Geek Friday: Using Ubuntu to Wipe a Hard Drive

How do you protect your personal data when you sell that used PC?  What if you upgrade hard drives?  You can format it, but then a hard drive can be unformatted.  You can buy a program that will do a secure DoD wipe, but that might be overkill in some situations.

Well, it turns out you can also use Ubuntu to do the same thing.  This comes in really handy if you have Ubuntu installed on a machine already, and you can connect the drive and use Ubuntu to check out the drive’s SMART data as well (which will tell you beforehand whether or not it is near failure).  According to the How-To Geek’s article “Use an Ubuntu Live CD to Securely Wipe Your PC’s Hard Drive”, you can download wipe to securely wipe a hard drive.  However, check out the comments as to how to use the built-in shred command to zap a hard drive by booting Ubuntu from a Live CD.

In theory, given enough time and money, a forensic specialist might recover some deleted data from a given hard drive even after a wipe.  However, you can at least make it expensive enough that the casual thief isn’t going to try to scrape off enough personal data to make a buck or two.

Another free alternative is DBAN (Darik’s Boot And Nuke) from www.dban.org.  I haven’t personally tried it, though.  From what I’ve read, it does a good job of automatically wiping a drive.  Of course, this can be dangerous if you have more than one drive.