How Do I Completely Erase a Hard Drive?

Aug 02, 2017 Technical Article

There are many ways you can remove data from a hard drive, but some are more effective than others. The most effective way to remove data from IT assets is to securely erase it.

Deleting a hard drive is merely the act of hiding data on a storage device, whereby the data is available for overwrite. Until the data has been overwritten, it is still easily recoverable and is not completely erased.

Similarly, reformatting a hard drive does not permanently remove data. Reformatting is performed on a working disk drive to eliminate its contents. By formatting, it leaves most, and sometimes all, existing data on the storage device. Following a reformat, some or most of the data can be recovered with free and paid online forensics tools.

To completely erase a hard drive without any means of data recovery, you must invest in data erasure software.

What sets data erasure software apart is its verification and certification process. At the end of the erasure process, the data erasure software will verify that data has been successfully overwritten across all sectors of the device. Then, the software will produce a tamper-proof, auditable certificate that the erasure has been successful and overwritten using a specific erasure standard. Only with these two steps will data security auditors acknowledge that the data erasure process has occurred.

Free online data erasure programs, such as our own DBAN, typically do not include this type of certification. And while this is acceptable for some individuals and small businesses, any organization that must prove compliance with data security regulations and guidelines such as PCI DSS, EU GDPR and NIST, auditable certificates are necessary. It is up to your organization to decide its risk tolerance and how sensitive your business, employee and customer data really is. With data privacy fines increasing, many businesses are finding that investing in data erasure is the best option.

In terms of timing, it could take It could take several minutes to several hours to erase a hard drive, depending on how big the drive is and the erasure standard that you choose, based on industry and business requirements.

So how do you erase your hard drive? Here’s a quick recap:

  1. Determine your organization’s risk tolerance (how many overwriting passes are necessary, which standards you want to use, etc.).
  2. Install and run the data erasure software. Once the overwriting process is complete, you will receive notification of both verification and certification.
  3. Keep your data erasure certificates in a safe place so that you’re ready for any auditor or regulation that comes your way.

Ready to get started erasing those hard drives?

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