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What's the Best Hard Drive Eraser?

written by: •edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 6/12/2011

Preparing your computer for sale requires you to securely erase all data on the hard drive. This article talks about some computer hard drive erasers so that you can get an idea of which software to use for wiping out data from the hard disk. Note that simply formatting the drive is not enough.

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    Why Deleting or Formatting the Drive is Not Real Protection

    Hard Disk Erasing You might know that simply deleting a file is not enough. When you delete a file, the operating system just removes references from the file allocation table instead of actually removing the data. It's sort of like ripping the cover off a book but leaving the pages intact. Anyone with undelete software can access this data and use it for personal gains.

    Formatting is almost the same. It offers somewhat greater security as it formats the file allocation table but even then, the data is recoverable. Computer experts with their software tools can easily trace and recover data from even a formatted hard disk.

    Hence both deletion and formatting are not a good idea in case you are selling off or donating your computer.

    To completely remove the data, you need some data eraser tools. Tools such as CCleaner and Comodo System Cleaner offer you the facility of overwriting the data files that you are deleting. These programs, however, do not offer the facility of erasing the entire hard disk. They only erase the files related to your privacy

    There are several programs available on the market for erasing the hard disk - both free and paid. For faster data wiping, you can call in security agencies that employ custom software. Of course, the cost will be higher when you use the services of a security agency.

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    Standards for Disk Erasing Programs

    The DoD 5220.22M is a government standard that implies three rounds of wiping. Each round consists of two phases: overwriting the entire disk surface with '1'; the second phase constitutes of writing '0' onto the disk surface.

    After the three rounds are completed, a code of '246' is inscribed over the entire disk. Finally, the entire disk is verified to see if the process of wiping the disk is successful.

    This is just one of the standard methods recognized by authorities across the world. There are several other standards that are as good and effective.

    The following are some of the most used computer hard disk data erasers that employ this standard.

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    Acronis Drive Cleanser

    This software comes from the brand Acronis that is involved in the creation and distribution of several programs related to disk management. Its disk cloning software is also very popular and you must have heard of it. The best thing about Acronis Drive Cleanser is that the program is available for a variety of operating systems. You can use it on Windows (all versions), OS/2, Linux, Solaris and more.

    It employs a simple GUI that guides you to select the partitions (drive) that you wish to erase securely. You can also select the entire drive if you want to erase the entire hard disk. You can then select the method that you wish to use for wiping the drive or you can use the default method.

    The disk erasing methods available in Acronis Drive Cleanser include:

    • DoD 5220.22-M;
    • NAVSO P-5239-26 (RLL);
    • NAVSO P-5239-26 (MFM);
    • VSITR (German Standard);
    • Russian Standard, GOST P50739-95

    The disk wiping software also includes a disk viewer so that you can check out whether the disk or partitions have been erased properly.

    This software comes with a free trial and if you wish to purchase it, you can get it at $61.00 per license.

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    Active @ KillDisk

    This software is one of the most used programs to wipe out data from your hard disks. Not only the fixed storage, but the KillDisk also scans and removes data from removable storage devices such as CDs, DVDs, USB devices, floppy disks etc.

    The software comes in both free and paid versions. As with any software, the free version has less features compared to the paid ones. The paid version of KillDisk includes the following features:

    1. The program can be carried on a bootable floppy or a flash drive so that you do not need to boot from the Hard Disk. This helps in case you wish to securely erase the primary partition where your Windows is residing.
    2. The free version employs the method of overwriting zeros on the entire disk or the partition that is to be deleted. The paid version employs 17 different algorithms, including the DOD 5220.22M standard for wiping out the disk.
    3. As soon as the program is launched, it displays all the drives on the hard disk and other attached storage devices so that you can select the ones you wish to erase. It does not differentiate between the different partition types. It has the capability to detect CDFS, NTFS, FAT, FAT32 and other disk formats.
    4. Once the disk is erased, it performs a verification to see if the operation is successful.
    5. The program can be used both in the GUI mode and in the command line mode. The command line mode offers more control over the machine where you are erasing the data.

    The paid versions come in a range of packages when it comes to pricing. For personal use, a single license can be used on three computers and the cost is as follows:

    • The Professional Suite v.5.2 comes at $59.95. It contains both GUI and Command line executable.
    • The Windows only version comes at $49.95 and includes only the GUI based program.
    • The DOS only version comes at $39.95 and includes only command line executable.

    For complete pricing list, check out the software website (see references section).

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    Paragon Disk Wiper

    The company offers two versions of the software - Personal and Professional. Both versions are paid and are extremely powerful.

    The Paragon Disk Wiper - Personal will cost you around $29.95. Like the products mentioned above, the disk cleaner employs several methods to erase your data on the hard disk. It has an easy to follow graphical user interface. The Professional version is available at $149.95 and comes with a free trial.

    Both versions employ sophisticated methods to wipe out your entire hard disk, one or more partitions, or simply the temporary files. They also help in creating a bootable disk in case you wish to delete the primary partition carrying the operating system.

    These were some computer eraser reviews of paid software. If you wish to know about the free options, please read our article - The Best Free Disk Wipe Tools.

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    Acronis Drive Cleanser,

    Active @ KillDisk,

    Paragon Disk Wiper,

    Image from Wikimedia Commons by Inklein