Erasing All the Data: Format vs. Disk Wipe

Deleting and Formatting - Simply Not Secure Enough!
Simply deleting all the data on your hard drive and formatting it is not just enough to ensure that it never returns. You can spend hours going through your hard drive and deleting all the files and documents you want, but using the delete key on your keyboard in Windows will only remove the shortcuts to the files. Deleted files still reside on the hard drive and a quick Google search will show many options for system recovery software which will allow anyone to reinstate this data.
Formatting the hard drive is a bit more secure than simply deleting the files. Formatting a disk does not however erase all the data off of the disk as the format process only removes the address tables (MFT entries) to the files. It does make it little more difficult to recover the files though. Although a computer specialist would be able to recover most or all the data that was on the disk before the reformat.

For those who accidentally reformat their hard disk, being able to recover most or all the data that was on the disk is a good thing. However, if you're preparing a system for retirement and/or a donation, then you need to ensure that your data is securely removed.

For some businesses and individual users, a disk format may be something you consider secure enough, depending, of course, on the type of data and information you saved to your computer. As long as you understand that formatting is not a 100 percent secure way to completely remove all data from your hard drive, then you are able to make the choice between formatting or having to use a more secure method.

If you need help understanding more about formatting then you are welcome to contact us and we will be happy to assist you and your company.

Disk Wiping Options (aka. Data Dump)
More secure than reformatting, is a process called disk wiping (or disk scrubbing). The term disk wiping is not only used in reference to hard drives but for any storage device such as CD-Rs, RAIDs, flash drives and other storage devices.

Disk wiping is by far a more secure method of ensuring that your data, including company and individually licensed software on your computer and storage devices is irrecoverably deleted before recycling or donating the equipment. Because previously stored data can be brought back with the right software and applications, the disk wiping process will actually overwrite your entire hard drive with blank data, several times. Once you complete the disk wipe you'll find it all but impossible to retrieve the data which was on the drive before the disk wipe.

Generally one needs to acquire a disk wipe application and while disk wiping algorithms differ from product to product, they all will generally write the entire disk with a number (zero or one. The more times the disk is overwritten and formatted the more secure the disk wipe is, but the trade-off is the extra time to perform additional rewrites and the technical knowledge require in setting up the system to perform this action. Disk wipe applications will also typically overwrite the master boot record (MBR), partition table, and every sector of the hard drive.

Luckily, for those of you who are strapped for cash there are some freely available disk wiping programs of which we have listed here on our site. However if you wish to have this process done by professionals and therefore have the peace-of-mind that your data has been wiped for good then we would be more than happy to assist you or your company with this process.

The Disk Wiping Standard That We Use:
The government standard (DoD 5220.22-M), is considered a standard secure level for wiping media. The method specifies three iterations to completely overwrite a hard drive six times. Each iteration makes two write-passes over the entire drive; the first pass inscribes ones (1) over the drive surface and the second inscribes zeros (0) onto the surface. After the third iteration, a government designated code of 246 is written across the drive, then it is verified by a final pass that uses a read-verify process.