DIY: Destroy data on drives via a Linux live distro

Jack Wallen answers some TechRepublic members' questions about how to destroy data on a drive without destroying the drive.

There are times when you need to destroy data on a drive but not destroy the drive itself. I've been asked a couple of times about the best way to do this, and the answer to this question is pretty simple.

You want to make use of a Linux live distribution like Puppy Linux. Booting that live distribution will allow you to use the included tools on the drive without having to bother with mounting/unmounting the drive. Once you have booted into Puppy Linux on that machine, you want to make use of the shred command; this command will permanently and completely delete the data from the drive. Here's how you do it:

  1. Find out the drive letter (such as /dev/hda) to be shredded.
  2. Open a terminal window in Puppy Linux.
  3. Issue the command shred -vfz -n 100 /dev/hda. The command will:
    • use the n option and do 100 passes.
    • use the z option to overwite data with zeros.
    • use the f option as a force (when admin permissions are necessary).
    • use the v option for verbose mode.
  4. Once this is complete, you can then use a tool like gparted to format that drive to further ensure the data is removed.

After these tasks are complete, you will have a drive that will be an amazing challenge to extract data from — if it is even possible at all.

Ask Jack: If you have a DIY question, email it to me, and I'll do my best to answer it. (Read guidelines about submitting DIY questions.)


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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