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Hi There,

My wife wants to get rid of her old desktop PC (either donate it or send it to a recycler), and has asked me to properly wipe her hard drive contents.

What is the best method to do this? Are there any good freeware programs out there? And do you run it off a bootable CD-Rom? Or do you need to install the HDD in another computer (as a slave)? etc.

Her PC is a ~ 2004 era Intel, WinXp system.

I'd appreciate some guidance. Thanks!
 

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If the computer is not going to be reused by anyone then sledge hammer is the best way to go. Guaranteed no one will read the data after.

If you would like to reuse the computer I put in a second vote for Darik's Boot And Nuke
 

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Sledge hammer (actually hammer + vise) works for me. I use Acronis Trueimage Home software to make backup imagesof my PC. It includes a "file shredder" utility but it is not freeware. I prefer the hammer. When you are done, there is no question the data is secure.
 

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Most Linux Live CDs can do it but it is not for the faint of heart!

There are really simple tools that will wipe drives. This one is the easiest.

Instead of using the gparted interface just open the terminal and issue the command.

sudo dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/sda1

Hit enter and wait because it will take quite a while. What this does is use a simple device dd (a link to a wiki page about how it works) (which is a core program) to write random numbers to the entire harddrive except for the boot sector.

This is if you only have one partition on the drive...which is usually the case with Windows installs.

Also you might need to stop your swap and unmount the drive if you use some other live cd.

This is done from the terminal with the commands.

sudo swapoff

and

sudo umount /dev/sda1


gparted can now unmount for you so I doubt this is necessary anymore.

I haven't had to nuke drives for people in a long time so I am a bit old school and out of touch, but I know my commands!

If however you have multiple partitions or there is a weird ibm, dell or whatever recovery partition on the 'puter you want to keep, then to see which one is the recovery (if any) just use gparted to discover the correct names and sizes of the partitions.

Then you can just nuke the correct one(s), if sda1 is something other than the system and data. You never know you might have windows and the data on something strange like sda5...

IF YOU issue the command:

sudo dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/sda

Then all bets are off and everything on the drive will get wiped including the boot sector. So this is the h-bomb of nuke commands!

It is one of the commands that you do not use on your system unless you know what you are doing, because it will wipe it completely. If you try it make sure there are no issues with the drive as this will kill it if it has overheat trouble... also make sure that there is adequate air circulation and your case fan is working! It can take over several hours to complete on really large drives and spins them up big time for the entire duration.

Essentially you nuke the drive by writing data to every sector so it can take quite a while to accomplish depending on the size of the drive and the speed of the system bus.

The other option is to do a full system reformat which takes much less time.

If you just do a full system format to a weird file system like ext3 then most likely it will wind up getting NTFS put right back on it.
So if you sell or give the computer to someone that is going to just put XP on it because it has a sticker (which is usually the case) then most "windows techs" that use XP do not have the skill to see what was previously on a drive before a full Linux format.

Heck just put a copy of Mint Linux on it without windowsXP getting in the way you might just wind up keeping it!

So don't sweat it.;)
 

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BGY11, never heard of that. Thanks.

I've always used a hammer and then put in with the cities electronic recycling program.
 

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Having done volunteering at a computer recycling place I can say most donated computers find there way into the system with many to most having two drives so even if you use the method I use and that is to open and destroy approach it is good knowing even a hard driveless donation will still find a new life or at very least will be parted out to complete others
 

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I use the disk wiping function in Acronis True Image, mainly because I have it but it is also a decent utility. I wipe any drive, even if it is going to be destroyed. I try to recycle usable drives (for reuse) but not until they have been thoroughly wiped with multiple random number passes. The platters in unusable drives get drilled, spiked and/or hammered into a totally demolished state.

I think most people are either not concerned enough or overly concerned about drive data. The data needs to be thoroughly wiped but destroying a usable drive instead of selling it privately is going a bit far (IMHO.)
 

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Just to mention, on most newer hard drives, there is little practical value in wiping a disk more than seven passes of pseudo-randomly generated strings (using ISAAC), whatever software you use. So don't bother going overboard, or believing various algorithmic hype.

For any modern PRML/EPRML drive, a few passes of random scrubbing is the best you can do. As the paper says, "A good scrubbing with random data will do about as well as can be expected". This was true in 1996, and is still true now.

Peter Gutmann
http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/secure_del.html
 

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there is little practical value in wiping a disk more than seven passes of a pseudo-randomly generated series of characters
That's basically what the more secure algorithms in ATI do. The German and US DOD algorithms only use 3 passes. Maybe they know how to recover the data with those.
 

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Linux live CD with GParted is the way to go and if you're donating the machine you might think of installing something like Ubuntu or Mint.
 

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When my previous PC died, I took apart the hard-drives and removed the platters (it was easy to do and I enjoyed the dissection process). I then scratched up the platters (which was satisfying), tossed them in the garbage and recycled the rest of the electronics.
Google "Ultimate Boot CD" and download/burn the .iso. There will be several freeware Disk Nuke style programs you can use. Otherwise, I too prefer the physical dissection method. While you're in there, don't forget to salvage the Rare Earth magnets.
 

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Linux iso disks.... easy howto

Most people who do not have nero or other software installed that will burn iso files are stumped by the fact that Windows embedded burning software will not do it correctly.

As to why this happens is open to interpretation but you can bet that some people in Redmond actually consider not being able to burn Linux ISOs to be a fundamental feature that users cannot do without. :rolleyes:


Iso recorder
is a well done piece of free software that will not "infect your computer" with a vicious virus or do an ET phone home trip on you while you do your banking.

To use ISO Recorder after you install it all you do is right click on the downloaded file and select copy iso to disk.

The software has no hidden windows start menu entry or desktop icons to deal with. If you later wish to uninstall it then you just do it with Control panel, add/remove,...best way to remove real software.

I have used it for years and have had no trouble at all with it.
 
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