someone wants to try to recover any erased data, how can I be sure that when I wipe my hard drive I won't be at risk for identity fraud, password, or credit card theft?" From RiseAboveRuin

Have a tech question? Ask Giveumore.com Contributing Editor Connie Turrentine. Send your query to answer@giveumore.com. We are always looking for problems to solve!

In the long ago, in order to securely wipe or erase a hard drive, we format hard drive, use system command prompt, reinstall operation system which would simply delete the catalog and related records. Such wipe were, in practice, the popular ways but can't make all the files on the hard drive unrecoverable, it just makes them harder to retrieve. The file is just invisible but not gone. A file recovery program or special hardware can easily recover the information. As to encryption, it alone does not imply any level of data protection and does not guarantee any security.

Wiping or erasing a drive has a surprising number of definitions. If your concerned with data being read or recovered from your hard drive after it has sold or given away, using software to wipe a hard drive completely is a secure choice. Here I will review the most popular 5 hard drive wiping software, 3 free software and 2 commercial software to help you to make a decision. All the Software on giveumore.com do NOT contain adware or malware!

Click to Read Top 5 Hard Drive Wipe Software Reviews: DBAN | Disk Wipe | Eraser | BitRaser | Wipe Mac

1. DBAN - Freeware

It is basically a self-contained boot disk. Create a bootable CD using 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. Before deciding to use it, you should be aware the limitations. There is No customer support or regular software updates. Because of the rapid development of hardware and data recovery technology, there is a risk.

My Test:

I’ve used this program several times and have found that it could securely wipe most hard drive, but can't support RAID dismantling which now used in some hard drive. It takes a little time to figure out how to use the software to me, an editor in the IT areas. So I can't recommend it to novice users or the persons who are not familiar with computer technology.

Pros:

Best free software to wipe a hard drive securely.

Cons

Some knowledge of computer beyond that of the casual user is required.
No customer support or regular software updates and does not work on newer chipsets.

Editor’s Note:

Use DBAN to wipe a hard drive meanwhile also wipe the OS, so you need to re-install OS after wiping.

Download DBAN

2. Disk Wipe - Freeware

It is a Windows program, so you have to run it from within an already existing operating system, whereas the DBAN mentioned above can be booted to using a CD. And since it only provide windows version, it can really only wipe hard drives that are Windows formatted, can't wipe a hard drive based on Mac OS.

However, if these are not problems for you, then the program is a choice! Most of the free programs could only wipe hard drive with one-pass zeroes, but it also supports the some advanced algorithms like DoD 5220-22.M, US Army, and Peter Guttman, like DBAN does.

It does not require any installation, so you can carry it around on a USB stick or just email it to yourself.

My Test:

Performed a wipe of an hard drive using a USB bridge. Perform a DoD 3 pass wipe with 0s. I then also used forensic tool to examine the data on the drive. The wipe itself only zeroed out the Directory entry portion of the hard drive. It did not zero out the actual data itself. Putting all zeros in the directory portion essentially unallocated the files and directories on the drive.

Pros:

Small download size. Doesn't require installation.
Wipe directory entry portion of the hard drive, make it harder to recover the data.

Cons:

Does not wipe the actual data itself from hard drive, so the data can easily be recovered.
Can't wipe the primary hard drive that has Windows installed to it.
Can not wipe a hard drive based on Mac OS.

3. Eraser - Freeware

The software is open-source and is routinely updated. Again, the downside is that it only supports the Windows operating system and can only erase the data on drives that support Windows. It does not support as many advanced algorithms as the other 3 programs.

My Test:

It can be shown to overwrite magnetic memory to make bytes unrecoverable. However, it does not erase file structure information so that the file names are still listed and recoverable. It is not a securely removal that all information need to be wiped completely could be recovered easily. I think they needs to rework this if he seriously wants to improve this software. I would not trust this program to perform as promised and I believe those who tout it are superficial newbies who have no clue as to what is going on.

Pros:

Make it harder to recover the data.

