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Nuking my hard drive

By on Sep 16, 2008 in Reviews, Tech Takes | 4 comments

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Darik's Boot and Nuke
Creative Commons License photo credit: germanium
Am thinking of donating my old PC some place. Before that happens, I needed to ensure that my data wouldn’t remain on the hard disk. A sledgehammer was tempting, but slightly counterproductive to the act of donating the PC. Contemplated using the shred utility from a DSL / PartedMagic live CD (hell, any Live CD will do – but these are the lightest ones). In the end I used Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN). Solely devoted to THIS task. Oh, it uses Linux too. The ISO file is 2 MB in size, so absolutely ANY machine should support booting this. Once it starts, the interactive mode allows you to choose the number of passes you want while overwriting data, different levels of overwriting data et al. You don’t need to know a even a shred of Linux to run this – it’s a stripped-down, DOS application-type, interactive software. By default it’s kept at US DoD Short level (overwriting the data on your disk in 3 passes). Enter your choice, sit back, and relax as it toasts your hard disk. Get a large mug of coffee; it’ll take a loooong time – the estimated time it showed was incorrect for my system. You can eject the CD / DVD as soon as the overwrite process starts as the software is loaded onto RAM. DBAN’s a useful little thing. Bit less fun than the sledgehammer though, to choose the ‘Royal Canadian Mounted Police data destruction routine’.

That reminds me, we thought of holding a PC bashing event at Code Wars 2007. Give ’em a sledgehammer and see which club’s got the most muscle – literally. I was quite shocked to find that even our HoD Bani ma’am thought it was a good idea; maybe she thought it would be a nice excuse to ask for an upgrade of the school Internet lab. Eventually we came back to our senses and didn’t hold it for safety reasons.


  1. Apoorv Khatreja

    September 16, 2008

    Post a Reply

    Yup, DBAN is on of the most useful little open source utility I’ve ever used. I have a couple of copies of it and I keep them handy.

    An advice – if your paranoid about your data too much, and fear the machine based data retrieving techniques (which are infamous for being able to recover data from burnt, even radiation-nuked hard drives), then I would suggest you use the Gutmann shredding option in DBAN. It is the most thorough data destuction process, with 99.9999…… something % accuracy. Though it takes a hell lot of time. For my 80 GB SATA hard disk, it took around 2 and a half days.

    Well, nothing is big in front of satisfaction of mind, if you think about it that way ;) .

  2. Ankur

    September 17, 2008

    Post a Reply

    @Apoorv: Wow. You ACTUALLY had the patience to run DBAN for *two and a half days*. 2.5! I probably have taken the sledgehammer if I had to wait that long. ;) Impatient guy. Thanfully, my hard disk doesn’t contain anything which three-letter security agencies might be interested in, so the DoD short method was just about adequate for me.

  3. Ankur

    September 18, 2008

    Post a Reply

    @Apoorv: It would be safe to assume then that you *did* do something to aggravate three-letter security agencies. ;)

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