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Sometimes using DBAN takes several days to wipe a disk. What alternatives do you have experience with that work within a few hours and offer the simplicity of DBAN? I am mainly interested in free solutions but am happy to hear what works for you.

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7 Answers 7

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Edit: Based on your more recent comments, it sounds like you're probably running into hardware variations that cause DBAN to run slower (on older hardware) or faster (on newer hardware). Any other program that performs a thorough disk wipe will probably be similarly slow when wiping a hard drive that's either very large or connected via a slower interface. Of course, wiping a small drive over a slower interface (e.g., 80 GB IDE) may still be faster than wiping a much larger drive on a faster interface (e.g., 1 TB SATA).

It depends on how paranoid you are. Generally, the extremely long-running disk wiping utilities do an extremely thorough job wiping the drives clean so there's virtually zero chance even the most advanced data recovery techniques would be able to use any residual magnetism to reconstruct the old data.

If you are giving away the drives and they contained any sensitive information whatsoever, you're better off safe than sorry--go with a more thorough wipe over the course of days. If there really isn't anything sensitive on the drives, or if you're just taking them out of service for reuse later, you're probably safe using a faster, less thorough wipe.

Personally, I usually boot off a Linux live CD and use one of the following:

dd bs=1M if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sd#

or

dd bs=1M if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/sd#

or

badblocks -wvs /dev/sd#

where /dev/sd# is the drive I'm wiping.

I didn't think it was sufficient to just write zeroes to the drive until a friend showed me The Great Zero Challenge. While there's no guarantee that writing zeroes to the drive is actually sufficient, it must be difficult enough that data recovery firms did not want to risk the negative PR associated with being unable to recover any data from the drive after it was zeroed.

If you write random data to the drive, the argument is that the random data should make recovery more difficult (similar to salting a password hash).

The badblocks -wvs command will run four wipes on the drive, writing the patterns 0xaa, 0x55, 0xff, and 0x00 across the entire disk, respectively. It also (somewhat unnecessarily) performs a read test after each full write, but if you end up finding bad blocks, you might as well just trash or recycle the drives and drill holes through the platters for maximum security.

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In DBAN, I sometimes get throughput of 30000 KB/s and sometimes (like right now and what prompted this question) I'm getting throughput of 2000 KB/s. I'm not complaining about the length of a thorough wipe, it's that this software sometimes works fast and sometimes works slow. In the times it works slow I'm looking for an alternative. –  rodey Dec 23 '09 at 18:26
    
Thanks for the clarification. Have you noticed any common factors that cause it to run slow? For instance, other wiping programs would almost certainly exhibit similar differences in performance on old PATA IDE drives vs. newer SATA drives, or slower computers vs. faster computers. –  rob Dec 23 '09 at 18:30
    
In all honesty, I never paid attention to type model of PC or make of hdd. Right now I'm wiping an IBM T60 with an IDE drive and it's sloowwwwww. ETA is 40 hours til finished. –  rodey Dec 23 '09 at 18:52
    
You might also want to double-check the BIOS settings and make sure all the optimal hard drive settings are selected, just in case; but based on your comments to my answer and some of the others, it sounds to me like the hardware is your bottleneck. –  rob Dec 28 '09 at 19:33
    
Regarding the "zero challenge". The way a data recorvery firm recover data (physically repairing the disk if needed, and reading data at a low level) is wholely diffrent from what is technically possible gibven enough time and effort. It is possible, but you're going to be needing some seriously expensive hardware and it'll be one data bit at a time. No private firm busy doing day to day work is going to rise to that challenge. –  Sirex Nov 8 '10 at 12:27

Active@Killdisk works within a Windows environment, for the convenience of erasing external HDDs without booting the machine from CD/USB and rendereing it pretty much useless for the time being.

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I could pull the disk out and mount it through an adapter to my computer. Right now I use a DBAN boot CD to wipe the disks. –  rodey Dec 23 '09 at 16:47
    
@rodey: Depending on what kind of adapter you're using, you may see a significantly slower wipe. For instance, if you mount it via USB or Firewire, it will be much slower than installing it internally or connecting it via eSATA. You'll also see a performance hit (or possibly won't even be able to see the drive) if you install a 3.0 Gbps drive using an older SATA controller that only supports 1.5 Gbps. –  rob Dec 23 '09 at 18:40
    
this is all good and well, rodey. but if you wipe a 1 TB disk with DBAN 2 passes, it takes what? 3 hours? during this time the computer is rendered useless. if i do this with Killdisk in Windows i can use my computer normally. sometimes it's just inconvenient to charge a computer with a single task for a couple of hours. p.s.: i'm using both programs and you were asking for alternatives to DBAN. Killdisk is a viable alternative. –  Molly7244 Dec 23 '09 at 22:41

Boot a Linux LiveCD and overwrite the disk with zeroes or random data using any of cat, dd, shred or the like. Just today I did this:

export device=/dev/whatever  # Change this!
ionice -c3 nice pv /dev/urandom --size=$(blockdev --getsize64 $device) \
      > $device

This uses pv, which shows a nice spinner and an estimated time to completion. If you want zeroes instead of pseudorandom data, use /dev/zero instead of /dev/urandom.

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While DBAN is great, there are other options. That said try the latest version, they keep on getting faster!

Check out CMRR for Secure Erase.

Also check out White Canyon. They are planning on distributing my white paper on computer data destruction.

http://www.safedatadestruction.com/Safe_Data_Destruction/White_Paper.html

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I like bcwipe. I've only used the free (linux) version, but it exists for windows also. It is thorough and easy to use.

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Use dban but instead of using autonuke or even dodshort, just use zero at the boot prompt.

This method overwrites the entire disk with zeros one time only. If this suits your needs, it is much faster!

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I tried that it's not increasing the throughput of the wipe. –  rodey Dec 23 '09 at 18:50

On linux, there's the 'shred' command which might work for this. You should be able to use this from any live cd. While i suspect this is what dban might use, you can also pick how many iterations, and choose to zero it afters.

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