Guide to Secure Hard Drive Erasing Files and Sanitizing Computer Data

The Importance of Secure Drive Erasure

Computers are increasingly used to store financial data, healthcare information, and the keys to our personal identity. When files are placed in the recycle bin, and the recycle bin is emptied, those files can still be easily recovered. This is good news if you need to restore a file that was mistakenly deleted. It’s bad news if you donate or discard your computer and someone else recovers files you thought were long gone. It’s not sufficient to just format a hard drive or perform a complete system restoration. There will still be files left on the drive that could be recovered.

Hard Drive Erasing Cost

We provide drive erasing services at a cost of $70 per computer/drive, assuming the drive is installed in a desktop or laptop computer. If you have a drive that’s already removed from a computer, the cost is $50 per drive. We offer a quantity discounts for additional drives.

We set aside about an hour for the following:

  1. Reserve a time slot for the computer drop off, or provide pickup of the computer.
  2. Remove the drive from the computer.
  3. Install drive in docking station.
  4. Perform erase procedure. This can take several hours depending on the speed and storage capacity of the drive.
  5. Confirm the drive has been securely erased by attempting file recovery using advanced data recovery processes.
  6. Install the drive in the computer.
  7. Reserve a time slot for pickup of the computer. Or, provide delivery of the computer.

Do It Yourself

We provide the list of tools and instructions below for those wanting to perform drive erasing on their own.

What You’ll Need

Here’s the list of what you’ll need for erasing a drive.

  1. Computer Tool Kit ($20) – You’ll need the necessary tools to remove the drive from the computer. Depending on the computer, a basic computer tool kit should be sufficient, although some require advanced tips. Additional speciality tool kits are listed at the bottom of this page.
  2. Drive Docking Station ($40) – You’ll need to connect the bare drive to a working computer. A drive docking station is an easy way to do this. The Sabrent external drive bay works well.
  3. Erasing Software (Free – $40) – There are many utilities available for securely erasing a drive, such as Eraser Secure Data Removal Tool by Heidi Software. See below for a more comprehensive list. If you’re using an Apple computer, drive sanitizing is built-in and available under the Disk Utility when erasing (click the Security Options button).
  4. Available Computer ($200) – You’ll need a computer available for the task of erasing drives. While the task could run in the background of a computer you use regularly, it’s best to have a dedicated computer to ensure nothing interferes with the process. It takes a long time to securely erase drives, so whatever computer you choose will be running, and shouldn’t be restarted, until the process is complete. If you use a laptop computer for the task, you’ll have the benefit of the internal battery to keep the process going in the event of a power outage. However, some laptop computers aren’t designed to operate continuously for extended periods of time. So, a desktop computer is probably a better choice. If you use a desktop computer for the task, you’ll want to have a backup power supply listed below.
  5. Backup Power Supply ($100 – $220) – An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) provides a constant source of power for the erasing procedure. A good unit might cost $100 to $200 for a high quality pure sinewave UPS system.
  6. Hard Drive Erasing System ($300 – $400) – As an alternative to items 2, 3, and 4 above, you might consider purchasing a hard drive erasing system. The StarTech 4-bay system is a good choice. Others are also available.

Drive Erasing Instructions

These are the steps for securely erasing a computer hard drive.

  1. Remove the drive from the computer.
  2. Install drive in docking station.
  3. Perform erase procedure. This can take several hours depending on the speed and storage capacity of the drive.
  4. Confirm the drive has been securely erased by attempting file recovery using advanced data recovery processes.
  5. Install the drive in the computer.

Additional Specialty Tools

Here are some useful tool kits for this and other projects. Some computers, like Apple laptop computers, require special drivers.

Alternatives

Here are some possible, but not ideal, alternatives for data sanitizing.

  • Get a free software program to erase unused drive space. However, there may still be existing files or settings that aren’t removed.
  • Physically destroy, smash, or drill through the drive. This method isn’t ‘green’ since the drive isn’t usable again, and parts that might be properly repurposed or recycled may get damaged.

Drive Erasing Software Utility Programs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s