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Can You Really Erase Your Hard Drive?


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#1 28_special

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Posted 26 December 2006 - 08:44 PM

I wasn't sure where to ask this question, please feel free to move it if it's in the wrong forum.

Is there any way to completely erase your hard drive? If so, how is it done? Would I be better off to just replace the hard drive with a new one? What is the cost involved in replacing it? I am not very computer savvy, so please speak to me as if you were talking to a 5 year old. lol Thank you in advance for any information you can provide.

Also, I'm in the market for a new computer. I'm going to buy a laptop I think. I've been looking at the Dell XPS, but by the time I customize my machine, the price is around 3K. My present computer is a Dell, and I have been relatively happy with it thus far, so I thought I would just go with them once again. Are there laptops out there that are comparable and less expensive? Thanks so much!

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#2 tg1911

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Posted 26 December 2006 - 10:16 PM

You can use Eraser, or Active@ KillDisk to wipe your harddrive.
Why do you want to erase your harddrive?
The reason I ask, is because you wanted to know if it would "be better off to just replace the hard drive with a new one".
Are you having problems with the drive, and what problems are you having, if so?
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#3 28_special

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 12:48 AM

I'm going to sell my computer and have a lot of personal information on it, i.e. financial records, credit card information, not to mention it was the computer that I used to record our family buisiness. I need to be assured that everything is gone before it is in someone else's hands.

#4 dc3

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 01:00 AM

Is there any way to completely erase your hard drive? If so, how is it done?



Erasing the hdd is actually a misnomer, what the programs suggested by tg1911 do is over write the information on the disk with ones and zeros in a manner that the information under it is no longer readable.

Unless you have the operating system disk to reinstall windows you will be selling your computer without a operating sytem if you wipe the hdd.

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#5 28_special

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 01:13 AM

I do have all of the original operating disks...that's all I have to do? Use one or both of those programs and then reinstall everything that originally came on the computer? Sounds too easy.

#6 ussr1943

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 01:32 AM

i think the only surefire way to make sure noone can get that info (im told people that are really skilled can possibly retrieve info of an "erased hdd") is to destroy it :S . i would talk to other people in the forums though to get accurate information!
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#7 J_pyro_C

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 01:44 AM

im not exactly sure but i think my dad used some program (can't remember the name it was a while back lol) to get back old files he had on his hard drive(all he did to format it was reinstall Windows ME) and he got them all back......so i don't think just reinstalling windows would truly get rid of all the files....I honestly don't know if using the programs that tg1911 listed would completely get rid of all the information....but i do know if you format it with windows you can somehow still get the files back...


#8 Mr_Freeware

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 02:59 AM

you mean reformating will not get rid of everything? i dont see how anything can be usable if you reformat.

#9 J_pyro_C

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 03:05 AM

i don't know if it's still like that but yes back then you could recover old files that were formatted off the hard drive.but i do remember another time my dad did that and all he could recover was the names of the old files so honestly i can't tell you much more about it maybe someone else knows more about it.....


#10 dc3

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 03:51 AM

There are ways to retrieve information from hdds that have been wiped, but to retrieve that information is going to be difficult and something your average person is not going to be equipped to do.

If your information is that sensitive then you may want to consider purchasing another hdd and installing the OS on it since you do have the disk.

Personally, I use Wipe Drive and wouldn't think twice about someone other than a professional trying to retrieve any information that was on it.

If you decide to wipe the drive using one of the programs suggested you may need to have software like Nero to make a bootable disk from your download, I don't know if the download will provide you with a bootable disk. Make sure that your optical drive is the first item in the boot order in the BIOS. Open the optical drive tray and insert the disk, shut down your computer, and when you restart your computer it will boot from the disk.

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#11 Wildabeast

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 04:29 AM

The way I understood it to be is when you format, the last letter in the file extension is gone so Windows won't read it. Like name.exe becomes name.ex but when you erase the drive, the files are overwritten with whatever the program uses, other files I guess, and the files that were overwritten can not be retrieved. The more times you do that, the less likely they are to be retrieved. I use eraser on a couple of old hard drives I have, it takes a long while to "erase" a drive. The more passes, the longer.

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#12 Platypus

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 08:27 AM

When a file is deleted, the first character of its name in the directory listing is changed to a non-valid character that acts as a flag to the OS to no longer show it in directory (folder) contents listings. The disk clusters that were allocated to that file in the file table are marked as available for the OS to use to store new files, so far their contents is unchanged. So as long as those clusters don't chance to be used again for another file, and have their contents overwritten, file recovery software can readily re-instate the previous condition and hence recover the file.

A similar condition occurs when a hard drive is formatted. No change is made to the data contents of the drive. The format will reconstruct the file system (that is the structures that catalog the identity and location of files on the drive), which is a quick format, and a full format will also perform a basic check of the data integrity of the drive. If the drive is re-partitioned involving changing the size of partitions, some of the filesystem structures will move location and change in size, which makes recovery more difficult, but still feasible. The remainder of the data that was on the drive remains there, this is what software like PC Inspector and GetData Back utilises to recover drive contents after a format.

The situation becomes rather different once an erasing utility has been used. From manufacturers zero-fill utilities, which reset the RLL sequences for every bit on the user data area to read zero, to utilities like Eraser, which cycle the bit values of every location up to dozens of times, the aim is that data is changed to no longer contain the information it once contained. So there is nothing that normal drive access will return to recovery software, and forensic recovery techniques must be used to attempt to determine what data each drive sector contained before the erasure. This immediately becomes time-consuming and expensive, so unless you suspect that someone will spend thousands of dollars to try to get that information, a secure wipe like eraser's Guttman cycle is quite adequate (maybe even overkill).

You can then re-load the drive with whatever OS and applications belong with it before you sell it.

Edited by Platypus, 27 December 2006 - 08:33 AM.

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#13 Wildabeast

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 09:59 AM

:thumbsup: Guess I wasn't even close....
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#14 Zaphod Beeblebrox

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 12:08 PM

28 special - this isn't about wiping out your HD (although I did it once with a program with the would "kill" in it. Very complicated for me). Since you're looking into possibly buying a Dell XPS laptop, I already have one. It cost over $4000, mainly because I choose high end components. I also chose the best warranties I could get. I've never had to call their tech support but I was told that because I had bought the XPS and extended warranties all tech support is located within the U.S.

I've had two other Dell computers - PCs - and found the tech support to be the worse and worse. The PC I have now is an MPC (http://www.mpccorp.com/) and it's great. Tech support is the best and is also located in the U.S. - these people truly know how to troubleshoot. The reason I didn't go with an MPC laptop was because I wanted the largest screen available at the time and, at the time Dell had a 17" truelife widescreen. That's the only reason I went to Dell again. Good luck with your HD problems. Oh... I don't know how expensive a new HD would cost, but I would take that into consideration when selling your PC - don't want to lose money on the deal.

#15 28_special

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 05:11 PM

Thank you for the information. I will certainly keep all of this in mind.




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