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Monday, September 17, 2007

Low Level Format of your Hard Drive Done Easily for Free

With my newer, or newish at this point Dell Dimension e520 -- I have started to prepare my old Dell Dimension 2400 for disassembly. The main reason of course is to provide addtional funding for things to post on this blog. For example, since the new computer only supports SATA hard drives, the Ultra ATA drives in my old computer and specifically the 250GB backup drive is no longer necessary. Probably an easy $50-$75 on eBay there.

As with any hard drive, whether it is for a desktop computer, laptop, or Apple iPod -- you should be very concerned with just doing a basic format of the drive and then dropping it on a site like Craigslist or eBay. Because, even though a Windows format may wipe the data out from the operating system view -- the data is not overwritten and can be recovered easily by someone with minimum technical skills.

What you want to pursue is data destruction or a low-level format to overwrite all the data several times to make sure it is not accessible by any prying eyes. So, without a current toolset in hand, I set out to Google to find a good tool -- hopefully for free. Initially, I searched for (without quotes) "windows format hard drive low level" which brought me to a tool and site as the number one result -- Active Kill.

While it was a free download, the unregistered version only writes all zeros to your hard disk which is not a very thorough our secure method of wiping, erasing, or destroying the data on your disk. Any other methods such as the effective Gutmann method are not supported without paying for the full version.

The goal here was to find a tool that hopefully was free of charge. After entering a few additional search terms like "wipe hard drive data" and "disk cleaner freeware format" I came across a pretty good product, DBAN, or Darik's Boot and Nuke (Hard Drive Wipe) at

The tool here, both free and effective is a great application that can be used to delete all the old data from your hard drive. Plus, the process is relatively seemless and effective.

First you need to visit the site and download the latest ISO version which is 1.0.7 as of this posting. Then, you simply burn that ISO image to a CD/DVD and then reboot your machine. Follow a couple of simple prompts (be very careful on which drive you work with if you have multiple drives, as it does destroy data) and approximately 2 hours later your hard drive is effectively wiped using the very effective Gutmann method.

Now they are ready for eBay! Were you able to use DBAN? If so, let me know with a comment.

Similar terms: erase, eraser, disk eraser, wiper, dos, erase hard drive, disk cleaner, low level format, destroy hard drive data, wipe out hard drive, guttmann, gutmann, gutman, guttmann.

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MerlsRamblings said...

I tried Dban Original and the up to date version, along with powermax and seagate/maxtor power tools eraser. My aim was to low level format my hdd to clear it of Windows Vista. None of these will do the task. They miss the wipe method completely. This makes me suspicious of Microsoft software, I now must hunt for something that will kill vista as I am tired of continually repairing its bugs. Have you come across this?