Commentary: Wipe Old Hard Disks Clean--Reprise
by Mark Joseph Edwards, mark at ntsecurity / net

Storage UPDATE <Storage_UPDATE@list.windowsitpro.com>
12 May 2005
Windows IT Pro Storage UPDATE, Resources Edition

  Windows IT Pro Storage UPDATE, Resources Edition

A year ago, I wrote about tools that you can use to wipe hard
disks clean of all data. In that article, I mentioned four software-
based tools. This week I learned about two more tools and about
another type of product that can help when you need to erase a disk.
The tools I mentioned in the previous article (first URL below)
are Autoclave (no longer supported), LSoft Technologies'
Active@KillDisk (second URL below), Stellar Information Systems'
Stellar Wipe Safe Data Eraser (third URL below), and Heidi
Computers' Eraser (fourth URL below).


Because Autoclave, formerly provided by the University of
Washington, is no longer supported, the university now refers people
to the open source Darik's Boot and Nuke tool (DBAN)--
http://list.windowsitpro.com/t?ctl=9B21:1EDFC . DBAN works from a
disk, can erase data in various modes (DoD short, random number
streams) and works with PCs and PowerPC platforms, including Apple
Macintosh. DBAN is also bundled with Heidi Computers' Eraser.
If you have Windows XP, then maybe you know that it ships with a
command-line tool, cipher.exe, designed to manage encryption on
entire volumes as well as directories. One of the features of
cipher.exe is that it can wipe a disk to help prevent data recovery.
The tool's /? switch gives you a list of all the available command-
line options. You can use the last option, /W, to wipe an entire
disk or a select directory. There are, of course, other tools that
can do the same job, which you can probably find using your favorite
search engine.
Wiping an entire disk clean (so that you can recycle or dispose
of it, donate it to charity, or return it under warranty) is
sometimes quite a problem, especially if the disk is in a system
that can no longer boot. You can of course try to use some sort of
bootable CD-ROM and then run a software-based tool to wipe the disk.
You can also remove the disk and put it into another system, boot
that system, then wipe it clean.
Another method, which I think is very handy, is to use a custom
connector that lets you connect a disk to any system using a USB or
FireWire port. Such connectors are relatively inexpensive and have
the added advantage of letting you connect any ATA disk to a
supported system, including a laptop, which is also a great way to
get a bunch of extra disk space when you need it.
The Dan's Data Web site reviews at least four connectors I think
you might be interested in. One is an external drive box shell from
Sunnytek Information available for ATA and SATA configurations
(review at the first URL below). You can insert just about any
regular ATA disk you can think of inside the shell. Another is
ComboDock by WiebeTech, which is a small external connector box that
connects to the back of an ATA disk (review at the second URL
below). Yet another is the USB 2.0 to IDE Cable, available from
USBGEEK.COM (review at the third URL below). And finally, there is
the R-Driver II USB to IDE cable (review at the fourth URL below),
which I think is the best choice because it lets you connect regular
ATA drives and the mini-ATA drives that are typically used in
laptops and other portable computing devices.


One thing to keep in mind is that USB 2.0 (up to 480Mbps) is much
faster than USB 1.x (up to 12Mbps). And likewise, FireWire 1394b (up
to 800Mbps) is twice as fast as FireWire 1394a (up to 400Mbps). If
you don't have USB 2.0 or FireWire 1394b in your system, you can buy
an inexpensive add-on card to significantly speed up read and write
Any of the ATA connectors I mentioned let you add a disk to a
system in just a few seconds. Not only can you use them to wipe data
off disk, but because they offer complete portability, you can also
use them with CD-ROM and DVD drives to create your own portable
backup solutions.
If you're interested in these connectors, be sure to read the
related hardware reviews at Dan's Data.

Copyright 2005, Penton Media, Inc.

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Copyright 2008 Art Beckman. All rights reserved.

Last Modified: March 9, 2008