Wiping a disk – properly!

Hello all,

It is very important to wipe disks before you sell them, or even recycle them, or share them with family. I used to use software called DBAN but it is not so good any longer.  Thanks to Paul I learned about some new disk wiping software. This new software caught my attention since it has certification from a bunch of countries – Australia, Canada, United States, and more. It also does receipts when it is done. That is something I always wanted when I did disk wipes for customers.

Why do we disk wipe?  To make sure that someone cannot find any of our data.  There are companies that specialize in finding data after all the files are erased.  A good disk wipe doesn’t just erase files but scrambles things to make sure nothing is left that is useful. I have done unerase / recovery on disks I have found, or that customers had deleted everything on, and it is breathtaking how much useful and scary info I found. It is important to make sure bad guys don’t find any of this info.

One thing to know – that I realize is not that common – is that SED disks do not need to be wiped. SED means self-encrypting drives.  Once you remove the key that is used to encrypt the drive the drive is not useful any longer and nothing can be found. I do know that some government agencies still like to wipe as it is a rule.

Lately I have noticed people do not wipe external disks much.  So it is easy to use undelete software and see what used to be on them. So in our example usage below we will also wipe an external disk.

The software I have heard about and seen in action is from White Canyon Software and is called WipeDrive. I have version 9.3.2.

Situation

I have a laptop that I wish to sell.  It has an internal drive that it boots from and an external drive that is used for videos.  To sell this safely I need to disk wipe the computer and the external drive. I also want a report on the wipe too.

Note: the method I am using would work on a server too.

Note2: the first laptop was an older one and it was not 64-bit so that was an issue.  I found another laptop that was and we continued on.

Prep

I have an ISO I got when I purchased the software from White Canyon.  They can do a wipe in many different ways – even over PXE but I am going to burn the ISO to disk and boot with it. And yes, you can use Rufus to burn it to USB.

I burn the ISO to CD using the built – in tools of a Mac.

You need to have local network access so you can email yourself a report on the wipe, but you need internet access for the license activities to complete.  I did not and the offline activation did not work for me.

Another important thing is that you need a license for each drive you are going to wipe.  Yes, that surprised me too.  So my laptop has two devices so my one license that came with the Home version was not good enough.  I could get additional licenses – with a discount it seems from this link. I should mention it took a few tries as the web site was ornery.

Action Time

  • So I have my laptop working, with the external drive connected, and I connect a USB CD drive to it and boot the WipeDrive ISO in it.
  • After a few moments, we see a WipeDrive screen.

  • We wait a few seconds to move to the next screen.  We see a bunch of stuff pass by.
  • BTW, on the first laptop I tried this – which was not a 64-bit laptop this is the error I saw.

  • But with the new laptop I see the following.

  • So I enter the codes I got in my receipt for the purchase.

  • I see two drives, the internal Apple SSD, and the external one as well.
  • On the next screen we get to select the overwrite pattern. As this is a personal laptop, I change the default choice.

  • As you see above I change from using NIST to the Single Pass option which will do enough to make sure no one will find any data.

  • On the next screen (seen above) you confirm that you want to erase your data.
  • On the next screen I need to deal with not having any network access on this laptop.  Offline activation doesn’t seem to work too well for me.  They have a nice system, using a QR code that works good but it doesn’t give me an offline activation code so I have to reach out to support again. It turns out the problem was mine.  My license came with one drive and I am trying to wipe two drives.  So I used the link above to add to my license. Then I tried again.
  • So I point my phone camera at the QR code and within 2 seconds I had the code to enter into the software and things moved along.

  • Next we see it start to wipe.  It seems to only be able to wipe one drive at a time.

  • I should mention that I don’t have a network connection on this laptop.  The Linux that is booted to do the wipe doesn’t use the built – in Wifi and I have only two USB so I cannot get to the network that way either.  One is used for the external disk, and one is used for the boot CD with the wipe software on it.  This means I will not see what the receipt for the wipe looks like. The options are to file it on a share, or email it.  But all the options need network working.
  • The first drive wiped is the external one which is 4 TB. It is taking a while.
  • There is an option at the bottom of the screen called Overview. It will show you the screen below.

  • But I like the detailed view.
  • Depending on the size of your drives to be wiped, and the method of wipe, you can consider this an overnight activity. A four terabyte (and external as well) drive in my case makes it an overnight activity.
  • When the wipe is done you see this.

  • As well, if you hover over one of the status lines you get a little more detail.

  • What I could not find is the ability to get a report.  I suspect it is not part of the home edition I have.  Frustrating.
  • I check the external drive.  And it is a brick.  I could make it useful again by partitioning it and formatting it.  But my undelete stuff doesn’t work with it – it is not even seen as there is nothing to see.  The disk inside my laptop is the same.  Useless and nothing to see.

Summary

This software works and works good.  It was harder to get started than I expected due to the license that says one disk and how I did not know that.  As well, there is no reports on the wipe so I guess that is an enterprise feature – like 32-bit wiping is.

I hope what I have written here helps, and if you have questions or comments do not hesitate to reach out.

Useful Links

Thanks for reading.

Michael

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