Why and how you should wipe your hard drive when selling it

Why and how you should wipe your hard drive before selling or passing it on

Selling your old components is a great way to make enough money to buy new ones. With technology moving so fast, what was cutting edge a couple years ago is now old hat. With SSDs now cheaper, longer lived and more reliable than ever, they are now a very viable storage medium. Lucky for us there is still a thriving market in used HDDs.

That gives us the perfect excuse to upgrade our hardware. If we can get some cash for our old stuff, we not only avoid hoarding decades worth of old tech, we also get a contribution towards our new toys. That doesn’t mean just unplugging your old drive and listing it online though. Oh no. You have work to do first in order to protect your privacy.

This is true regardless of whether you used the disk as a business or as an individual. Both have things they want to keep private and would prefer not to be in the public domain.

Why you should wipe your hard drive

You definitely need to wipe your hard drive thoroughly before selling it or giving it to someone else. Some of the many high profile cases we have seen recently of not having wiped a drive include the Lockheed Martin drives in 2009 that contained missile data and confidential employee information. Details of active servicemen and women and lots of other leaks of the same kind.

Over in the UK, private healthcare data escaped through a resold hard disk and a teenager found child porn on a laptop her father bought from a second-hand store. It isn’t just over here that we have these kinds of problems, it is universal.

A recent report by the Blancco Technology Group found 67% of hard disks found on eBay and Craigslist during 2016 contained some form of identifiable information. Of those, 11% included confidential company data.

Even if you don’t run a business, there are plenty of reasons why you should wipe your hard disk. If you have ever saved a password or cookie onto the disk you can likely be identified. If you have saved images, files, work, emails, or pretty much anything, you can likely be identified. Even if you empty the recycle bin or trash and remove all traces of the files, you can likely be identified.

We here at Dave’s Computers are regularly called on by businesses to retrieve accidentally deleted files or perform data recovery. You would be amazed at what can be retrieved from a hard drive with the right tools and the right knowledge. All good reasons why you should securely wipe your hard drive before getting rid of it. Even if you have nothing to hide, your privacy is still at risk.

How to securely wipe a hard drive

There are several ways to wipe a hard drive but they all do much the same thing. To securely wipe a drive, it isn’t enough to remove all files and folders. All deleting a file does is remove the index link within the operating system so it no longer considers the file present. The actual data is still on the drive, ripe for retrieval. What you need to do is overwrite all data on the drive, preferably several times.

There are a few tools that can do this and many were reviewed by PCWorld.com here. The tool I prefer to use is called DBAN and it is widely regarded as the best hard drive wiping tool anywhere. It’s free too. The downside of DBAN is that it has not yet been updated to wipe SSDs. That’s fine for now but when it comes time to swap those out for something newer, DBAN may become obsolete.

HDDerase is also pretty good if you don’t like the look of DBAN. It was written by researchers at the Center for Magnetic Recording Research (CMMR) at the University of California, San Diego. Not a little ironically, it is also supported by the NSA. To get HDDerase to work properly, you will need to burn it onto a flash drive along with Rufus to get it working.

If you want something simpler to use with a 64-bit drive then Active Killdisk might be more your thing. It also needs to be burned to a boot disk but will work out of the box. Simply copy it to USB or DVD, boot the computer from that drive and follow the wizard. That really is all there is to it.

There are lots of other free and premium tools out there that can securely wipe your hard drive. You certainly don’t have to take my recommendations to heart. Just make sure that each tool performs multiple passes on the drive to make sure it is totally wiped and that any data has been overwritten.

What you do from that point is up to you. You can reload a copy of Linux onto it so it’s a working disk again and sell it or offer it empty without partitions. Once the disk has been securely wiped, it doesn’t really matter.

If you need help securely deleting files from a hard drive, Dave’s Computers can help. We have the tools and expertise to ensure your old drives won’t get you into any kind of trouble. We can securely wipe and overwrite them for you and can save you having to do it yourself.

Conversely, if you accidentally format a hard drive or delete a file by mistake, we can help retrieve that data. Our data recovery experts are well versed in saving previously lost data and helping businesses and individuals from losing their files. It’s all part of the service so call us today if you need assistance with either of these.

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