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.)

About Jack Wallen

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

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox