• Status: Solved
  • Priority: Medium
  • Security: Public
  • Views: 670
  • Last Modified:

Securely wipe data from a failing hard drive?

I've collected a number of hard drives that either failed or were in the process of failing when I removed them from their computers.  In most cases they had bad sectors, but the drive electronics and mechanism are otherwise relatively OK.  I need to dispose of them, but want to make sure any data is unreadable.  Because in most cases the drives are at least partially functional, there is still a possibility someome could recover valuable data from the drive.

What I'm looking for is a secure wipe utility that executes in a reasonable amount of time for disks that have bad sectors.  Ideally, the utility would tell the drive firmware to ignore bad sectors... to basically write to the disk blindly without regard for data integrity.  I've already tried one wipe utility that fails to do this, and the disk spends hours upon hours retrying failed sectors and attempting to remap them to "good" parts of the disk... I stopped it after a day and a half, and it wasn't done.  I'm well aware of many secure wipe utilities out there... I just don't have the time to research all of them to figure out which might do this, and I'm hoping someone might see this who already knows.

Yes, I know that physically destroying the disks is probably the best route, and that's certainly what I'm going to do for the disks with more serious problems.  But that is difficult and is time consuming without expensive special equipment, which I haven't got.  I'm looking for a software solution, and it doesn't really matter to me whether it runs on Linux, DOS or Windows.  Please don't suggest a solution unless you know for sure it meets my specific requiments... "have you tried XXX?" responses aren't helpful, because I don't have time to try out a dozen different utilities.

Thanks,
-R
0
robertdana
Asked:
robertdana
  • 3
  • 3
  • 3
  • +4
1 Solution
 
_Commented:
>> consuming without expensive special equipment <<  A good 16oz hammer is fast and cheap. A good way to work off "work related stress" also.   : )

OK. Software....

These work good.

Test Disk
http://www.cgsecurity.org/index.html?testdisk.html

www.killdisk.com 
free and works good

Secure delete:
A good discussion and links here:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Hardware/Q_21314141.html#0 "Best way to format Hard Drive to ensure all confidential info is gone"

0
 
Duncan MeyersCommented:
http://dban.sourceforge.net

Excellent and free.
0
 
Duncan MeyersCommented:
Ummmm.

I've just read you question a little more thoroughly. :-)

The quickest method is a degaussing tool. The firmware of the hard disc will perform retries no matter what your software says. A degaussing tool (or bulk eraser) will do the job by demagnetizing the disc surface. The only problem is testing how thoroughly it has been done.

HDD Degaussers are available from Verity Systems in the UK (http://www.veritysystems.com) although I'm sure that there are other manufacturers out there.
0
Free Tool: Subnet Calculator

The subnet calculator helps you design networks by taking an IP address and network mask and returning information such as network, broadcast address, and host range.

One of a set of tools we're offering as a way of saying thank you for being a part of the community.

 
volk125Commented:
just find a big magnet and put it on top of the hard drive for a couple days  :o)  A) Then take a hammer and smash it, just to be sure B) take it apart and scratch the disks with something sharp and then put the magnet on the disks   :o)))  

and I use Eraser 5.6 which works good too
0
 
volk125Commented:
here is the link for Eraser 5.6 Freeware
http://www.dirfile.com/downloadnow_eraser_freeware.html
0
 
star57techCommented:
Actually the only way to wipe the drive completly is to destroy the drive. The United States Army actually has a team that Melts their drives. So I would open each HD and the take a sander and sand the platters. EXTREME YES. But very effective. If you do not have security data then use the drives manufactors disk to write zeros to the drive. But I have fun destroying them

Keith
0
 
robertdanaAuthor Commented:
Thanks to all who replied, but I get the feeling nobody read the question very carefully.  I don't need help with techniques for physical destruction.  I don't have time to physically destroy all the drives, and frankly the data isn't so valuable that it's necessary.  Degaussing is out of the question budgetarily (unless someone has a free degausser they'd be willing to send me).  

I'm very aware that there are a million secure erase programs and I've used many personally.  What I'm looking for specifically is a secure erase program that forces the drive firmware to ignore bad sectors so that the erase operation will complete in a reasonable amount of time on a failing hard drive.  I know this is technically feasible... the awesome "SpinRite" data recovery program from GRC.com disables the drive's internal retry and sector remapping features during data recovery.

