Storage

Standalone gadget wipes your hard disk to DoD standards

As IT professionals, you already know that merely clearing the Recycle Bin from within the operating system does not guarantee that the data can no longer be retrieved. In many cases, a 100 percent recovery can be achieved using a number of commercially available software tools.

As IT professionals, you already know that merely clearing the Recycle Bin from within the operating system does not guarantee that the data can no longer be retrieved. In many cases, a 100 percent recovery can be achieved using a number of commercially available software tools.

While software tools exist to perform proper data wipes, the logistical nightmare posed by a company-wide upgrade of say, 200 computers, is very real.

Salvation might be at hand though, according to CNET Crave:

eRazerToday, Wiebetech introduced the first standalone, consumer-friendly hard drive wiping device dubbed eRazer. Unlike most exiting data wiping software solutions, the eRazer doesn't need a computer to work. You just plug your hard drive in to the device, turn it on and it will take care of the data shredding business.

Wiebetech claims that the eRazer wipes data at the rate of 35MB/s, about 55% faster than most software wiping solutions. While this hasn't been verified by CNET Labs, the fact that you can get the old hard drive cleansed without having to tie up your computer is indeed appealing.

The eRazer comes in two flavors, a $99 regular version that only works on desktop IDE hard drives, as well as a $149.95 Pro version that comes with a "Multi-pass" wipe mode. The Pro version can also be upgraded with a $50 converter to handle IDE and SATA hard drives in both desktop and laptop flavors.

You can read more from the eRazer product page.

What method do you use to properly wipe old hard drives before disposal? Any data-related horror stories to share?

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About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

56 comments
Absolutely
Absolutely

Good for last ditch efforts, maybe, after all available software fails to access a (damaged) drive. But generally, regardless of the number of workstations I administer, I would prefer to wipe hard drives using software, because I can use that without opening the case. When/if the software fails, one of these would be nice to have, but I'm not turning backflips about it.

retro77
retro77

In the past I have used a sledge hammer to break up those platters. Quite efficient!

ojeda
ojeda

Now I can resurrect all those hard drives in my bottom drawer that I couldn't bring myself to destroy. In the meantime, change my name to Storage King.

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

You could take your old drives to the shooting range. Something very enjoyable about using hard drives as targets.

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

You can buy a USB IDE/SCSI adapter for less than $30 and use certified freeware. Ralph

paulmah
paulmah

Do you have the habit of properly wiping your old hard drives before disposal? Any data-related horror stories to share?

mliang83
mliang83

Thank you retro77, you are an other person who agree with my sledgehammer theory that works. Which really make it's victory. We are the professional, and we would not say some thing that we are not sure about. All we are here is to share our experience, No BS. Some other may thinks we are not telling from our experience.

tedeansiii
tedeansiii

Heh or "The Pack Rat" lol jk but anyways whoever said dump them in a vat of bleach how would that do anything? I know the platters are coated with a chemical so why not just drop them in a vat of sulfuric acid and watch them melt away? Now that would be fun... but seriously i took the post of this to be geared towards people looking to re-use the drives in which the software and standalone devices would work perfect. I would say that the standalone hardware device would be better anyway but on that thought what good does it do to free up the computer if it doesnt have a drive in it? unless of course you are saving it as a spare and already have one to replace it.

HipposRule
HipposRule

Not particularily practical in a country with the gun laws of the UK

FrancisW
FrancisW

Derrik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN), nice freeware but takes quite a while.. .sometimes i think droppin them in a bucket of bleach or something would be easier

scottgannon
scottgannon

no one can defeat the big hammer.. quick too!

Hikmet
Hikmet

Format your disk 3 times, I thought that may help.

yellow911
yellow911

we use a program called "file-shredder", using the guttman (35 pass) algorythm....any-one else had any experience with this program, re it's effectiveness?....be intersted to know....

mliang83
mliang83

My favorite tool of all, when comes in for wiping old hard disk drive/data is a sledgehammer. if you can recover any data after I smashed it with the sledgehammer, then I would say you are the man best of the best.

