Why and How to Wipe a Hard Disk
This article talks about the possible reasons behind wiping a hard disk – securely deleting all the data on the disk. It then discusses how the operation works, and how to actually perform it.
Computers and their accompanying technologies have definitely revolutionized many aspects of human endeavor. With their amazing capabilities for handling and processing large amounts of information in far less time than humans could have, computers have made many tasks faster and easier. Their big advantages have led to them being ubiquitous in the modern world. Computers are now in use almost everywhere, handling many different types of data. They also now deal with private data as well as confidential data that need to be kept secure.
Many security measures exist to protect digital information. The most old-fashioned of course is to physically keep the computers under lock and key. But this approach is neither foolproof nor always possible to take. There also exist various software security measures that range from simple password protection to sophisticated encryption systems. But again, these measures are not foolproof, and some of the better systems might be too work-intensive to use for low- to medium-security applications.
For information that needs to be securely removed from a hard disk, wiping the hard disk is almost obligatory. This is because it is rather easy to perform, while at the same time being very effective. To understand how a hard-disk-wipe works, it would be best to first look at ordinary file deletion or hard disk reformatting.
In these processes, what is modified is simply the metadata, or the information stored about the data. That is, when a file is deleted, a tag or marker is set to ‘deleted’, and the file is removed from its directory listings. Because it has been marked as ‘deleted’, it will be overwritten when new data is put onto the disk. However, it is still not a certainty that deleted files will be overwritten. And besides, this means that there is time between deletion and overwriting during which the data is still on the hard disk and able to be recovered. Reformatting a hard disk consists mostly of the same processes, but applied to all files on the hard disk.
A disk wipe, on the other hand, physically overwrites the data on the hard drive with random sets of data. That is, the data is garbled by the disk wipe software to make it almost impossible to be recovered. The entire hard disk is then overwritten with random data so as to eliminate all traces of the data that was previously on the hard disk. The benefit of performing a disk wipe is obvious. The chances of recovering deleted data from the hard disk are greatly reduced and almost disappear.
And it is rather easy to wipe a hard disk. All that is needed is a copy of the disk wipe software to be used on some removable storage media. Typically, when this removable media is connected to a hard disk, the disk wipe software automatically executes and performs the wipe. This makes it possible to perform disk wipes in bulk, which is a good thing for companies and large organizations.
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