Why wipe your storage device?
These days, where just your name, address and date of birth are enough for someone to pretend to be you, what do you do with your old computer?
These days, where thieves regularly buy used hard drives on ebay and find for free at recycling centers and garbage dumps, what do you do?
Well, obviously you delete everything, but how?
Just delete the files? What exact files? Windows keeps all sorts of internal records everywhere!
With free forensic software your deleted files can be undeleted and a lot of information you probably never knew was on there can be found!
Secure Erase or secure wipe is the name given to a set of commands available from the firmware on PATA and SATA based hard drives.
Why Secure Wipe?
Why might you want to want to wipe a disk instead of just deleting individual files, messages, and so on? The main reason is what can happen if a device is seized. Forensic inspection of a seized device with special software tools can recover significant amounts of deleted information and references to individual files and software that have previously been removed. Wiping your disk entirely is a valuable means of protecting data against such a forensic examination, and also not having to make individual decisions about whether to erase particular things.
It’s also important if you want to make sure photos or videos are truly deleted from a camera or phone’s SD card, since these devices rarely delete media securely.
A laptop can wipe its own hard drive, or removable storage media like USB drives or SD cards, by overwriting the contents. One method of doing this is formatting the storage medium, but note that this term is applied to two very different processes. Only full formatting with overwriting (also called “secure formatting”) actually erases the hard drive by overwriting data. “Quick format” does not do so, and is thus less secure. Formatting tools let you choose between a quick format and a secure overwriting format. For data destruction, always choose a secure overwriting format.1
You should already have built-in tools that can perform a full overwriting format or wipe a hard drive, or you may download third-party tools to do this. Below are some steps you can take with major computer operating systems to wipe your devices or removable media. Keep in mind that after wiping a hard drive, you may need to reinstall the operating system before you can use the device again.
One consideration when wiping computer media is the limited ability to delete data on solid-state drives (SSDs) ubiquitous in modern computers, including flash-based removable media as well as internal SSD hard drives. Because of a technology called wear leveling, overwriting may not reliably delete these kinds of storage media in full. This technology tries to spread out where things are stored to prevent any one part of the storage medium from being used more than another part. Researchers have shown that overwriting a single file on an SSD often doesn’t destroy that file’s contents; even after the entire device has been overwritten, wear leveling may leave a small random portion of the data on these media in a recoverable form. There are software vendors that promise to securely delete SSDs, but it is still not clear to us whether this can be done reliably to make the information completely unrecoverable. Encrypting your SSD may be the best way to prevent access to the information on the drive.
Once a hard drive has been erased with a program that utilizes Secure Erase firmware commands, no file recovery program, partition recovery program, or other data recovery method will be able to extract data from the drive.
Note: Secure Erase, or really any data sanitization method, is not the same as sending files to your computer’s Recycle Bin or trash. The former will “permanently” delete files, whereas the latter only moves the data to a location that’s easy to flush away from the system (and just as easy to recover). You can read more about data wipe methods through that data sanitization link above.
Since Secure Erase is a whole-drive data sanitization method only, it is not available as a data wipe method when destroying individual files or folders, something tools called file shredders can do. See our Free File Shredder Software Programs list for programs like that.
Using Secure Erase to erase the data from a hard drive is often considered the best way to do so because the action is accomplished from the drive itself, the same hardware that wrote the data in the first place.
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What is WipeDrive?
WipeDrive is the world leader in secure data destruction. It allows corporations and government entities to permanently and securely erase data from hard drives, removable media and mobile devices, providing a secure, cost-effective, and environmentally responsible way of recycling and retiring computer storage.
Wipe SSDs (Solid State Drives)
Need to wipe solid state drives? Since 2011, WipeDrive has been a market leader in comprehensively wiping SSD drives by removing security freeze locks to ensure there are no hidden or locked areas of the drive that are missed. Erasing SSDs is a priority for many companies because they retain their value better than traditional platter hard drives allowing them to re-coupe part of their cost or re-use the drives internally. WipeDrive can wipe any SSD drive that is free from manufacturer defects.
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