Summer time and it’s time to get rid of old, antiquated PCs and (hopefully) replace them with new ones. Chances are that the hard drive holds more than a few old tests, grades and the remnants of Web research along with personal notes and demographic information on students that are best not shared with the world. In other words, before the PC leaves the building or its parts are reused, the hard drive needs to be wiped clean.
You can format the drive but a digital sleuth can recover a surprising amount of data with software like Disk Doctor or DDR Professional. The best bet is a program that takes everything off of the drive like Hard Drive Eraser. It’s free, simple and quick. Version 2.0 is only 618KB of data so it downloads and installs quickly.
Hard Disk Eraser can shred data to four standards, including replacing the data with zeros, DOD 5220-22.M, US Army and the slow but utterly effective Guttman spec. I prefer the DOD standard, which renders the drive data-free but doesn’t take the whole day to clean the drive.
After taking the drive out and connecting it to an SATA drive cable (a USB connector works just as well but is slower), I plug it into a machine I use for maintenance and repair of other PCs. This is because you can’t erase a drive that the system is running on.
Once you’ve chosen that you want to erase the C drive, you’ll need to type in “ERASE” to confirm you want to get rid of everything on the drive. Then, the program gets to work. It cleaned a 160GB drive that’s two-thirds full of all sorts of data, ranging from photos and videos to presentations an all sorts of Acrobat, Word and presentation files. A horizontal progress bar inches along to show that bit by bit the data is disappearing.
As a precaution, when it’s done, I usually run Disk Doctor or DDR Professional to see if there’s any data to recover from the drive. Every time, I’ve done this the drive has come out of the process clean as the day it was made and ready for the junkyard or recycled in another computer.
Hard Drive Eraser
+ Can quickly wipe any hard drive
+ Four different standards used
- Can’t format system’s main drive
- Need to confirm action by typing ERASE