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XP Format - data really gone ?

Posted on 2006-11-28
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Last Modified: 2010-04-03
Hi,

During an XP installation a format is usually done on the new NTFS partition you create but my question is does all the data get removed or it simply marked for use ??

Iv seen a few recovering programs online that suggest they can restore data even after a format, Im just a bit worried next time I swap machines as I don't want my personal stuff remaining on the disk and as far as I was aware a format was final ??
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Question by:itimes
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12 Comments
 
LVL 67

Expert Comment

by:sirbounty
ID: 18029414
It's certainly recoverable unless you use a tool to wipe it clean, writing 0s to the disk repeatedly.
Even then, the data may still be somewhat recoverable...of course then it may be cost-prohibitive unless you're harboring a country's military secrets... ;)
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LVL 39

Expert Comment

by:PUNKY
ID: 18029582
Format is not really get rid of your previous data, however, please see the link below:

http://www.experts-exchange.com/Hardware/Q_21889894.html?query=dban&clearTAFilter=true 
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LVL 2

Expert Comment

by:Johnfdi
ID: 18029859
it depends on how many times it is formated and if it is formatted using quick or full format. The answer is a single format and OS install will still leave behind recoverable data. I would go so far as to say multiple formats and installs will still leave behind recoverable data. There are many free programs on download.com that will completely destroy the data and even then if you wanted that data totally unrecoverable i would run multiple programs multiple times but then i'm probably just being paranoid.
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LVL 32

Accepted Solution

by:
Scott C earned 120 total points
ID: 18031210
If you want to get rid of data short of physically destroying the drives use this.

http://dban.sourceforge.net/

It's free and comes highly recommended around here.
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LVL 13

Assisted Solution

by:Nick Denny
Nick Denny earned 80 total points
ID: 18033602
Understanding what happens when you format may help understand how much data gets left behind.

Briefly, when XP installs you are offered a quick format or full.
The only difference is that the full format also physically checks the drive.

Suppose you have a filing cabinet with some drawers, in each draw some folders and in each folder some files (just like your hard drive)
How can you tell where everything is?
You create one file list that tells you where all your files are.
When you format - simply put - the files are purely removed from the "file list" and those sectors (areas on the hard drive) marked as free.
The file list is then recreated as a blank list.

In order for the system to actually delete the files, it would have to physically overwrite all the sectors on the disk which could take an awful long time. For speed this doesn't happen.

In summary, a file is never deleted - its just the "pointer" to the file that goes.

You want to be 100% sure that a file is gone - incinerate the drive!
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Expert Comment

by:palehorse864
ID: 18033739
While it may be difficult to ensure total data destruction, this program can help you.  

http://www.tolvanen.com/eraser/

It is called eraser and allows you to wipe over the unused space on a hard drive over 35 times.   See if it meets your needs.  I am not sure if it contains a formatter.  Keep in mind, overwriting an entire harddrive 35 times can take some time.
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LVL 93

Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 18035005
>>  my question is does all the data get removed or it simply marked for use ??   <<   the data is still there, just unaccessable for normal use. most recovery programs can recover the data.
For wiping the data, you can use the "zero fill" option most manufacturers disk tests have :
http://www.disk-utility.com/hard-disk-low-level-format.html

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Author Comment

by:itimes
ID: 18093646
Sorry ... Iv finally had time to look at your feedback ... All great by the way .....

Im going to use DBAN

Is their DoD Short option secure enough to get rid of all the data from the drive ??
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LVL 93

Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 18093739
if you want to get rid of the data (unrecoverable) you will need a VERY long time, since it needs to write all the sectors multiple times
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Author Comment

by:itimes
ID: 18093825
Ok saying I have the time is 'DoD Short' secure enough or should I use the  DoD 7 pass option ??

Iv read even one pass of a program like this is enough to destroy data ??
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LVL 32

Expert Comment

by:Scott C
ID: 18093986
It all depends on how sure you want to be.   I would use the DoD Short if you want to be reasonably sure and DoD 7 if you want to be REALLY sure.

Since you are putting this much thought and energy into this issue I'd take the safest and most sure route.
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LVL 93

Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 18094019
here a guide on the safety of removal software :
 http://www.googobits.com/articles/p0-270-how-to-securely-destroy-data.html
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