Receive updates via email:

 Updates via RSS

Tag Cloud

Blog Archive

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fixed! DBAN Finished With Non-Fatal Errors When Trying to Wipe SATA Drive

Yesterday I was able to complete the migration of my Dell Microsoft Windows Vista machine to a VMWare Virtual Machine so I could have one less PC running in my house. Having successfully moved everything over, no matter how painful (posts coming) it was now time to prepare the computer for disposal (eBay / Craigslist).

As I mentioned earlier this week, I usually use Darik's Boot and Nuke, called DBAN to wipe the disks and permanently destroy the data before reinstalling the operating system and getting rid of the computer.

So, I updated to the most recent copy of DBAN, 2.0.0 from the download site and dropped it into the CD-ROM to boot. I then followed the common steps I normally did to wipe the disk.

I choose my settings:
Entropy: LinuxKernal (urandom)
PRNG: Mesenne Twister (mt19937ar-cok)
Method: DoD 5220.22-M
Verify: Last Pass

I then selected both the drives that I wanted to nuke, and hit f10 to execute.

Oddly, rather than entering the progress screen dialog, I was greeted with an unfriendly message:

DBAN Finished With Non-Fatal Errors
Logs were being written to disk, yada, yada, yada. It didn't work.

I rebooted the machine thinking that would change something. I still received the same error message:
DBAN Finished With Non-Fatal Errors

Something was pretty odd here.

I went ahead and at the initial startup prompt entered the command "autonuke" thinking that would somehow lead to a different outcome. But, it didn't.

It then dawned on me that there could be some random incompatibility between my computer and DBAN 2.0.0. I pulled out my trusty DBAN 1.0.7 disk and gave it a try. Still, the same result of DBAN exiting with the non-fatal errors. (Which ironically, is fatal since your computer basically freezes up and you have to thumb it...but, I digress.)

Then I turned to Google. After much searching and little result, I stumbled across a post which suggested that DBAN had an issue with SATA drives that possibly had to do with them not being high enough on the primary channels. That led me to notice that there were 5 devices shown for some reason in the DBAN GUI menu, three that were not recognized and the hard drives were listed as the last two.

That led me to try something out.

What I did next, since I had 4 devices in my Dell Dimension E520 -- 2 Hard Drivers, 1 CD/DVD-ROM, and 1 CD-RW/DVD-RW drive was to reconfigure that SATA cabling. I pulled out two of the devices, the 2nd CD-ROM, and the secondary hard drive and put the single hard drive on channel "0" with the bootable CD-RW/DVD-RW drive on channel "1".

With just two of the drives connected, I then gave DBAN 2.0.0 another shot. After making the configuration setting changes, I attempted to start the data destruction process. Guess what? It kicked it off and started working, showing my progress. In just a few hours, my

Lesson learned? For those of you with SATA configurations with multiple drives from Dell or other manufacturers, you made need to either disconnect some drives or even re-order how they are connected to your motherboard or SATA card. With some basic tweaking, DBAN will be back and working in no time.

Did this work for you? If so, if you wouldn't mind tweeting about it on Twitter, posting a link on Facebook, or posting a comment below...that'd be awesome!


Lydia said...

I am having the exact same problem you describe here. I am cleaning a Dell Dimension C521. I'm not sure how to change the SATA settings and do the process you refer to. Can you give step-by-step? Is this change made under "Drives" within the DBAN screen? Thx

Ken Hanscom said...

Hi Lydia...don't have the machine anymore, so step-by-step would be tough. You should go into the BIOS and a) disable any drives that you will not DBAN (like your CD/DVD-ROM) and b) disable booting from other devices like your USB Controllers as that can cause a problem as well.

All of this however must be done from the Dell BIOS.


SomeGuy said...

I really wish the DBAN guy would just post a fix for this on the forum on It's silly for all of us to run around and try and figure out the problem.

I've been using DBAN for years and this is just annoying now.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, I almost abandon dban and planned to use KillDisk instead. My problem is not exactly the same thou, I only have 1 DVD drive and 1 SATA, both connected to the SATA ports, however my motherboard has onboard USB controllers and they are listed as "[ ] ???????" on dban's user interface. Althou I didnt choose any of them, dban still failed with the infamous error message. I've to go to BIOS and disable the USB controller and only then it works. This is really silly.

Anonymous said...

