Quite a few of you have been asking me this questions lately, so when this one dropped in the Hardware 2.0 mailbox today, I picked it:
I have quite a few old hard drives about the place that I've accumulated over the years that I need to wipe and get rid of. How do you suggest I go about this without eating my entire weekend?
Well, given that I don't know how many drives you have, and whether you want to sell them, recycled the metal, or reuse them, and given that I don't know whether you have drives that a defective and cannot be accessed, I'm going to suggest three different methods to use – software, hardware, and the hands-on method.
The cheapest way to tackle a pile of hard drives is to wipe them with a software eraser. I warn you though, it's not quick, and it won't work on defective drives.
My tool of choice for wiping drives is Darik's Boot And Nuke. It's free and does a good job.
To use it you'll need to create a wipe disc, and then hook up the drives you want to wipe to a PC and run the software. Be careful not to inadvertently wipe a drive containing data you need (I suggest using a spare PC or disconnecting all the data drives from the system you use, just in case.
I recommend that you read and thoroughly familiarize yourself with the documentation for this software – if you inadvertently nuke the wrong drive — and if you're using a working PC to wipe drives, that can happen if you take your eye off the ball — YOUR DATA IS GONE!
If you don't feel like taking the software approach, another method you can take is to employ a hardware tool to do the job. At this point things start to get a little expensive, but it is faster and does mean that you don't have to dedicate a PC to the wiping operation.
The tool I use is Wiebetech's Drive eRazer Ultra. It's a fast, reliable, stand-alone solution to wipe disks. You connect the drive up, tap a few buttons, and Drive eRazer Ultra takes care of the rest.
I've used this tool to wipe dozens of drives with great success. It's an expensive solution for sure – the eRazer Ultra starts at $200 – but if you have a lot of drives to wipe, it's well worth it.
OK, what do you do if you want to wipe dives quickly (for example, you're just going to take them for recycling – or the drives died in some way with data still on them that now cannot be wiped?
Here's where the hands-on method comes into play.
You will need:
Now you apply brute force. Ideally you want to put a nail through the platters of the drive, going all the way through (it's actually not as hard as it sounds. I aim for this red X:
By aiming for this spot not only will you smash the platter holding the data, but also destroy the heads. If you're really paranoid, put a nail through the green stars too.
This is a very effective method of destroying drives, and it's also a lot of fun and a good way to relieve stress!