b1001
b1001

I can't belive what I have to read here! Like any IT-Hardware, Harddisks contain noxious materials, which become water pollutants etc. when they get outside of waste salvages/recycles. You don't want to drink such water and I'm sure you don't want your kids, wifes, parents etc. to drink such water. You could even expose yourself to the hazardous materials inside the Harddisks while destroying them physically! It can lead to miscarriages, mentally or physically disabled babies/children etc. Okay, if you hate environment protection and don't believe in pollution or even global warming, there's nothing I can do about it but do you really want to ruin your health and the health of your loved ones and (unborn) children??? I don't think that's christian-minded, freedom loving or whatever - it's just plain stupid. Use DBAN and other tools several times in a row and give the Harddisks to a reputable, perhaps even accredited waste processing company. In some countrys you even get a little bit of money for doing this and that can be invested in stone-cold booze if you like ;-)))

zefficace
zefficace

Probably the most colorful method... You have sparks flying en every direction, the platters become red, and as for the circuit board, well you can imagine what happens to that. Just to finish things off, you can event cut the case in small chunks. Takes a while, but its a very enjoyable way to be really sure.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

is who are you protecting the data from? Some kid browsing the pawn shop for old hard drives? A rival buisness? The NSA? A simple 2 or 3 pass over write is all thats needed to stop the curious. A buisness with decent capitol could invest a lot to get data back, so at minimum a DoD wipe... The NSA? A DoD wipe...another DoD wipe, a random pattern over write for 5 or 6 passes, and then grinding the platters down to powder. All approaches work to some degree, the point is, know your target, act accordingly. Not all cases need a DoD wipe, some need more...

mcbank
mcbank

Find your friendly neighborhood "artsy" person that does metal casting and has a kiln in the back yard for melting down metal. Use some power drills with screw heads on it to disassemble the hard drives in bulk and get to the platters on the inside. Throw out the normal parts from the outside and disassemble the platters from the motor spindle hub. For short term storage a standard wooden broom handle fits the platters nicely. Stack them up in the corner until you're ready to get rid of them. Take them to the metal kiln and start dropping them in to the melting cup, fire it up, and wait. Pour into molds and make belt buckles or something.

burntfinger1
burntfinger1

is physical destruction and for this I like to use whichever flintlock rifle I'm building. Great multitasking, proof the gun, destroy the disk and stress relief all at one time!

vikram.chinmulgund
vikram.chinmulgund

Well, since we are talking DoD standards here shouldn't Saddam's WMD (weapons of mass destruction) that DoD was hunting for do the trick ? :)

ByteBin-20472379147970077837000261110898
ByteBin-20472379147970077837000261110898

If you're going to sell your computer (as in need the money) then physically destroying the hard drive will only give you a doorstop nobody will want to buy. Write zeros to the entire drive. Western Digital has some good software for that (but I guess it'd be only for WD drives). I've heard of the DBAN hard disk cleaner other's mentioned but never tried it myself. Low level formats aren't always that reliable though. However, if the drive is functional with no errors, writing zeros to every bit would work. Just need software that will write zeros to the entire drive, not just by cluster and potentially leaving some of the data intact. Brings up another good question: data recovery. What programs are good for getting data off a disc? How easy is it to do in the first place? If one gets such a program, it could be used to test how well a drive is erased, even. And, do DVD-RW/CD-RW erasing work well (full and not quick erase)? Floppy disc (remember those?) erasing? Or can one still grab data from those discs. Might be wise to cut up with scizzors any discs you plan to toss in the trash (or shred them).

meryllogue
meryllogue

They are not good at all. I have been on a team to establish a data security policy for drives being sent to manufacturers for warranty, or to a recycler for re-use. Regardless of their final destination or use, PHYSICAL destruction is ONLY 100% secure if you physically shred the disk into 1/4" chunks. Simply driving a nail through it or drilling it or slamming it only keeps it from working. Someone who wants the information on it and has some fairly readily available tools can STILL pull that data off the disk even though you made the drive itself inoperable. Short of the 1/4" chunks, it takes a software wipe utility to truly provide that security. And today DoD is considered the bare minimum level of wipe.

josh.zehtabchi
josh.zehtabchi

Magnets always worked best for me. Then, just for icing on the cake I small hammer and eye protection... Then, it's Miller time!

