If your hard drive, SSD, or any other device contains sensitive, confidential, or personal data, you’d want to keep it safe. To ensure that your data doesn’t get compromised when your device is put to rest, you need to sanitize the storage device. By sanitizing the device in the right way, you can make your sensitive data irrecoverable even through freely available DIY data recovery tools or forensic methods.
Let us see different methods used to wipe clean a device and look at the pros & cons of each one to identify the best way to wipe hard drives and wipe SSDs securely.
1. Use of ‘Delete’ Key
The good old way of getting rid of anything, pressing the ‘Delete’ key, is the simplest way to see some extra storage space on your device. What Deleting does is it removes only the linkage of the data with your operating system, making the data invisible and untraceable only for you. But even if you empty your Recycle bin, the data stays on the drive. And it can easily be recovered using free data recovery software. So if you want to free up space, Deleting may work; however, if you are donating, reselling, or giving away your laptop or PC, it isn’t going to keep your data safe from prying eyes. Hence, Deleting is not a safe way to wipe your hard drive because even after deleting data from the drive, it can be retrieved back.
- Unsafe method that makes the data recoverable
- Deleting can lead to data leakage and result in a breach
Formatting is the process of wiping the storage partition table and unlinking the data in the file system. It re-indexes the file system for reusing the drive. Although the user feels that the data has gone as it becomes invisible, technically, the data resides in the media. A FREE DIY data recovery software can let cybercriminals find your data from the drive you formatted. The result? You remain oblivious to data vulnerability, and your privacy can be compromised.
Like Formatting, What about Factory Resetting?
Factory Resetting a device is not any better. If you go one step ahead of formatting and factory reset your device, the results won’t differ much. Factory reset basically does everything that formatting does, plus also uninstalls the operating system on your laptop or desktop. The results factory resetting generates in terms of data security are similar - the data remains traceable and can be recovered using a DIY data recovery tool.
For wiping the hard drive using formatting, you may follow the steps as per the OS you use. For e.g., on a Windows machine, you can click on the ‘My Computer’ icon on your desktop, select the drive partition you want to format, and select ‘Format’ by right-clicking on the drive.
- Formatting is quick and simple to execute
- It makes the device reusable
- Formatting has a risk of data leakage
- With the data, your settings are also lost
3. Physically Destroying the Device
Sometimes physically destroying the storage device can also be an option to get rid of sensitive data and keep it safe from the prying eyes of others. To physically destroy a hard drive or SDD, you can follow several methods like using a commercial shredder, setting the drive on fire, or hammering it down, etc.
Is it an appropriate method? Is it environmentally friendly?
Let’s read the Pros and Cons to get an answer to this.
- You can get rid of the device as well as all the data that it contains.
- It is an expensive way of getting rid of the data and the device.
- In some cases, when the device is not properly destroyed, data can still be recovered using forensic methods.
- It is not an eco-friendly way as it generates e-waste.
Degaussing is a demagnetizing process to destroy data stored on hard drives and other magnetic media such as audio and backup tapes. Degaussers are devices that disrupt the magnetic field of the device, render it useless, and make the data irretrievable. It is a traditional method that is increasingly becoming ineffective as non-magnetic storage devices (flash-based storage like SSD) and devices with high magnetic power are becoming commonplace. You can read our article on the limitation of degaussers on SSDs.
- Guaranteed data removal when successful
- Ineffective method to wipe SSDs and evolving magnetic media.
- Leaves the device useless, creating an added cost burden and generating e-waste.
- Degaussers are very expensive.
5. Securely Wipe Hard Drives
Securely wiping the hard drive involves overwriting existing data with a series of 0s and 1s or pseudo-random characters to make the sensitive data irrecoverable. It can be done on-site or offsite using a software solution easily with verification, generating proof of erasure certificate.
You can refer to our step-by-step guide to wipe hard drives and SSDs.
- Erased Hard drive and SSD become reusable
- Generates no e-waste and is eco-friendly
- Offers software-based data erasure reports as proof of erasure for audit purposes and meeting compliance
- No chance of recovering data using software or forensic methods
- Data Erasure software can be used on-premises and off-premise too
- It does not work on damaged, inaccessible drives or drives with multiple bad sectors
With that, we have come to the end of all the ways you can wipe hard drives and SSDs. Depending on your need to wipe SSD & other drives, maintain privacy, and data security, your inclination towards eco-conscious ways, and how important it is for you to make the data irrecoverable, you can select any of the data wiping options mentioned above. Just remember to weigh the pros and cons of each data-wiping method before going ahead.
However, our expert recommendation is to use data erasure software that can help you sanitize all your devices on-premises and off-premise with 100% efficacy. Bitraser is one such reliable DIY software that you can use to wipe hard drives and SSDs. The software comes with many inherent advantages like generating automated proofs of data destruction, cloud integration for maintaining reports and certificates repository, scalability, and manageability. And of course, BitRaser is a NIST-tested and compliant software that helps wipe hard drives and erase SSDs securely.