When it comes to disposing of old hard drives, simply erasing your files or reformatting the drive alone is not enough to ensure your privacy. In this age of rampant ID theft, it is more important than ever to ensure that your personal information is securely removed from all hard disks. That being the case, I decided to create a list of five utilities for securely erasing and formatting old hard drives.
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Active@Kill Disk - Hard Drive Eraser
Active@ Kill Disk - Hard Drive Eraser is a free utility for securely erasing a hard drive. More importantly, this utility adheres to United States Department of Defense standards (DoD 5220.22M) for hard disk data removal.
Although some might consider it to be hokey, I especially liked the certificate feature. When a hard disk has been erased, the software generates a certificate that you can print as a way of proving that the disk has been securely erased.
Eraser from Heidi Computers, is another free utility for securely erasing data from a hard disk. The most interesting thing about this utility is that it provides several different methods for overwriting data, based on a number of different standards. You can even define your own method for overwriting data.
This utility allows you to securely erase specific files, folders, unused disk space, or even the recycle bin. Furthermore, erase operations can be run manually or scheduled.
Shredit for Windows
Shredit for Windows is a privacy application that is designed to securely erase individual files, free space, or entire hard drives. The software lets you pick the write pattern and the number of writes. A number of different government standards are supported.
Shredit for Windows costs $24.95 for the download version or $34.95 for the CD-ROM version.
Disk Wipe is a free utility for wiping data from a hard disk in a secure manner. Like Eraser, Disk Wipe includes a number of different algorithms, including DoD 5220-22.M, and Peter Guttman. The really nice thing about this utility is that it is portable, so you don't have to install it to be able to use it. Furthermore, Disk Wipe works on more than just hard drives. It can also be used to securely wipe USB flash drives and SD cards.
Darik's Boot and Nuke
Darik's Boot and Nuke is a free, open source utility for securely erasing hard drives. Although this utility is designed to be secure and effective, the author does not explicitly guarantee that data is completely unrecoverable and there is no support for this application.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.