Secure Erase vs DBAN

March 17, 2011 at 12:15 pm

This article is a follow-up to this one about using DBAN (Deriks’s Boot and Nuke) to securely wipe all information off of your hard drive. I was recently reminded of a utility called Secure Erase which is actually much better at the job than DBAN.

Secure Erase is a free tool issued by the Center for Magnetic Recording Research (CMRR). The most interesting thing about the tool is that it doesn’t actually do any disk wiping itself – the tool sends a command to your hard drive and your hard drive takes it from there.

There are committees which govern the specifications for various computer hardware interfaces, and the ones responsible for the ATA and SCSI interfaces (for hard drives) were requested by the US government to include a secure disk wiping option in the command set for all hard drives. So now, any hard drive which is about 15GB or more in size has this built-in program to wipe all the data on the drive when a specific command is received.

I’ve found Secure Erase to run MUCH faster than DBAN (about an hour or less in most cases), but the most important difference is that DBAN and other similar tools will not wipe information off of areas of your hard drive that have been determined to be “bad”. These bad sectors can often be recovered without too much effort, and any data in them could be read even if the disk was wiped.

The Secure Erase command, however, will wipe the entire disk from beginning to end regardless of whether a sector is bad or not. So lets see – it’s faster, and more effective. I’m thinking Secure Erase is a big win over DBAN.

DBAN still has its place though as it is capable of wiping USB attached drives, and flash drives. Since Secure Erase sends a very specific command to directly attached hard drives, it won’t work with external USB or firewire attached drives, or anything that isn’t considered a “hard drive” like a USB flash drive, or memory card etc.

You can find more information, and download Secure Erase here.

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