If you are in a position where it is “out with the old computer” and “in with the new computer”, please keep in mind it is important to make sure that the data on the old computer is not compromised. What many folks typically do is “packrat” the old computer by putting it aside, for sometimes years; OR, they will give it away as a donation, etc… No matter the scenario, it is very important that you make sure the computer does not leave your possession until your personal information and data has been removed and/or destroyed. The only way(s) to ensure that your personal information is safe is to either remove and destroy the drive(s) or use software that is engineered to wipe the drive(s) (of everything).
An option to consider, for home based computer users, is the open source program called DBAN – Darik’s Boot and Nuke. This program has been around for many years and was acquired by a company in Finland called Blancco in 2012. One of Blancco’s products is a powerful and secure data erasure tool that is geared toward the enterprise level of computing; however, DBAN – Darik’s Boot and Nuke is free erasure software designed for the home user. I can attest that this software will adequately serve the needs of the home based computer user when it comes to data removal.
DBAN is free erasure software designed for the home user. It automatically deletes the contents of any hard disk that it can detect. This method can help prevent identity theft before recycling a computer. DBAN is also a commonly used solution to remove viruses and spyware from Microsoft Windows installations.
Here’s how it works: I downloaded the DBAN ISO image file, wrote the ISO image to a CD and booted it on my old PC. You may have to go into the BIOS on the old computer to change the boot order so that the computer will boot from the CD.
Once DBAN has booted, you will be presented with the following screen. At this screen you can type autonuke, press enter, and DBAN will do the rest for you (using the default settings). The Autonuke mode should be a sufficient in removing data from the computer.
The screenshot below is an example of the progress you will see. Erasing data on a drive, depending on the drive size and the amount of data, can take hours.
When DBAN is finished, it will display a message similar what you see below to indicate that the CD can be removed and the computer powered off. You can feel confident that your data has been “nuked”.
There is also an interactive mode that you can select at the first screen, by hitting Enter. This mode gives you greater control (i.e. you can select the pseudo-random number generator, wiping method, verification method and rounds).
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