I turned off USB and also changed my SATA to "compatibility mode" on my Toshiba laptop. No luck. I downloaded KillDisk free version, and it worked without a hitch.

T L K said...

I have a dell inspiron 1545, i tried to format but i got exactly the same errors, HELP

StevenLawler said...

C'est magnifique! I kept getting the same error message whether I had the HDD hooked up internally or in an eSATA enclosure. I found this post. Unplugged all drives except the one I wanted to nuke and the optical drive. My card reader, which had been showing up in dban, was plugged into a USB header so I unplugged that too. I rebooted to the CD and, as I write this, it's happily scrubbing all those nasty little ones and zeroes.

Many thanks for the solution.

Anonymous said...

THANKS! I ran into the same issue with my Dell Vostro 400 showing '????' for my 2 DVD drives. The motherboard had SATA0, SATA1, SATA4, and SATA5 ports listed. I simply unplugged the SATA4 DVD-RW drive, started DBAN and everything worked perfectly. I had initially done similar troubleshooting, but would have never thought to remove one of the 'higher numbered' SATA devices to remedy the issue.. Thanks again for saving me hours!

Anonymous said...

I was getting this error on my Dell Inspiron 530 and the issue was resolved after unplugging the memory card reader from the motherboard.

Anonymous said...

DBAN is just typical linux based ridiculousness. You end up wasting more time trying to get the stupid thing to work than it would take to do its job if it DID work. I propose it be renamed DBAF (Disk Boot and FAIL).

mike said...

hello, I have the same error... but I'm working with a laptop... the sata cables are harder to work with... any suggestions? or just ... Good luck?

Cheeky Monkey said...

Having noted the previous comments, and having the same issue, I disabled all the "extra" boot options (CD, FDD & LAN) then booted from the USB key I was using to run DBAN from.

Disabling the extra drives in the BIOS made no difference as I still had the options to wipe the HDD or the USB key I booted from and proceeding with only the HDD selected still gave me the non fatal error.

I was using a USB key to boot from as I couldn't boot from CDROM since the drive, whilst recognised, was not loading any image, bootable or not.


I rebooted, then waited until the loading DBAN.BZI ticker had finished and then pulled out the USB key before/as the "searching for USB drives prompt" appeared. It timed out looking for USB drives and then showed _only_ the HDD I wanted to wipe. Selected that, set my options and pressed [F10].

Wiping started without the error.


El ChiLaNgoL said...

Well... I was having a similar problem with a newer toshiba satellite. Actually dban wouldn't even list the available drives, it would just load the list of commands, 3 seconds after I typed autonuke it would go on to the next screen stating that it finished with non fatal errors. That was with 1.6; 2.2 wouldn't even load. I ended up installing that HDD on my sony laptop and running dban there. It started a couple of minutes ago and it seems to be working fine. If I don't post anything later it probably means it worked. Or that I was too embarrassed to admit that after hours of waiting there was an error lol. Que la boca se me haga chicharron lol

Wish me luck!

Tom R. ( said...

Mr. Hanscom...thanks for the tip. Absolutely awesome and works like a champ. It is people like you that enhance a FREE program like this.

I specifically disconnected my external USB devices (web cam, printer, USB port extender) and I went into the BIOS and disconnected everything I could, except the CD-ROM and Hard Drive.

Anonymous said...

Ah....after 2 hours of thinking I was an idiot....I found the answer here by diabling my USB ports and now DBAN is erasing away!

JP said...

Thanks, Cheeky Monkey. Your approach worked for me.... after several hours of tearing my hair out.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for starting this thread, Ken. I wanted to wipe a SATA disk from a Dell desktop and install it in a computer with a new ASUS motherboard. Following your advice, I disconnected my second(boot) IDE hard drive and re-positioned the SATA cable from SATA 4 to SATA 1 on the motherboard and voila! By the way, I booted DBAN from a CD. Frustrating to have to look so hard for a solution.

Muad'Dib said...

I had the same problem running v2.26 "Beta" on my laptop even though I had all my external ports disconnected (except the one connected to the drive I was trying to wipe). I tried rebooting (you know, that sometimes DOES work), and discovered something VERY scary:

The first time I ran DBAN, the drive I was trying to erase (an external box with an eSATA connector) appeared 2nd on the list (the 1st one was my internal laptop drive). After I rebooted (and changed absolutely nothing), the order of the two drives on the screen were switched (my internal drive appeared 2nd). Had I not been paying attention, I could have easily started wiping my laptop's internal drive by mistake. When I discovered this switch, I decided to stop even trying to use the program.

