Selling or giving away your computer? If you simply format your hard drive using the built in Windows or Mac tool will leave all your data ready to be recovered. Destroy your data the RIGHT way with this guide.
#1 Windows Secret Undetectable Wiping Tool
Almost no one knows this, but Windows actually includes a secret wiping tool. It’s HIGHLY effective at eliminating sensitive data. Here is how to use it:
1. Delete your stuff Before you can wipe, you have to delete your data. Simply send it to the Recycle Bin (or Trash on a Mac). Don’t forget to actually delete the trash. You would be surprised at how many people forget to do this! As a security professional I have examined thousands of computers and you would be amazed at how often this happens. Now for the cool part…
2. Deploy the secret Windows Cipher wiping tool Cipher is a secret tool built into Windows starting with Windows 2000. If you have Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8 you’ve got Cipher already. It is a command line tool, but don’t let that worry you – it’s super easy to use. Go to Start, Type in cmd and hit Enter – a black window will appear.
You will see a bunch of small dots across the window. This indicates that Cipher is wiping the unallocated space on your hard drive.
The unallocated space is the part of a hard drive that hold deleted files such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and those naughty photographs end up. Until you run Cipher, there is a chance that someone could actually recover those files. Cipher works its magic by overwriting that part of the hard drive first with zeros and finally with random characters.
If you run Cipher properly, those files that you deleted will be permanently gone forever, beyond the ability of even of computer forensic experts to recover.
If you have a Mac, things are even easier.
1. Delete your Trash You can do this by Ctrl + clicking on the Trash Bin and choose Empty Trash or go to Finder: Empty Trash.
2. Secure Delete your Trash Go to Finder: Secure Delete your Trash and click the Secure Empty Trash button. That’s it!
It works the same way as Windows Cipher and will overwrite everything in the unallocated part of your hard drive. It might take a couple of hours to run, so don’t be concerned if it seems slow.
Don’t mistake secure wiping for deleting your web history
One important thing that using Cipher and Secure Empty Trash DOESN’T do is wipe out your browsing history. If you are concerned someone wants to investigate web sites you have been visiting click here to see how to wipe your browsing history.
#2 Go for the Full Monty
NOTE: THERE’S NO GOING BACK FROM THIS. This process will completely obliterate every shred of data that has ever been on your computer. This will wipe every single bit of data on your hard drive including the operating system. Here’s how to do it!
Method 1: Use free software. Difficulty: Medium
a) Download Darik’s Boot and Nuke http://www.dban.org It’s completely free.
b) You will need to create a bootable CD and boot your computer from the CD. To create a bootable CD you will need to download and install ImgBurn http://www.imgburn.com/
a. Create a bootable CD from the Darik’s Boot and Nuke download using ImgBurn.
b. Open ImgBurn. Choose Write image file to disc
c. Select the Darik’s Boot and Nuke file you just downloaded.
d. Open the file
e. Insert a disc into your disc drive and select the icon at the bottom with the blue arrow pointing to
c) Wipe your hard drive with Darik’s Boot and Nuke. First shut down your computer. When it reboots hit one of the following keys several times until you get to the BIOS screen. When you’re in the BIOS screen, look for a screen that shows you a boot menu. When you find this menu, select CD as your boot source. Reboot your computer with the CD in the drive and boot to Darik’s Boot and Nuke.
d) Wipe your hard drive following the instructions on screen. Your data will be unrecoverable at this point. You won’t be able to boot your computer and if you want to continue to use it you will need to re-install Windows (or OSX if you’re on a Mac).
Method 2: Destroy your hard drive. Difficulty: Easy
This method is a WHOLE lot more fun!
a) Remove your hard drive from your computer. If you don’t know how to do this, ask someone to help you out. If you have a desktop computer like a dell or HP, it’s pretty easy to find the hard drive. A hard drive generally looks like this. If you have a laptop, there will usually be 2 screws on the bottom of the laptop to remove it
b) Find yourself a nice big hammer.
c) Smash the crap out of the drive!
Take your time and do a good job. You want to completely mangle the platters inside the drive so that no one will be able to do any recovery work on them whatsoever. This method is guaranteed to work if you do it properly. I am in the data recovery business and we have never been able to recover data from a hard drive that is badly physically damaged.
There is a wrong way and a right way to wipe a thumb drive or external hard drive. Let’s get something straight: FORMATTING A THUMB DRIVE LEAVES YOUR DATA INTACT. If you want to be secure, simply formatting a hard drive or thumb drive virtually guarantees that a security expert like myself would be able to recover almost everything on it with a $30 tool. Likewise, using Shift+Delete does nothing to protect your privacy
Part 2 of this article will be published next week.