As you may recall, last time we introduced you to some real “characters” and how they prefer to wipe their data, or at least attempt to physically destroy it. After witnessing the various data destruction methods, we wanted to follow up with our own recommendations for destroying or wiping data. While the methods caught on tape might appear to be more fun, these methods of physical destruction may not be the most practical, especially if you would like to reuse the hard drive.
We recommend using disk-cleaning utilities. There are many software programs from which to choose, and many of these packages use a handful of different methods. Some of these packages allow a user to “wipe” only the free space on a hard drive while other programs wipe all data on your hard drive. Depending on the needs, a user may desire one method over another.
Wiping Deleted Files
Once a file is deleted it is not accessible from within the Windows operating system, but can be recovered by using forensic data recovery tools. This is easily accomplished because the Windows OS doesn’t actually remove the deleted files, but instead simply changes a small portion of the file which tells the operating system that the space this file currently occupies is free to be overwritten and used by other files if the space is needed. If a user wants to remove these files permanently, they can select a program that wipes their deleted files. The software accomplishes this by overwriting the deleted files with volumes of random data which renders the “deleted files” unrecoverable.
Wiping All Data
These programs work by overwriting your entire hard drive with a series of 1s, 0s or random data depending on which program and which method is used. Most of the methods used rely on overwriting data with a series of characters and then erasing these characters. Some of these methods even repeat this 3, 7 or even 35 times. These methods may be commonly referred to as DoD3 wipe, DoD7 Wipe and Gutmann 35 wipe respectively.
The positives to using a DOD or Gutmann wipe are many. First, one can reuse this drive and not discard it, which means you will be acting more environmentally friendly by keeping the hard drive out of a landfill. Second, the user saves money by not having to buy a replacement hard drive. A third benefit is eliminating the need for expensive hardware as these methods use software instead, some of which is free. The fourth benefit is software wiping is also relatively fast and doesn’t require driving out into the country to shoot holes through your data. Lastly, in this economy, most people aren’t too eager to spend the money to rent a jackhammer or log splitter!
Another method of wiping data is called “degaussing.” Some of you may be familiar with the term degaussing because of the degaussing option on older CRT computer monitors. Degaussing deals with changing the magnetic structure of something and when you would degauss a CRT computer monitor, the screen would shake and provide hours of entertainment for the bored, young or slightly inebriated.
Degaussing is successful for wiping hard drives because data is stored to hard drives by making small areas change their magnetic alignment. When degaussed, it leaves these small areas, and therefore your data, in random patterns. When degaussed properly there won’t be enough information left to reconstruct the original data. Degaussing is normally done by using a machine built specifically for this purpose and can be completed within a very short period of time.
The primary downside to degaussing your hard drives is it can be just as wasteful as the physical destruction methods. Once you degauss a hard drive it will be rendered unusable because the changes to this magnetic media leave the storage system damaged and the drive unusable. So, while degaussing is efficient and gets the job done, it’s not the most environmentally or economically friendly method of wiping your data. The cost of these degaussing machines is not only well out of the average computer users budget, but also more than most companies would ever consider spending. Plus, you still have to buy another hard drive to get back up an running.
We hope you find this post helpful. Thank you in advance for thinking a little more “green” and we hope you are able to benefit from our money saving ideas when deleting data. We appreciate you joining us! If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in comments section of our blog at njlcblog.net!
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