Written By Namrata Sengupta
Updated on Jun 22, 2022
Min Reading 3 Min
Data storage devices like hard drives, SSDs in laptops, desktops, or Mac should be wiped clean when you plan to sell, donate, reallocate or dispose of the device. While some think that just deleting or formatting helps get rid of their data and make the device clean; however this is a myth. This article will help you understand the different ways of getting rid of data from hard drives and SSDs; identifying the right way to perform secure erasure of the drives without leaving any traces behind.
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 SSDs securely.
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 that 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.
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.
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.
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, set the drive on fire, or hammer it down, etc.
Is it an appropriate method? Is it environment friendly?
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.
Secure Data erasure 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 on wiping hard drives and SSDs.
With that, we have come to the end of all the ways you can wipe hard drives and SSDs. Depending on your need for secure data wiping, maintaining privacy, 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 a 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 for its media wiping efficacy.
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