6

Disclaimer: I am answering my own question.


I need to wipe my Windows laptop's internal hard drive. I find DBAN per How-To Geek's recommendation, but I am having trouble installing it on a 64GB USB flash drive and make it bootable on an UEFI-equipped PC.

After downloading DBAN's ISO file from SourceForge, I first tried ImgBurn per the recommendation of an earlier How-To Geek article. I quickly realized that I misread that article because ImgBurn only burned to optical disks.

Next I tried was a tutorial from Tom's Hardware. That article suggested using Rufus. It did not specify which file system should I format the flash drive to during Rufus' burning setup, so I selected FAT32 as shown in the screenshot. However, since the ISO selected in the screenshot was "FreeDOS", the screenshot might be for illustration purpose only.

In the UEFI, the burned flash drive was shown as "[UEFI] followed by the flash drive's name". I moved it to the top of the boot order and tried to boot, but it did not work.

Afterwards, I found this question on Super User, where User:terdon suggested that to make DBAN bootable, the flash drive should be set up with a single FAT partition.

I ran "clean" in diskpart and reformatted my flash drive with 512MB of space formatted as FAT and the rest unformatted. However, when I ran through the burning process again, Rufus insisted to format the entire drive for me, and I could only choose FAT32, not FAT. I restarted and that unsurprisingly failed to boot.

Next I came across this high-ranking (in Google search results) article from a website called Pendrivelinux.com, offering a software download called "Universal USB Installer". It did not seem to be an open-source software so I was a bit wary of it. But since I would be wiping my hard drive anyway I downloaded it and installed it.

The good thing about this software was that formatting of the flash drive was now optional during the burning process. So I reformatted my drive to FAT and burned DBAN's ISO to it, all without issue. But it still failed to boot when I restarted.

  • 1
    FAT and FAT32, in this context, are the same thing. You cannot possibly format a 64 GB drive with FAT16 or FAT12. The max volume size for FAT16B is 16 GiB, if the cluster sizes are 256 KiB. – user477799 Jan 23 '17 at 9:49
7

Disclaimer: I am answering my own question.


Here is the solution that worked for me, tested on a Windows laptop with UEFI and a 64GB USB flash drive.

  • Step 1: Download DBAN (Darik's Boot and Nuke)'s ISO file from SourceForge.

  • Step 2: Download Universal USB Installer from Pendrivelinux.com.

  • Step 3: Run Command Prompt as administrator. You may be able to do the same thing with Disk Management. But in my case Disk Management refused to let me delete the volume of my flash disk.

    • Step 3.1: Type diskpart and hit enter. This runs the diskpart utility.

    • Step 3.2: Type list disk and hit enter. This lists all disks (including your flash drive).

      • Step 3.2.1: Look for your flash drive (look for its size) and keep note of its number.
    • Step 3.3: Type select disk # and hit enter, where # is number of your flash drive (see step 3.2.1). This selects your flash drive as the target to operate on.

      • Step 3.3.1: Type detail disk and hit enter. This lists the detail of the currently selected disk. Make sure it is your flash drive.
    • Step 3.4: Before you proceed, please ascertain that you have chosen the correct flash drive and have no desirable data on it. Type: clean and hit enter. This cleans the selected disk of its partition and format.

  • Step 4: Run Disk Management. (You should be able to do the same thing with diskpart. But I have no advanced knowledge of diskpart so I prefer to use GUI whenever possible).

    • Step 4.1: Find your flash disk in the section below. It should have its entire space unallocated. Right click on the unallocated space and click "create new simple volume".

      • Step 4.1.1: In the wizard that appears, choose a volume smaller 2048MB. My knowledge is that a FAT-fomatted (FAT-16, to be specific) disk on Windows can hold a maximum of 4GB of data, with single file limited at 2GB. But since DBAN's ISO file is less than 20MB in size, there is no reason not to be safe. In my case I went with 512MB.

      • Step 4.1.2: Choose FAT as the file system.

  • Step 5: Run Universal USB Installer.

    • Step 5.1: Choose DBAN among the lists of available options.

    • Step 5.2: Browse and select the previously downloaded DBAN ISO file as the source image.

    • Step 5.3: Select your flash drive as the burning target.

    • Step 5.4: Do not select the option that asks you if you want Universal USB Installer to format the flash drive for you.

  • Step 6: Restart and boot into UEFI.

    • Step 6.1: In the boot order section, select the boot mode to be "Legacy" (it may be "BIOS" on your screen). This is the culprit that made my last attempt in the question fail. Apparently DBAN cannot be booted properly from UEFI.

      • Step 6.1.1: In some systems, instead of selecting between UEFI and BIOS boot modes in UEFI itself, you may need to boot into BIOS directly. Consult your motherboard/laptop manufacturers for instruction.
  • Step 7: Save and reboot. Hopefully you should boot straight into DBAN.

    • Bonus Tip: In some cases DBAN may wipe the flash drive it rests on as well, so if you do not want it to be wiped be sure to pull it out at the right moment.

Thank you for reading this rather lengthy answer! Had Windows 10's recovery options (Reset this PC > Remove everything > Remove files and clean this drive) worked for me I would not be spending so much time researching how to make DBAN work on my laptop. Little did I know.... I am glad that I can now share this solution with everyone who may run into a similar problem.

Comment if you have questions!

  • 3
    Dban hasn't really been maintained in a while. I'd go for a UEFI capable linux distro and either shred or nwipe instead. – Journeyman Geek Jan 23 '17 at 9:29

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