How To Wipe A Hard Drive
If you're making a donation of computers or computer equipment, or you're planning on recycling it, then you may be interested in knowing how to wipe a hard drive to protect your personal information. It is no longer safe to simply delete files off a hard drive and consider them to be gone when you relinquish control of the device – thanks to an abundance of cheap or even free programs distributed online, practically anyone can read these files and recover information you might think was lost to prying eyes. If you have personal information or sensitive data concerning clients, you will most certainly want to wipe a hard drive's contents and make it irrecoverable.
Be sure to completely format the hard drive. When you're trying to wipe a hard drive, the quickest methods are not the most secure. The quick format option offered in Windows is not the way to wipe a hard drive completely – at the very least, you will need to do a complete format of the drive, which will take a lot longer for larger drives. You may also want to format it twice, just to be sure.
Use the Department of Defense's method. If you've got client information on your storage device, you will want to wipe your hard drive using the government's method of data erasure. The U.S. Department of Defense Standard 5220.22-M calls for a hard drive to be wiped three times in order for the data to be securely erased. The first time, the entire file system must be overwritten with one character (typically the number 0), the second time with its complement (typically the number 1), and the third time with a random character. This requires downloading a simple program which will do this for you.
- If you are wiping a personal hard drive, then completely formatting your hard drive once or twice may be sufficient. If you are dealing with client data, you will certainly want to use the Department of Defense's method before you give that hard drive to anyone else.