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Securely erasing all data from a hard drive

I'm selling an old Seagate 160GB IDE HDD that's currenty running Windows XP. I need to remove all the data on the HDD and make sure it's ready for another install of an OS. Make it blank, just like when I got it.

What should I do. Merge all the partitions and format the drive from WinXp set up? Or is there and better way?

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marked as duplicate by Karan, sudo, Mike Fitzpatrick, sblair, Michael Hampton Feb 3 '13 at 4:43

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

One of the best way came into my mind is to use the Free Data Destruction Software .

By far, the easiest way to completely erase a hard drive is to use free data destruction software, sometimes called hard drive eraser software or disk wipe software.

Regardless of what you call it, a data destruction program is a piece of software designed to overwrite a hard drive so many times, and in a certain way, as to make the ability to extract information from the drive nearly impossible.

You can get one of them like Eraser and the rest of the list is here.

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Never heard of this before. Shall try this :-) –  Norman Feb 3 '13 at 3:12

If it is the only drive in your computer, then the easiest way to do that is to burn DBAN to a CD and boot from it. It will issue a command to the drive to erase itself.

Alternatively you can simply full format the drive. Either by booting from a CD (e.g. from your windows CD), or if it is a second HDD, while booted from your other drive. A single full format it enough to clean the data for all normal civilians.

If you want to sell it to someone who mights throw a small mountain of money in dedicated hardware against it (such as the NSA), then you want to do more then just format it once. But again normal people with no special hardware a single full format is enough.

[Edit] As reference to the last, see:

Peter Gutmann, www.anti-forensics.com and our SE site on security/

All show that a single format is not enough if:

  1. You use old style platter from 1996. (Modern disk use much smaller marking. Not for security but for performance reasons).
  2. And you overwrite a disk with all zero (typical for a classic format)
  3. and you have a scanning tunneling microscopy

Then you can recover data from a disk.

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Good to know a simple format will do. –  Norman Feb 3 '13 at 3:13

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