CuMorrigu
CuMorrigu

*heh* Me, I'm schizo...I used to be in the military, had a clearance and worked with classified info and had to wipe HDDs. I use several different methods depending on the situation and my mood. I have a couple of floppy disks that you can boot too with different toolsets on them, one is the Drive Scrubber tool from Iolo's System mechanic, and another is Microscope, it's got some really great tools in there. Either of those do, then if I want to be really bad, I've got several Neodymium magnets that I've acquired over the years and I rub one of those on the outside of the HDD for a couple of minutes. There is also the ever popular sledgehammer. No kidding, when I was in the military we always kept a sledge hammer handy to break up HDDs with classified info on them, and it's a habit I just got into, I have a custom made 18lb sledge behind my desk right now...*shrug*

JohnOfStony
JohnOfStony

The company for which I work has two simple cheap methods of data destruction: 1) Put a quarter inch drill through the disc region of the hard drive casing 2) Hit the hard drive very hard with a big hammer after which you can hear the fragments of the disc(s) rattling around inside when you shake it.

HipposRule
HipposRule

When we used IBM we used the ThinkVantage Secure Data Disposal (free from their site). We've moved to Dell in the last couple of years and haven't yet needed to dispose of any of them but it may work on multiple hardware platforms

dougmilns
dougmilns

Run a big magnet over the disk a couple of times - less messy than the sledge hammer & not as much fun as a shooting range but very effective :) - The one I use came from a magmount aerial base

Open Minded Geek
Open Minded Geek

I use Darik's Boot and Nuke (dban). From the website it states the following: Darik's Boot and Nuke ("DBAN") is a self-contained boot floppy that securely wipes the hard disks of most computers. DBAN is appropriate for bulk or emergency data destruction. Freely available to download from sourceforge.net http://sourceforge.net/projects/dban/ I created a boot CD so I just boot the PC up from CD and leave it to run until finished Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy Even my granny could use it!! One thing, don't leave the disk lying around ... some inquisitive user is bound to try to boot from it and ... well ... wipe his hard disk to DOD standards!!

slamond
slamond

We use a tool that was developed in-house. We call it Sledgehammer. We got it at Home Depot. Scott

Spin State
Spin State

I think that Pickaxe-o-matic v1.1 gets to the centre of the problem much more quickly

joehoughes
joehoughes

Seeing the damage that a Barrett will do to a HDD at 100 yards is truly an amazing sight.

AVBEAL
AVBEAL

I like using a Microwave. It's fun to watch the sparks fly. But on the other hand you could loose the microwave. But considering the price of an oven...it just might be more cost effective as well as entertainable.

mliang83
mliang83

Finally I have some one agree with my sledgehammer theory 101. Thank you Scottgannon. I am sure we both are thinking very logically, than others. I am much appreciated for your agreement.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

You need to over-write the platter. write the whole platter 1 one and back to 0 seven more times. A good phorensics guy can still find something but that should do a while lot more than a format. (I learnt some fun thing talking to a computer phorensics guy)

b1001
b1001

Which company sells your "file-shredder"? I found several websites and fileshredder.org doesn't look very reputable to me (no imprint, no company background, etc.). Or does it comes from AbsoluteShield (sys-shield.com/fileshredder.htm)?

Spin State
Spin State

I do agree that sludge-o-matic 1.0 is a good method. But I also think that Pickaxe-o-matic 1.1 gets to the centre of the problem much more quickly and has a higher ROI.

MinJRB
MinJRB

If you want to take the ultra-hippie way of destroying data, then fine. That is your choice. I prefer to use Toxio Roast for data destroying. It comes equipped with it's own flamethrower! (It's a mini version, but just as effective.) Don't just throw out that hard drive! Use it for kindling!!! Now that's a barbecue starter if I ever seen one!! Woohoo!! Can someone please inform how saving the environment, the US Army playing cards with the Russians in the Polish Ghetto, while the Germans watch the Sound of Music are related to this post??? I think I'm confused so I write! Right?

Tom Wind
Tom Wind

Sorry matey but you made me laugh. What inside of a hdd is so dangerous, huh?? Maybe you'll tell me taht the bolts are radioactive??? I have quite a few open HDD's on my shelf and I cannot find anything ""dangerous"" do think() than write()

bill.ctr.fitzgerald
bill.ctr.fitzgerald

At least our military TRIED to find the WMD's. Where was YOUR military?!?

