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Formatting a Hard Drive with sensitive data

nainil used Ask the Experts™
What should I do if I need to format a harddrive which has sensitive data. Is there any free software that I can use to format the drive so that the data is irrecoverable? I am hoping it meets standards like PCI.
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Are you keep the drive and re-using it or getting rid of it?

If the former, any file shredding utility will work because you are going to re-write it. I use Glary Utilities but there are a number of others.

If the latter, then what I have been doing for two or three years now is to disassemble the drive, remove the platters and smash them. Put half the bits in one week's garbage and the other half of the bits in the next week's garbage and send the disk drive electronics to the recycle yard.

... Thinkpads_User
Just to be complete:

The third solution would be to encrypt the data on the drive e.g. with truecrypt.org (open source)
You'll want something that can do a DoD 5220.220M format

killdisk.com is good.
Darik's boot and Nuke is good.  (dban.org)
ShredIT for windows 5.3.2 (mireth.com)
Disk Doctors Data Sanitier 1.00  (diskdoctors.net)

I've used/use the first two and find they do a great job.   Several options do exist, you'll want to select the one best for you though.
You can use Active@ Kill Disk (there is a free edition)

check even this link, there are a bunch of them


some software have shredding loops, you can do multiple loops to be sure all is wiped out

You'll definitely want something that utilizes the DoD 5220.22M spec for secure erasure, and performs multiple write passes over the entire disk.  My organization uses GDISK (Ghost Disk) from Symantec/Norton.  Plantwiz's list is also very good, I've used several of those apps successfully in the past for my own personal drives being retired or handed down to friends.
noxchoIT Product Manager
Top Expert 2009

The safest and simplest way is to format the drive - then copy there some huge video files that fill the drive completely and then reformat it again.
You can do this operation several times to be sure.
Top Expert 2013
i recommend also Dban  :   http://dban.sourceforge.net/
another one is BCwipe :  http://www.jetico.com/
and the free bestcrypt
As you're probably aware, just reformatting a drive merely wipes out the table of contents, but raw file recovery tools such as easyrecovery professional by ontrack can reassemble files from the sequences of blocks that made up the file chains.

You could use the manufacturer's drive diagnostics to do a destructive scan of the drive writing zeroes to it.  For obfuscating, it is slightly better to write random data, which some disk wipe tools do.  Also, in theory a faint magnetic signal is left behind that some tools at the level of spy-vs-spy forensic lab might glean, so to avoid that possibility rewriting the disk seven times, which some disk wipe tools do.