Friday, January 10, 2014

HDDerase.exe review: Freeware utility securely erases drives the old-fashioned way

If you want to re-use a hard or solid state drive, but want to make sure that possibly sensitive data from its previous life isn?t still hanging around, the easiest way to do it is invoke the ATA secure erase command?a feature built into every drive manufactured since 2001. Utilities from drive vendors now do this, but you can also employ a free, old-school, command-line utility from the data experts at the University of California San Diego called HDDerase.exe.

There are several possible flies in the hdderase.exe ointment. One is that the NSA sponsored its development. Yes, those guys get around. How they could back-door a utility like this is beyond me, but I?m putting it out there. Also, if your drive?s security is in a frozen state (most these days are to prevent access by malware), then hdderase.exe won?t work. You?ll need to hit up your vendor for a tool, or check out Parted Magic and its DriveEraser utility. You can also boot with a Linux distribution with hdparm installed and use that command-line utility.

Hdderase.exe will run under any 32-bit version of Windows, but as a 16-bit program, it don?t run under 64-bit installations. To erase a 64-bit installation you?ll need to run it from a bootable flash drive, CD, or floppy. A .ISO file is included in the Web download, but you need to add the DOS on your own.

Windows will create DOS-bootable floppies, a free utility called Rufus will do the same with USB flash drives, and there are a number of DOS boot CDs available from as well as Copy the files from the .ISO to the boot disc (using an .ISO editor such as the free WinISO 5.3).

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