Yes I know you're supposed to be careful with such tools (and fortunately, I was), but if DBAN can't keep track of which drive is 0 and which is 1, and display them in a consistent and logical order, then I'm not comfortable trusting the program not to 'accidentally' wipe the wrong drive with my data.

I guess it's back to using ERASER by Heidi Computers (v5.8.8). It may have it's own flaws, but I feel a lot more confident it's not going to accidentally change how things are displayed and risk my losing important files!

Anonymous said...

I had same problems with non fatal errors. I have tried mutiple options and forums to solve the problem for two days but finally read that need to disable all drives which is not needed in this forum.

So, here is the steps i have tried...
0. Burn the CD with DBAN ISO file dban-1.0.7_i386.iso because I have received teh configuration error with current beta version
1. Went to bios setup in laptop (F12/F1 depends on computer) and disabled all drives from Boot and Boot order expect CD ROM which will be used for DBAN
2. Save the BIOS changes and restart the computer/laptop
3. It will boot from CD and display In DBAN user interface, Type dod in boot command and press enter (or press F3 to see the commands in DBAN menu)
4. DBAN will be started to process without any nonfatal errors this time.

Thank you everyone for your advice and tips.

zenenriv said...

Thank you! Seriously, I wasted hrs trying to figure this out. I disabled the card reader and DBAN is running as it is intended.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank You!

Peter Q said...

I had the same problem.

I was considering physically changing channels of my hard-drive and CD-ROM drive but then unplugged my router from its ethernet port and my printer from its USB port and DBAN suddenly worked!

Clearly this was interfering. The same DBAN disc had already worked like a dream on my son's 32 Bit machine running Windows XP so I knew it was a system or compatibility problem of some kind with my 64 bit machine running Windows 7/Ubuntu 9.10.

I'm not an expert but it might be worth trying this before you start removing drives.


Anonymous said...

Having this solution posted as a blog is much better than having to search a forum and create an account, so THANKS. To add my experience, I have two HP machines with SATA II HDD's and SATA CDROM's. Disabled the USB on the BIOS (only one of the HP machines allowed disabling the USB function of the motherboard) plus followed the suggestion about unplugging the media card readers and extra SATA connections. Also, realigned my SATA HDD's to SATA 0. Do not think this makes any difference, but all steps worked like a charm!

It seems that the media card readers are the reason one gets error messages like "[?????] Unknown Device" from DBAN. Remember, it is necessary to unplug USB transfer cables FROM motherboard. Unplugging just the power cable from these devices alone will not work (had to learn it the hard way).

HINT: I found that you can cut your DBAN time down by using the MENU bar on the bottom of the DBAN display. Choices include PRNG (P), Method (M), Verify (V), Rounds (R). If you leave DBAN at its default setting (3 passes) it will take approximately 17 hours to wipe a HDD. Use the M option (press M on your keyboard) and choose Quick Erase (1 Pass) and it will finish much faster. Thanks again for all the comments that contributed to my fix. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

It was the USB controller for me. Disabled it, and voila! Wiping away! Thank you, this was driving me nuts!

Anonymous said...

The solution that finally worked for me was to insert my digital media disk/card back in the media slot located on the side of my laptop. Presto, DBAN finally found [??????] drive and is working away nicely. Finally! Good luck and thanks for starting this Blog. Furthermore, everyone’s comments were very useful in getting me going in the right direction. Thx.

Anonymous said...

Update: When I put a short USB receiver for my wireless keyboard on the same side as the media slot, the receiver will not work. However, if I put a longer/older style USB that I use for my wireless mouse it works fine?

Also, if you use outlook, don’t download Chrome or it will conflict with IE and disable hyperlinks in Outlook email. I guess that's another topic, but be forewarned.

Anonymous said...

If the issue is USB related, there's no need to disable anything in your BIOS. The easiest solution is to start DBAN in "nousb" mode.

To do this, start up DBAN as you normally would and instead of hitting F10 to start, just type in the following command:

dban nousb

Once it loads up, you should no longer see any unrecognized devices.

Anonymous said...

^Genius. "dban nousb" works perfectly for me.

Anonymous said...

After trying numerous techniques from this and other message boards, "dban nousb" is the one that finally worked for me. Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

I was agonising over this - just tried the 'nousb' option and it worked a charm! Thanks a million!