Are you running from law enforcement? Have you stolen a top-secret document from an organization that you shouldn’t mess with? Are you a guy who goes to his job in a day and does hacking in the night (Like Mr. Robot)? Are you working with the government and don’t like what they do in the dark so you stole their little secret?
Are you involved in some illegal business? Are you a guy who carries the secret to make a nuke? Are you a guy who carries a solution to global warming? Are you a spy who is stealing the military secrets of another country?
Well! I know what your answer is going to be, that is NO. I was just trying to make it sound interesting. Of course, if you were one of these people, you wouldn’t be here searching for this stuff, you would already know what to do in those situations.
But, for normal people like us, we wouldn’t know the best move to make in those circumstances, and why would we need to know anyway? Well, you might not be the person who seats in a dark room in front of a bunch of monitors with lots of green text floating around. But, we all have secrets, enemies, and sensitive data in our storage, nobody is perfect.
Your PC might have got infected by viruses and malware so you need to delete all footprints of that virus. You might have plans to sell your PC or recycle your hard drive, in such cases, it is crucial to use data wiping Software in order to protect yourself. The data stored on our disks is not one of those things which can be erased easily.
So, before going any further, let’s take a look at how deleting files from our drives really work.
How Deleting Files Really Work?
What really happens when you press the “Delete” button? The data or file you deleted gets moved to recycle bin or deleted permanently if it’s big in size. But, don’t be fooled when your computer tells you that the data has been deleted permanently.
When you permanently delete some files or data, the cells on which it was stored get marks as deleted and Windows removes that file from its indexing. But the data you deleted remains intact on the drive waiting for someone to undelete it and add back to index or to get overwritten by another file.
How does it get overwritten? When you save some files on the drive, your computer looks for empty cells or the cells which are marked as deleted, if found any, Windows stores the file on that address. So, there is a lot of chance that your deleted data might not get deleted permanently or only get partially deleted (in case another file overwrites it).
So, how can we make it disappear forever? Many of you might think, physical destruction of such drives may be the best solution. Well, this a good solution unless you are storing information that is worth this solution. Even if we destroy such drives, the agencies like NSA can recover a piece of information from remains of it and can make an educated guess what’s on that drive.
The best solution here is to overwrite the data with other data. When you overwrite the particular cell, the previously stored data gets deleted permanently (for real). If you want to be extra precautions you can overwrite the data with another meaningless data and then physically destroy the drive.
We can find tons of Software in the market which are specifically made for this purpose. These Softwares overwrites the drive with meaningless chunks of data in many iterations until the data you deleted gets lost permanently and become very hard to recover. So, here we have made the list of Softwares which will help you with this purpose.
Best Data Destruction Software
1. DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke)
DBAN usually referred to as Darik’s Boot and Nuke is no doubt one of the best Software available in the market to securely wipe your data. It is a free, open-source program that comes in a very lightweight ready-to-use ISO package. So, all you need to do is burn it to the CD-Drive or USB Drive and boot from it.
Its user interface is very simple as well. It is particularly very helpful in case your PC got infected by malware which remained hidden in an inaccessible area of hard drive like- boot sector, and you need to erase the drive entirely to wipe off all the prints of malware. As it runs through bootable media, it can be used with any operating system like – Windows, Linux, Mac, etc.
Data Sanitization/Destruction Standards: DoD 5220.22-M, Gutmann, RCMP TSSIT OPS-II, Write Zero, Random Data.
This tool comes in a package that includes both an installation setup file and an ISO image. You can use the installed Software to securely erase the data from drives like a flash drive or external hard drives. It is supported on almost all versions of Windows including Windows Server 2003-2012.
If you want to erase the drive which has OS installed on it, you can burn ISO image to flash storage and use it. Both of these free edition packages use the same data sanitization standard that is – Write Zero. But, if you want advanced features and more data destruction methods you can also buy paid versions of this Software.
It is probably the best and secure data destruction Software available. It was created by CMRR (Central for Magnetic Recording and Research) at the University of California and sponsored by National Security Agency.
This tool comes in a package which includes both installation file and an ISO image. As it runs outside the OS, you can use it with any Operating System.
Data Sanitization Standard: Secure Erase.
Note: As their sponsor NSA has ended their support, if you have any question regarding HDDErase, you can try to find it in HDDEraseReadMe.txt file which is included in the installation package.
It is another free data shredding tool that is free and comes in ISO image format. You can burn it to flash drive or CD drive and use it with any Operating System as it runs outside the OS.
The user interface of this tool is very neat and simple, just select the disk to erase and confirm the selection, that’s it.
Data Sanitization Standard: DoD 5220.22-M.
It is a freeware tool that can be used to erase data of your drive securely. You can download the package and burn ISO image and use it as the above tools or you can use a regular program that can run on Windows.
The freeware version of this tool provides some basic functionality, you can also buy a professional version to get more features and functionality. It works on Windows versions from XP and above, Linux versions are also available.
Data Sanitization Standard: Write Zero.
It is another tool with some of the best features you can get in data destruction Software. It is very easy to use, it can schedule data shredding with the precision of any of the above tools, it supports most of the data sanitization methods.
But there is one downside of this Software – it is only available as an installable program. So, as it runs on Windows, you cannot use it to erase the drive which has Windows Installation files. You will need the above tools in order to do that.
It works on all versions of Windows above Windows XP and Windows Server 2008 R2, 2008, and 2003.
Data Sanitization Standard: VSITR, GOST R 50739-95, Gutmann, Schneier, Random Data, AR 380-19, RCMP TSSIT OPS-II, DoD 5220.22-M, AFSSI-5020, HMG IS5.
7. Macrorit Data Wiper
It is another free Software that doesn’t come in ISO image format. In order to use it, you will have to install it on your PC. As it runs on your Operating System, you cannot use it to delete the primary partition.
It was very easy to use with a beautiful UI than any of the above tools. It is supported on all versions of Windows above Windows XP and Windows Server 2008 and 2003.
Data Sanitization Standard: Random Data, Write Zero, DoD 5220.28-STD, DoD 5220.22-M.