Anyone *know* that the program they've suggested does this?

-R
0
 
WatzmanCommented:

Destroying the discs is neither time consuming nor difficult.  With an electric drill, it takes 20 seconds.  Without an electric drill, by throwing the drive down hard on a concrete floor 2 or maybe 3 times, it also takes about 20 seconds (this not only shatters the heads, but it bends the platters enough so that they could not be recovered with any reasonable level of effort).
.
0
 
Duncan MeyersCommented:
Guilty as charged.

Originally, anyway.

However, once I *did* read your question I said: "The firmware of the hard disc will perform retries no matter what your software says".

Problem is, I'm not aware of any free data destruction products that will switch of the retry count in the drive firmware...  Maybe Steve Gibson would like to write an extension to SpinRite?
0
 
robertdanaAuthor Commented:
Hmm... perhaps I'm striking the wrong balance between laziness and paranoia.  I have a setup where it's exceptionally easy for me to plug a bare drive into a machine and let it run without interference from me, so a software solution is really attractive.

As for physical approaches, the "just drill it" approach is convenient but doesn't really remove data from the platters, nor does throwing (which leaves a mess and chips the concrete).  My usual method of physical destruction is to remove the platters, have some fun with my dremel grinder tool on the surfaces, then heat them with a blowtorch.  This is a lot easier than physically shredding the platters, but is still time consuming.  I'm similarly comfortable with a 3x overwrite for functional disks.  It seems to me that a 3x random overwrite of all sectors good and bad would be just as satisfactory.  Perhaps this is overly paranoid, but judging by a recent related /. thread a lot of other people are too.

-R
0
 
WatzmanCommented:

The solution to wipe data from a good drive is one thing, but it was stated in the original question that these were failing drives.  As such, I think that a purely physical approach is called for.

As for "it really doesnt remove data from the platters", it effectively does.  Once the drill bit touches the platter, even without going all the way through (althogh there is no reason not to), the platter is so damaged and so out of balance that no recovery would be possible without national security levels of effort.  And I presume that we are not dealing with a national security situation.  You don't have to shred the platters.  On one-quarter inch hole is all that you need.  And frankly, any normal person not dealing with national security matters, and not engaged in child porn or criminal activity who doesn't think that a simple overwrite with all zeros is "enough" is paranoid.  True, such an overwrite isn't totally secure.  But the level of effort and expense of getting past even that simple overwrite is tremendous, tens of thousands of dollars and diagnostic hardware that only drive manufacturers, forensic analysts and data recovery firms have access to.  It's just not something that the average computer user has to worry about.

0
 
robertdanaAuthor Commented:
Well, I think we'll have to respectfully disagree about this one.  I actually want to remove the data from the platters -- and yes this is CYA.  I believe that what you say is likely true, but there are a host of people who think that removing the data from the platters (or shredding the platters into tiny bits) is the only responsible approach if you're going to go the physical route, and I can't afford to be questioned on this.

-R
0
 
star57techCommented:
I totally disagree, The only way is to shred, , for Lawyers and Doctors, Etc. All information on a drive that is to be discarded should be distroyed and shredded. To much information. I agree that a drill bit might work. But when you shred a the thing, you can sleep at night...
 Anyway its fun

Keith
 
0
 
WatzmanCommented:

Well, a hard drive platter can't be shredded with tools commonly available.  Most of them are aluminum and far too thick for a paper shredder.  And with some admitted exceptions, I think that you are paranoid.
0
 
star57techCommented:
I agree that it is the extreme way of doing it. Guranteed no data recover..Paranoid And its fun.....:)
0
 
rindiCommented:
robertdana,

No comment has been added to this question in more than 21 days, so it is now classified as abandoned..
I will leave the following recommendation for this question in the Cleanup topic area:
Accept: meyersd

Any objections should be posted here in the next 4 days. After that time, the question will be closed.


Rindi
EE Cleanup Volunteer
0

Featured Post

Free Tool: Path Explorer

An intuitive utility to help find the CSS path to UI elements on a webpage. These paths are used frequently in a variety of front-end development and QA automation tasks.

One of a set of tools we're offering as a way of saying thank you for being a part of the community.

  • 3
  • 3
  • 3
  • +4
Tackle projects and never again get stuck behind a technical roadblock.
Join Now