When Delete Isn’t Good Enough

March 3, 2011 at 11:00 am 1 comment

If you’ve already read this article about data recovery, then you know that when you delete files on your computer they are not gone forever. If you haven’t, then this news may come as a shock: when you delete files, whether you use Windows or Mac or Linux, they can be found and recovered unless you perform a secure erase using third-party software. This is because when you delete a file, you are simply giving Windows permission to write new files over the space where the file is located.

When computer owners retire an old computer after an upgrade, they often drop it off at Goodwill or sell it on Craigslist without thinking much about what’s on the hard drive. Do you file your taxes electronically? Do you bank and shop online? If so your passwords, credit card numbers, and social security number could be stolen by even amateur computer enthusiasts using free data recovery tools.├é┬áBefore you sell, donate or give away old computers (even “broken” ones), you should “wipe” the drive(s) clean. There are many tools out there for this, but the crowd favorite by a wide margin is Derik’s Boot And Nuke, aka DBAN.

DBAN sanitizes your hard drive by writing patterns of “garbage” data across the entire hard drive several times. Think of it like taking a Sharpie to the pages of a book making it completely unreadable. The process is simple, but can take hours. Start by downloading the latest version, then burn the ISO file to a CD. Make sure to backup your important data, because you won’t be able to recover it after running DBAN! When you’re ready, reboot the victim-computer with your DBAN CD inserted. Here is what the process looks like…

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Type "autonuke" and press enter, unless you want to experiment with settings then simply press enter at the prompt...
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Using autonuke, DBAN will automatically find your hard drive and start wiping it...
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In potentially several hours, the process will be complete and you can shutdown the computer.

Of course… if you plan to recycle the computer through an E-Cycle program you can pull the hard drive out of the computer and simply take a hammer to it. The grey dust and chunks that come out of the hard drive are the remnants of the glass/steel platters that used to store all your files. Not only is it the most secure way to destroy the data on a hard drive, but it’s a lot more fun!

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