JamesRL
JamesRL

In university I worked at the campus radio station and we had a commericial electromagnet specifically for wiping reel to reel tapes, and tape catridges. If you weren't careful you wouldn't get a clean wipe, and you would have noise on your tape. I can only imagine that a HD in a case would have better shielding. It took us about 5 minutes if we wanted to be sure. James

Mark Sibbald
Mark Sibbald

It's what I have my guys use to wipe drives. It also has the ability to go beyond DoD standards and essentially make as many passes as you want. It does take a while, but we like to donate any equipment we are replacing, and this allows us to provide a PC that isn't missing it's HD.

damacenefelix
damacenefelix

I use SafeIT File Shredding and it is effective, there are versions for SD cards also

Neil Higgins
Neil Higgins

the old sledgehammer approach is good.We usually finish off with a dumper truck,and collect up the pieces,and end with a buzz-saw.It takes time,but it certainly gets rid of any work related stress. I guess I've been watching too many episodes of Spooks (UK TV),to simply wipe-clean the HDD,by formating.Not that I'm paranoid you understand.

yellow911
yellow911

it came from fileshredder.org....as we are a very small outfit, with no dedicated i.t. persons, we are of course "flying blind" when it comes to i.t., hence my membership of this site and it's forums...i am TRYING to learn, in an effort to understand something of the complexities involved. we are a small travel agency, an off-shoot of our business management and accountancy practice.as you can imagine, anything i can learn here is of benefit to us, hence the request for advice/opinion on this file-wiping program. thank you.

DanLM
DanLM

www.migosoftware.com I bought it for my home computer, never wiped a disk with it though. Interesting that I see nothing in my options for wiping a disk. Dan

JamesRL
JamesRL

As for your history, you might want to dig out your books. The US Army never made it to Poland in WWII, the Russians did. Though they kinda halted during the Warsaw ghetto uprising to let the Germans wipe out the Jewish resistance. So are you suggesting he should thank the Russians for all their kindness during WWII? I know enough to call the science chemistry instead of chemics. If you want to make bold claims, you ought to be able to back them up instead of resorting to personal attack. And I like the do think, then write thing. :) James

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

you could have just directed him to any HD manufacturing site or perhaps a dictionary to look up heavy metals. thogh from what I recall, most of the toxicity is in the circuit boards etc.

b1001
b1001

Keep it under your hat! What does an IT Department Manager know about chemics and physics? Right, you know nothing about polluting materials. And secondly I'm not your 'matey' although U.S.Army rescued the polish people from the Nazi tyrants. So you should'nt give advices to somebody you don't know and stick that "do think() than write()" up your ****!!!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Oh right, they where standing right there watching truck loads of military hardware (misiles, firearms, explosives...) be carried off into the desert because the same polititions who made all those nice soundbites about fictitious WMDs neglected to think the plan through beyond sound bites and order the military to do anything but watch stockpiles be carried off. (Of all the objectives, the only thing the military managed to secure was the Office of Oil.. hm..) But is this really the discussion and place to debate poor political choices?

EvilhomerGD
EvilhomerGD

One of the guys I used to work with was nice enough to give me his old degaussing ring. He used to use if for realigning color guns in TVs and monitors... I use it for all hard drives after they've been wiped with software just for good measure. A few passes with the ring and any data that may have survived the software wipe is gone for good.

RealInIT
RealInIT

It only allows one pass wiping, unless you buy the full version...bummer I DL'ed DBAN and intend on giving it a try soon, as I have a machine to donate... Cheers! :D

Inkling
Inkling

In the Marine Corps we used a sledge hammer to blow off some steam...

Xerxes612
Xerxes612

Everybody has a copy of Symantec Ghost. Don't matter the version. There is a program called GDISK that allows you to perform a diskwipe. /DISKWIPE - Wipes the contents of the whole disk. /DOD - DoD 5200.28-STD Wipe of the contents of the whole disk. /CUSTOM:passes - DoD 5200.28-STD Wipe of the contents of the whole disk.Note that this switch is not available in Symantec Ghost 7.5. Use /DOD instead. DOD standards DoD.5200.22-M(3) DoD.5200.28-STD (7) I think there is a NSA standard about 23-27 passes, but can't find that.

drew.mcbee
drew.mcbee

Hilti Gun Pro does a dandy and entertaining job of rendering any drive useless for about $.01 per dive.