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What's the best way to erase a hard drive?

KCI

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We have a PC and a laptop (both operational) that we are considering donating to a resale store, but want to make sure that the hard drives are wiped clean except for the operating system before doing so. I called staples and they will do it for $130 each, but that seems high for something I am giving away.
So my question is, what's the best free way (or program) to permanently remove all data from the hard drives? :crash:
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K&PFitz

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The little emoticon in your post says it all.

In the banking industry, when we get rid of an old PC, we destroy the hard drive with a hammer. Then we keep the crushed little bits to show the examiners.

I have a bro-in-law who recently retired from the Department of the Defense. He used to teach computer security. Actually, he taught intelligence officers how to get info out of other people's computers. He would tell you can always get some data even when people think they are erased. I once had a customer whose PC melted in a fire. A company was still able to recover their financial data from their hard drive.

But if you don't think some expert will be searching for your data, just go to the C prompt and type Format C:/.

But hard drives are cheap. I'd remove it and destroy it, and let someone start over.
 

hypnotiq

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Honestly, its not worth the trouble (or value) of giving it away. You dont know where it will end up and what they will do with it.

Are the odds low that someone will recover something? probably.
Do you want to risk it? no.

After I format and rewrite my drive several times, I still take it out, put it on my drill press and put a half dozen or so holes in the disk.
 

malonem68

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I do what hypnotiq suggests. It's not really worth donating and risking the fact that someone could possibly get information off of the drive. Snip the wires and drill some holes in the drive. Then you can get rid of it.
 

artringwald

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If you really want to keep the operating system intact:

1) Create a new user with admin privileges, log in, and delete all your other users.
2) Download CCleaner (free)
3) Use CCleaner tools/uninstall option to remove all the applications you don't want to give away.
4) Use CCleaner clean option to delete all the temp files.
5) Use CCleaner tools/drive wiper option to do a 7 pass overwrite of all the free space.

That should delete all the personal information securely enough to give it away.
 

dougp26364

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If you really want to keep the operating system intact:

1) Create a new user with admin privileges, log in, and delete all your other users.
2) Download CCleaner (free)
3) Use CCleaner tools/uninstall option to remove all the applications you don't want to give away.
4) Use CCleaner clean option to delete all the temp files.
5) Use CCleaner tools/drive wiper option to do a 7 pass overwrite of all the free space.

That should delete all the personal information securely enough to give it away.

The problem with this is the one word I've highlighted. That indicates you're not 100% certain. A hammer will make it 100% certain personal financial data can't be recovered.

IMHO, never give or throw away an old computer before physically destroying the hard drive.
 

ampaholic

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If you don't have access to a hammer or drill press - go to the roof and bounce it off of the pavement out front and then sweep up the pieces and toss them into the trash.

You could also take it to the range and pop it 4 or 5 times with the .357 :)

Physical destruction is the only sure way.
 

KCI

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Its hard to believe that so many of the responders agreed and recommended physical distruction. So physical distruction it will be. :crash: I have used a hammer on a couple hard drives in the past, but had hoped someone might get some use from the old computers. But your right, I don't want any data to slip by. i have read that people buy old computers just hoping to get something from the hard drive.
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hypnotiq

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I know it sounds silly to have to destroy something but the tools out there are sophisticated to recover data and physical destruction is the only sure way. I just went through about 20 hard drives not to long ago on my drill press. It makes for a fun afternoon. Ammo is too expensive these days to waste plinking at hard drives. :D

I have a program for recovering data off of my camera SD cards because my daughter likes to play with it and delete pics on accident. LOL
 

Rob&Carol Q

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not to upset y'all too much but......

Physical destruction does not "wipe" the information contained magnetically on the drive. While it's quite satisfying to shoot the snot out of a non-performing hard drive or smashing it with a hammer, only the actual bullet holes (and a portion of the margin) are where the data is truly destroyed and unrecoverable. An enterprising bad guy, with time and money, can reconstruct ANY broken hard drive. The only limitation is the extent of the acual damage.

Of course, that capability is far beyond the average...or even above average...computer thief. We drift into the realm of National Security and Mission Impossible.

You need to demagnitize the drive. Overwriting does the job admirably and there are programs that run a series of one's and zero's across the important parts of the drive. There are free programs that do that.

BTW, why give away an old computer...the new ones are just so ding dang cheap right now that there is zero resale value...almost like a TS.
 

ScoopKona

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not to upset y'all too much but......

Physical destruction does not "wipe" the information contained magnetically on the drive.

Salt water most assuredly DOES wipe the information. It's hard to get 1s and 0s off a drive when the recording surface has corroded and started to rust.


1) Drill a big hole though the drive.

2) Submerge drive in salt water. Let it soak based on the level of paranoia. A few passwords and financial info? Soak a day. Tony Soprano? Soak a week.

3) Toss water-logged drive into recycling bin. Or bury it in the back yard. Either way, doesn't matter, nobody's going to be pulling information from the drive.
 

Ridewithme38

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BTW, why give away an old computer...the new ones are just so ding dang cheap right now that there is zero resale value...almost like a TS.

I Partially agree with this....Why give away an old computer? I have an old P4 i've been using for ever, sure i can't play the modern games, but with a ram upgrade and maybe Graphics card upgrade, blowing off some dust, the internet comes on the screen just as fast as some of the newer computers...What do you really need a modern computer for anyway when 90% of people just use it to check email and search google

In fact, the P4 just sits around now that i got an even slower Netbook....
 

ScoopKona

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I Partially agree with this....Why give away an old computer?

Why? Because there are people out there who could really use one. Pity there's not a program to get unwanted computers into the hands of people who could use them for school and for making themselves more employable.
 

4Reliefnow

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Absolute gaurantee method for destroying a hard drive

The only method I have found which is going to totally destroy your computer hard drive is to put all your vital irreplaceable work and personal data on that drive and never back it up.

That is it, load all the family photos, financial records, supporting docs for tax returns about to be audited the biggest project you ever had at work. Load it up, don't back it up, and blam ------ total disk drive destruction.

Time for me to find the thread about how to back it up now.


:bawl: :bawl: :bawl: :bawl: :bawl: :bawl:
 

ScoopKona

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The only method I have found which is going to totally destroy your computer hard drive is to put all your vital irreplaceable work and personal data on that drive and never back it up.

That is it, load all the family photos, financial records, supporting docs for tax returns about to be audited the biggest project you ever had at work. Load it up, don't back it up, and blam ------ total disk drive destruction.

Time for me to find the thread about how to back it up now.


:bawl: :bawl: :bawl: :bawl: :bawl: :bawl:

I've been harping on this for years. It shouldn't take you long to find one of my "backmeup" threads. Search for "backmeup." I know that will get you there.
 

artringwald

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So much destruction

Don't destroy the drive. Keep it as emergency backup. It doesn't take up much space in the closet. What if your new drive fails and your untested backup procedure doesn't work? Put a label on it and put it away, just in case you might need it some day.
 
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