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Best way to wipe hard disk drive

Posted on 2009-04-28
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Last Modified: 2013-11-14
Hello,
I took a primary drive out of a computer.  I put it in a external enclosure. I would like to clean / wipe the drive and then just use it as back-up (i.e. don't need an OS). What is the best, easiest, cheapest way to do this? I am using XP.

Thanks,
JE
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Question by:justearth
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Assisted Solution

by:Steven Kirkland
Steven Kirkland earned 80 total points
ID: 24253173
sdelete from sysinternals(now microsoft)
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb897443.aspx

it also has a flag to wipe sectors marked as empty, files previously deleted from partition table.
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jbizzle979 earned 400 total points
ID: 24253197
plug it in and right click on it in "my computer"
then choose format
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by:mycarefreepc
mycarefreepc earned 600 total points
ID: 24253228
I always use Darik's Boot and Nuke (open source) (you have to be very careful though)
http://www.dban.org/
This is best when it's not in an enclosure however, sometimes it won't pick it up and you have to be SURE you're selecting the wrong partition or you'll kill your main disk.  If you are going to re-use the drive, I usually do a simple, 1 pass with all 0's (there's an option for that).
Otherwise, you can use Eraser (open source):
http://www.heidi.ie/node/6
 This way you can create a partition on that external enclosure, then you can tell Eraser to go erase all the free space.  Does a good job.
If you need to know how to partition the drive, let me know.  Otherwise, you can also question the reason why you want to erase it, if you remove the partition, then put a new partition on, in effect that will make the drive look clean.  Sure, underlying data will still be there but it won't be seen by the OS and when you start writing files to it (i.e. backup) all your data will be erased anyways.  So if you're not worried about what was on there that would work, because then if it got stolen or something the person would need to run data recovery software on it in order to get the data back (which isn't tough, but if someone's going to steal a drive are they going to know that? doubful.)
 
Cheers,
Brian
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by:torimar
torimar earned 200 total points
ID: 24253326
"Wiping" usually means to thoroughly delete files and data so that they may not be restored by recovery or forensic software.
A good free tool for this purpose would be 'Eraser': http://www.heidi.ie/node/6

In your case, however, your plan to overwrite the contents of the disk anyhow makes special wiping techniques pretty superfluous. Hence I'd join in on the suggestion to simply format.

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Author Comment

by:justearth
ID: 24253336
I was trying to delete everything off the harddrive because it was someone elses and I don't need a thing on it. However, I cannot delete the operating system from it (XP) by pressing delete. So I don't need the files or the OS on it and I'd rather have the space.  I tried the right click format and it says "windows cannot formatt this drive. quit any disk utilities or programs that may be using this drive, and close any open windows with the drive contents showing"

thanks,
JE
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by:TonySt
TonySt earned 320 total points
ID: 24253341
If you are not worried about "florensics" discovering all the "secret" stuff you used to have on it when it was a primary, then I would just plug it in and tell windows to reformat the drive.  It's the easiest and cheapest way out.
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Assisted Solution

by:TonySt
TonySt earned 320 total points
ID: 24253393
If windows wont let you format the disk, then something is using one or mopre of the files on it.  It could be relatedto the "System Restore" function of windows.  Try temorarily turning off system restore for that drive and see if it lets you format the disk.
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Assisted Solution

by:mycarefreepc
mycarefreepc earned 600 total points
ID: 24253492
Ah, yeah I've had that problem before.  You need to either:
1) Boot in to Knoppix Live and remove the contents of the drive that way:
http://www.knoppix.org/

2) Use GParted to kill the partition on the removable drive. Then when you go back in to windows, you'll be able to format it (or you can do it from Gparted)
http://gparted.sourceforge.net/
 
Cheers,
Brian
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Author Closing Comment

by:justearth
ID: 31575589
Thanks, right, Format not wipe. Thanks for the answers.  Cheers!
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Author Comment

by:justearth
ID: 24253932
I just restarted the computer and it let me format.
Thanks,
JE
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