Cons:

Cannot securely wipe hard drive, the data could be recovered easily.
Can not wipe a hard drive based on Mac OS.

4. BitRaser - Commercial Software

BitRaser is a complete solution to maintain your computer privacy by wiping worthless yet sensitive information from your computer. It supports wide range of wipe algorithms and the wiped data is beyond recovery. It can be used to wipe files, folders or entire Hard Drive without deleting operating system. It also allows to permanently wipe data from external hard drives and other storage media.

My Test:

The software is menu driven, a good choice for newbie users. In the test, I used it to wipe whole hard drive, wipe hard drive but keep OS intact, wipe files/folders, it successfully removed every bit of the data in hard drives and all the data beyond the scope of recovery by software. It also worked very well when I used it to wipe unwanted system traces, which eat-up drive space and may also contain sensitive information. It is safe to wipe the unused space in the boot partition to enhance the system performance. Though it is a commercial software, it is worthy of money for it's powerful functions and easy-to-use.

Pros:

One station to wipe hard drive, wipe unused space, wipe system traces, wipe internet activities, etc. for privacy protection and system optimization.
Permanently wipe computer hard drive in a few clicks, wiped data is securely and permanently gone.
Offers 17 different advanced and standard algorithms for file eraser.
Data wiping speed 40% faster than other similar software.
Simple to use with an intuitive interface, and requires no prior technical skill.

Cons:

Focus on Wiping hard drive based on Windows, can't wipe a hard drive based on Mac OS.
Create bootable DVD to wipe main or Boot Drive is not provided.

Editor’s Note:

Free Download is only for software evaluation purpose. The delivery of product is automated. You will receive an email containing both the link to download the product and the activation key within few minutes after payment confirmation.

BitRaser Free Download

30-Day Money Back Guarantee Free Updates & Technical Support

5. Wipe Mac - Commercial Software

Wipe Mac is allows to wipe selected files, folders or volumes from hard drive on Mac OS X. The software contains powerful wiping algorithms in it and ensures permanent erasing of data, beyond the scope of data recovery. It also enables you to create bootable DVD to wipe main or Boot Drive.

My Test:

The software is easy and straightforward, a good choice for Mac users. It combines many different functions into a single app, with a focus on deleting unneeded files, folders, wipe internet browsing information, wipe system traces, wipe recent file histories, wipe free space etc. maintaining good performance for your Mac. Lets you securely erase files, folders or the whole hard drive, making them unrecoverable. These two foci are divided into “System Optimize” and “Wiping” sections of the app. Be careful with the wipe option because you won’t be able to get your data back if you accidentally wipe the wrong file or folder.

Pros:

Completely wipes Internet browsing data, system traces, recent file histories, Instant messaging data, etc.
Erase selected files, folders or everything off a hard drive permanently beyond the scope of recovery.
Adopt a variety of advanced and standard algorithms to perform the wiping task, including government-grade data wiping technology.
Data wiping speed much faster than other similar software.
Easy and straightforward, and requires no prior technical skill.

Cons:

Only support Mac OS X, can't wipe a hard drive based on Windows.

Editor’s Note:

Free Download is only for software evaluation purpose. The delivery of product is automated. You will receive an email containing both the link to download the product and the activation key within few minutes after payment confirmation.

Wipe Mac Free Download

30-Day Money Back Guarantee Free Updates & Technical Support

Summary

Overall, your best options are DBAN, BitRaser and Wipe Mac for really getting just about any hard drive wiped with the highest level of security. DBAN has just one feature, but it is free, it fits for guys who has some computer knowledge. BitRaser and Wipe Mac are the best hard drive wiping tools for newbie users who are not familiar with command prompt and other technical skill. If those three don’t work for you or the cost is too much, you can try any of the other two software mentioned. In addition, the wipe process could take several minutes to several hours to wipe a whole hard drive, depending on how big the drive is and what software/methods you choose to wipe it with.



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Connie Turrentine, is editor in computer area. At other times she'll search and test new apps, or focus on smart devices use tips.

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