At any company with large deployments of laptops and desktops, it's inevitable that piles of hard disks will need to be dealt with once it's time to upgrade all the machines. Some departments choose to physically destroy the hard disks for security reasons, preventing data from ever being recovered.
Honestly though, I tend to think that that is not only a sheer waste of perfectly useful hardware, but that there are other viable solutions that address this problem of clearing away confidential data on older hard disks. Today, I take a look at MediaTools Wipe, brought to you by Prosoft Engineering, a company particularly famous for their Drive Genius utility for Mac OS X.
- Title: MediaTools Wipe
- Company: Prosoft Engineering
- Product URL: http://www.prosofteng.com/products/media-tools-pro-wipe.php
- Supported OS: Windows XP, Vista and 7 (Windows version only)
- Price: $49.99
- Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5
- Bottom Line: Although powerful and flexible by design for wiping multiple disks clean of data, the fixed window size, which doesn't accommodate displays lower than 1280x1024 well at all, could possibly make this product a deal-breaker for some.
When you buy the product, you receive both a Windows installer as well as a version of MediaTools Wipe on a bootable Linux ISO, which works nicely for systems without an operating system installed or if you intend to wipe the system drive. No matter which version you end up using, the user interface will look the same. Therefore, screenshots that you see in this review are derived only from the Windows version.
At startup, you are greeted with what looks very much like a physical server or AV rack. Clicking any of the available disk drives within the first menu causes the application to expand out with several additional sections, including an area to view raw sector data, adjust wiping parameters, and a button to initiate a deep wipe. You'll notice that you can toggle more than one drive for wiping, which is great for doing multiple disks in batches of up to eighteen at a time instead of doing wipes individually. Each drive in turn can then be adjusted to perform wipe operations to either the whole drives or to specific sections.
For instance, if you want to keep a Windows partition on a drive untouched, but scrub out a data partition that could have sensitive information on it, you can just select the partition from the "Wipe Area" pull down menu and select the appropriate partition. If you prefer wiping a drive with something other than zeros, you can submit a pattern file which can be used to destroy disk data with a unique string of your choice.
When the program is used in the ideal environment, it has a very nice interface for getting the job done. Unfortunately, I encountered what seems to be a serious usability issue when I tried this product on machines with 720p and smaller displays. The rack-style window in this instance will be too large to see all at once when working with disks and, when you try to drag the entire window up in an effort to reach the Start button, the window snaps back into the position it originally was in, giving you no opportunity to mouse over and click the button to initiate a wipe operation. I found this rather frustrating, with no ability to either disable this window locking or close out unneeded sections of the application.
The bootable disc doesn't seem to be affected by this problem, but it has its unfortunate bag of hurt with its own problems. You need to have the product key handy for the software every time you boot the disc, or you won't be able to use the software to its fullest potential. Another problem I noticed is that on a Samsung Series 3 laptop I tested the disc on, EFI mode had to be switched off in the BIOS to a legacy boot option in order for the disc to be detected in the first place.
In my estimation, despite its inherent flaws in how the user interface fits on lower resolution displays, MediaTools Wipe does serve its purpose well for wiping hard disks, particularly if you want many done at once. However, if your needs are decidedly simple and you don't care about wiping by the partition or using custom pattern files, the freeware Darik's Boot & Nuke software works very well as a free alternative, albeit with a rather archaic-functioning interface.
An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Customer Success Professional for Ultimate Software in Santa Ana, California.