Erase Data Securely From Hard Drives and SSDs

June 18, 2023

Protect your privacy or your business’s confidential information with the right tools and techniques to erase data securely. If you’re planning to sell or give away an old PC, hard drive, or SSD, it is imperative to securely erase its data prior to disposal. Doing this can keep your sensitive documents protected from identity thieves.

Erase is a feature found on many hard drives and SSDs, but it may not always completely erase everything. Users have reported issues with it ranging from failing to completely wipe away data to bricking their devices.

1. Use Disk Utility

Mac users have several options for securely wiping data off hard drives and SSDs. Disk Utility, included with every Mac operating system, can be used to create disk images, format physical storage devices and check for and repair errors on its internal or external interface.

Mac users can access Disk Utility from either the Dock or by typing it into the search field of Launchpad. This application will list all recognized internal and external storage devices, allowing you to select which one to wipe.

To delete a drive, click the Erase button in Disk Utility’s toolbar. A dialog will appear asking what to name your disk after erasing and how to format it.

Once you’ve done this, you have the option to determine how thoroughly to erase the drive. Depending on how much data needs to be removed, you can either select from the default option of wiping out all data or opt for a longer format that provides greater security.

Another option is Eraser, a free data-erasure program suitable for mechanical hard drives but incompatible with solid state drives (SSDs). This free tool can wipe specific files or sectors on an ongoing basis and also be scheduled.

The application also provides a range of advanced customization options that you can tailor to your preferences, but be wary not to accidentally delete important data when making changes.

Using the first two methods is probably the safest and most secure way to securely delete data from an SSD, but they’re both time-consuming. Furthermore, keep in mind that doing so will permanently wipe out any encryption keys you have which makes recovering data impossible.

In fact, the only way to be certain your data has been completely erased is using FileVault to encrypt the SSD before wiping it clean. This will protect against reconstructed information by any third-party or software program; however, this won’t help if someone hacks into your computer.

2. Use Darik’s Boot and Nuke

Reusing a computer that contains sensitive information should always be done securely; this helps guard against someone stealing your personal data from that machine.

To complete this task, you will require software that wipes the hard drive cleanly. There are various tools available for this purpose such as Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN).

DBAN is a widely-used data wiping tool that can be run from either CD or USB drive and will detect all drives on your system. Once detected, this software will rewrite any data on hard drives it finds – guaranteeing your personal information won’t be retrievable again.

DBAN can be downloaded free from its official website, where the program should work on any Windows machine as long as you have the latest version. Furthermore, there’s an installer included which enables users to burn CDs or create bootable floppy disks.

Some SSD manufacturers provide free secure erase utilities and some motherboard BIOSes have this function built-in. However, if your drive or motherboard doesn’t have these functions built in, Parted Magic offers a free utility to perform a secure wipe for you.

This DOS-based software can be run from a CD, floppy or bootable USB. It’s easily downloaded from the developer website and very user friendly.

It may take a few minutes for this tool to identify your drives, but once it does you can select which ones to wipe and the process is finished within seconds. While this method is powerful and dependable, you must exercise caution when using it.

The only drawback of this method is that it wipes any attached USB Storage devices such as external hard drives and Flash sticks. Furthermore, internal Hard Drives cannot be erased if they are plugged in; thus, be sure to unplug these before beginning the procedure.

3. Shatter the Chips

If you need to securely erase data from a hard drive or SSD, there are several methods. One is using the manufacturer’s utilities or using software tailored for your particular model.

Another method is to encrypt the entire drive with a complex passphrase. This can be done on Windows or Mac using different utilities.

Finally, you can physically destroy the chips within your drive to ensure no one can access the information stored there. While this isn’t the most secure solution, it may still be sufficient if you’re concerned about someone gaining access to information stored on your SSD or HDD.

If you’re unsure how to destroy an SSD, opt for a manual method that ensures all flash chips have been destroyed. While this may seem like more work than necessary, the process is actually very straightforward and straightforward.

Most likely, you can safely and effectively take out and destroy the chips inside an SSD with tools provided in a computer repair kit. Just be sure not to damage the platters too much or you could potentially lose some of your data.

Some companies even require that a hard drive or SSD be destroyed before it can be sold, recycled, or donated. These organizations strive to protect their customers’ data and prevent it from being stolen by a hacker.

Another option is to smash the chips on an SSD with a hammer. Doing this will guarantee that any data stored on the drive is completely irrecoverable should anyone attempt to retrieve it.

This method may seem excessive, but it’s the safest way to guarantee your data is permanently erased. This is especially important if you plan on sending your old hard drive or SSD off for recycling at a plant.

This is an ideal method for those seeking to sell their old HDD or SSD. It provides a straightforward and secure way to protect your data from being accessed by potential purchasers.

4. Use a Hammer

When disposing of an old PC or SSD, it’s essential that no one can recover the data stored on it. You have several options for doing this – using disk wipe software, manufacturer utility tools, or physically shredding the drive.

Hammers are a type of striking tool used for various tasks, from general carpentry to framing, nail pulling and cabinet making. They come in an assortment of sizes and designs with striking surfaces of different hardnesses so as to suit whatever the intended use may be.

Hammers are often mistreated and designed for specific tasks, so they come equipped with a range of safety features. For instance, they may have handles made from shock-absorbing materials to reduce impact from strikes; additionally, their heads are ergonomically designed to be comfortable for users while delivering more force to its intended target at varying angles – thus reducing the risk of injury.

If you need to wipe out a hard drive, using a hammer is an efficient method of doing so. Just be sure to shield your eyes from flying debris as you hammer away at the drive so as not to injure yourself during this process.

Hammering hard drives into tiny fragments with a hammer is an efficient way to eliminate them from circulation. This method works best for hard drives that are of no value or don’t require extensive financial investment to replace.

However, if you need to discard an SSD, physical destruction might not be your best bet. Although physically destroying an SSD is an effective way of guaranteeing no data can be recovered from it, it’s also the most expensive.

The most reliable way to securely erase data from hard drives is using the ATA Secure Erase feature. This function, built into most hard drives, allows for overwriting the drive with zeroes so no data can be recovered.

Ammar Fakhruddin


Ammar brings in 18 years of experience in strategic solutions and product development in Public Sector, Oil & Gas and Healthcare organizations. He loves solving complex real world business and data problems by bringing in leading-edge solutions that are cost effective, improve customer and employee experience. At Propelex he focuses on helping businesses achieve digital excellence using Smart Data & Cybersecurity solutions.

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