Wiping/Cleaning A Hard drive

Good day,

On a shared computer used by the children someone has been viewing and saving (let's just say) unsavory materials on the hard drive.  I would like to totally clean/wipe the drive and reinstall Windows XP.  However, I am told that even after "formatting" and reinstalling windows, files can be restored or recovered.  Is there any way to ""really"" clean the drive so that previous files cannot be recovered.  I am looking for a low cost or free solution if possible. Kids are pretty savy these days and I will be locking down this system better after this cleanup.

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Paul MacDonaldDirector, Information SystemsCommented:
I'd worry less about the kids recovering the images from the formatted hard drive than I would about them simply re-downloading them.  Yes, there are many utilities for writing zeroes to a hard drive, making it much less likely the data can be recovered, but I don't think that's some thing you need to worry about.  Get a good parental control application and use it instead.
What you were told is correct.
You can get the free program Eraser at:
Or you can purchase a new hard drive and drill out the old.  Hard drives don't seem to last as long as they used to anyway and they are dirt cheap today.
msis2002Author Commented:
Hi pjam and paulmacd,

Thank you both for your quick and most welcome responses. Let me first say that I agree with you both  that the problem is definitely keeping the kids restricted to more wholesome activities.  I will explore that after I redo the system. Unfortunately I have limited means and I'm not sure that I can purchase a drive just yet, although I would love to.

If I use the "eraser" utility, can that be used as a boot CD so that I can then clean the drive? Or can I install that on the drive and run it? Otherwise I'm not sure how to use it.

Thanks for your help.
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Paul MacDonaldDirector, Information SystemsCommented:
Yes, you'd make a boot CD and run the utility against the hard drive.  It's almost certainly not necessary though.  While it's possible, under some circumstances, to recover data from formatted hard drives, it's not easy and it's unlikely these kids would know how (or know to try).  Still, if it makes you feel comfortable...
Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software EngineerCommented:
Any program that zeroes the drive will do.  In theory, it is possible to recover data from a drive that has been overwritten once; in practice, nobody can do it without taking the drive apart and hooking directly up to the read heads.  Seagate and Western Digital are the two big names in disk drives; both of them have standalone disk maintenance programs that can erase an entire drive.  A quicker alternative is Secure Erase, but this requires a drive that supports the security erase function.
msis2002Author Commented:
Hi Paulmacd et al...,

I'm pretty sure I can make a boot CD but I'm not sure how to include the ERASE utility on the CD.  Can you provide or suggest a link where I could get step-by-step instructions on how to do this?  I'm kind of a novice at this.

Thanks for all your help.
Not sure Eraser can be used from a Boot CD, unless the boot CD had an OS of some kind on it.  I have always used it to wipe a disk attached as a USB drive using the ide/SATA to USB adapter.
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Eraser will work just fine -- and does NOT run from a boot CD.

You simply install it on your system and then run it.    It will overwrite all unused space so that nothing that has previously been deleted can be recovered.    Simply delete all the files you don't want on the system;  empty the recycle bin;  and then run Eraser.   Once you do that, nothing can be recovered.

... there's no need to reinstall XP as long as you've deleted all of the offending files.

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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
If you DO want to totally wipe the entire hard disk and reinstall XP from scratch, a very simple and very secure way to do that is to just run DBAN.    Just download the free .ISO file [http://www.dban.org/download ], then create a CD from the ISO.   Boot to the CD and it will completely wipe your hard drive.

... this is NOT necessary, however ==> if the system's otherwise running okay you just need to delete all of the "bad" files;  perhaps delete all of the Internet Explorer Favorites (if they've bookmarked the bad sites);  and "erase" the deleted data from the hard drive using Eraser, as outlined above.
I second garycase's recommendation.  If the system is working, don't nuke it.  Many people don't realize what other files are not backed up (email, photos, videos, etc.).  Once you nuke the drive, all of that data is done forever.

For Windows XP, I usually login as the Administrator user, create a password, then create a new user.  This will start with new preferences, new shortcuts/bookmarks, new "My Documents" folders, etc.  Work from this new account.

Change the old user account's password.  As needed, log back into this account to search for missing files and move them to a shared folder, or an external drive.

I use dban all the time.  Despite the conspiracy theorist's claims...a wiped drive is NOT recoverable by any means.  IF you are the CIA, AND you have some millions of dollars to throw at the project...chances are, you would never get approval anyway.  So think conservatively when considering a complete wipe of the drive.
noxchoGlobal Support CoordinatorCommented:
After single erase your children will not be able to recover anything from this drive, that is for sure. If you are trying to protect yourself against more serious guys then you need to use adult approach which will wipe the drive using DOD algorithm.
Look this article: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/storage/how-to-really-erase-a-hard-drive/129
I agree with the advice already given and you don't need to use special wiping software.  However, here is some wiping software that apparently works to some kind of military standard.  

Paragon Disk Wiper

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