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Low level disk format or zero write tool

Posted on 2016-08-05
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Last Modified: 2016-08-13
I want to make certain that all the data on an 8TB external hard drive is erased prior to it being returned to the seller.
Could anybody please recommend software that will do this. It needs to be free for commercial use (so that rules out HDD Guru) and it needs to be able to run from Windows 10.

Thank you
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Question by:nowthenee
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Expert Comment

by:Kimputer
ID: 41744120
DBAN does a good job, and it's free:

http://www.dban.org/download

While it states "No guarantee of data removal", you can be pretty sure it does what it does (especially using multple passes).
You can even verify it by doing a quick data recovery scan with other tools like TestDisk, it should reveal 0 files are available for recovery.
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Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 41744148
Is this a 1 drive device or a box with 2HDDs in RAID? If you run wipe several times on the drive - DBAN as recommended above then the data is deleted for sure.
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Expert Comment

by:rindi
ID: 41744160
You boot directly into DBAN, so it isn't a Windows tool. Besides that it is only for personal use.

Just get the disk manufacturer's diagnostic tool. They include an option to completely erase their disks.
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by:nowthenee
ID: 41744220
Yes, I dismissed DBAN because it seemed that it needed to be put on a boot CD. I wasn't aware that it wasn't free for commercial use. I looked at the SeaTools but it seemed to me that the low level formatting wasn't available in their windows GUI.
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by:rindi
ID: 41744271
Then I'm afraid you'll have to use the DOS version of the seagate tools which is also an image you boot from. You could go for the UBCD which includes the other manufacturer's tools too:

http://mirror.sysadminguide.net/ubcd/ubcd535.iso

I can't really see why it has to run under Windows.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 41744364
rindi stated: "Besides that it is only for personal use."
This doesn't make sense.

DBAN is released under the GPLv2 - https://sourceforge.net/projects/dban/ - there is no restriction on commercial use.  (That doesn't mean there aren't other reasons a business might have not to use it, but it is not for personal use only).
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by:rindi
ID: 41744390
I originally was under that impression too, but if you check the download link kimputer provided, it says right there under the red download button: "DBAN is intended for
home use ONLY.". But next to DBAN they have another product, Blancco 5, which doesn't have that restriction. It looks as if DBAN is no longer OpenSource.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 41744411
It's still open source and more importantly licensed under GPLv2.

That statement is merely an encouragement to purchase a commercial product that can provide more features that may be required, including regulatory compliance features.

The source is still available here:
https://sourceforge.net/projects/dban/files/dban/dban-2.3.0/
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Assisted Solution

by:Chuck Lowe
Chuck Lowe earned 83 total points
ID: 41744693
We used free software that was DOD (Department of Defense) approved.  I believe it was something like DoD 5220.22-M version.  I believe it was free, from DISKWIPE.ORG.
Whatever you use make sure it boots into the software (not on the C: drive) and it follows DOD protocol. I.E.
It is a three pass method, which means data is overwritten three times, first pass all 1's, second pass all 0's and third time it overwrites data with random 1's and 0's.
I believe we booted off a CD and/or a USB stick depending on the pc. It did take a while but we sent it to a company to see if they could recover data off it and they could not. When we were satisfied with it we did the following: We were a small shop so we hired an intern to do this as it took up to an hour (or more) depending on the disk size. We also wanted to destroy the drives so after the wipe we used a high power magnet for 90 seconds and also smashed them with a sledge hammer. Then threw them in a trash compactor. It may have been over kill (belt and suspenders) but the data definitely was unrecoverable. We didn't have USB or SDHC cards to worry about. Nor did we have SSD at the time. I know SSD are not susceptible to magnets as they are generally a cluster of NAND chips (Flash memory), which use electricity, rather than magnetism, to encode and store data. And USB and SD cards are also not susceptible to magnets either.
I do know SSD's have a shorter life span than HDD. Hence one reason we're told rarely to do a defrag on them. The constantly writing will wear then out. Since DOD is basically for magnetic drives I'm not sure what your option is there.  I know some vendors provide secure erase tools in their software I.E. Intel and Samsung at the very least.
A lot of web searches referred to (NSA, DSS 4.4, 14.1.16). Cryptographic erasure is the other option (NIST, A-8). An explanation and link to the product can be found here.
http://kb.sandisk.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/14851/~/what-is-crypto-erase%3F  .
I have not tried this and I have not researched it any further so I don't know if there is anything free except for MHDD. MHDD (free) is for low level formatting. It is supposed to make the entire drive will TRIM itself and it'll be back to brand new speeds. It supposed to be back at the state you purchased it.
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Assisted Solution

by:serialband
serialband earned 83 total points
ID: 41745028
Boot a free linux live CD and alternate the following to write 0s, 1s, then random data to the disk.  Change the /dev/sdx to match your disk.

cat /dev/zero > /dev/sdx
tr '\0' '\377' < /dev/zero | dd bs=64K of=/dev/sdx
cat /dev/urandom > /dev/sdx


If it's for internal use, then skip the much slower random write and just write 0's.  I usually do that for disks I reuse in the company that are sent to another user/group.  If you only need to write 0s, you can just use the windows built in format command.

format e: /fs:NTFS /p:2

The disk manufacturers also have their own tools.  UBCD might already have it included.  Here's an example for Western digital.
http://support.wdc.com/downloads.aspx?DL
http://support.wdc.com/KnowledgeBase/answer.aspx?ID=1211

http://www.killdisk.com/features.htm

USB sticks and SSDs don't need to be defragged, because they're already fast random read/write devices.  You only needed defragging to keep the contiguous blocks of data closer for faster sequential reads of larger files.  That was the only reason for defragmenting the disk in the first place.
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Assisted Solution

by:nobus
nobus earned 83 total points
ID: 41745174
may i ask why it must be a tool run from windows?
i prefer tools that do NOT run from windows
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Author Comment

by:nowthenee
ID: 41748167
It needs to be run from Windows so that I can use it remotely.
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Assisted Solution

by:serialband
serialband earned 83 total points
ID: 41748223
Have you looked at my previous comment about the format command and about killdisk?  There's a free version of Killdisk.  Both can be run from within Windows.
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Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 41748292
ok - tx for that info
depending on how secure the erase must be, you could :
-delete all partitions and format it + copy 8 Gb files on it a couple of times, then delete the partition again

or use the other suggestions

you can use the  securiRAM sticks in the future  http://www.kryptoprodukter.se/whitepapers/SecuriRAMdatablad.pdf
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Accepted Solution

by:
Kimputer earned 251 total points
ID: 41748334
For running within Windows, I've used:
http://www.fileshredder.org/
http://eraser.heidi.ie/download/

Both seems equally capable and both are free.
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Author Closing Comment

by:nowthenee
ID: 41754633
Thank you to everyone who helped. Lots of very helpful comments. Even the ones that did not directly help my situation were very educational. Thank you.
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