As we become increasingly dependent upon our electronic devices especially our PCs and laptops, the amount of sensitive personal information we store on these devices has increased in kind. This has led us to a genuine need to know how to erase a hard drive. Not just a superficial deletion of files, a genuine removal of the data so that it cannot be accessed by another individual. Because we dispose of technology relatively frequently, many users may be leaving their data in the hands of whoever picks up their device for its next use or prior to recycling. It is important to not only understand the difference between deleting files and erasing them, but ultimately how to erase hard drive storage mechanisms when we dispose of electronic devices.
What is the difference between erasing a hard drive and deleting the files?
To answer this question, we need to look at how files are stored on your hard drive and what deleting them actually does. The data of a file is stored on the hard drive and tagged so the space it occupies is not overwritten. When you decide to delete a file, the operating system or application just removes the tag in front of the data on the hard drive that says it can’t be overwritten. Until new data is written over the old data on the hard drive, the old data is still in place. This is how your operating system can sometimes “undelete” files. As long as the data wasn’t overwritten and no one performed an erase hard drive operation, the data still exists. Erasing the hard drive requires overwriting the data it contained with new data. The United States Department of Defense actually requires that the data be overwritten 3 times to ensure the underlying data will be unusable.
Okay, I understand the difference, but how do I do it?
To completely erase a hard drive, dummy data must be overwritten onto the drive. To do this, you would generally need to work from outside the drive. With the drive you wish to erase connected to your PC or laptop, you would mount the drive and write data to it until it was full. You would then repeat this process 3 or more times to securely erase your hard drive.
This method works but has a few flaws. First of all, you need to have a dummy file to write to the hard drive. Ideally one that is about the size of the hard drive would be used so you wouldn’t have to repeat the procedure multiple times. The next problem is that you can’t erase a drive you are currently using for your operating system. This limitation is a big deal since many laptops and some PCs don’t have the OS partitioned off so that you could erase the rest of the drive. Thankfully there is a solution to this “how to erase a hard drive?” problem.
Hard drive erasure software
As the name implies, the software is the answer for how to erase a hard drive when it holds your operating system and other files. The software we recommend allows the user to select which drive, folder, or file they want to erase from a simple interface. The software then writes data just large enough to overwrite the target file/folder/drive and overwrites it a minimum of 3 times. For those that are looking for more security, the software can overwrite the file up to 7 times. Because of its robust security and ease of use, we feel this is the answer when friends ask us for a recommendation for how to erase hard drive.