Erasing your hard drive

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With the continual upgrading of operating systems, and all the other bits inside computers, there comes a time when the old machine has to go out with the recycling.

Unfortunately, simply deleting files before dropping off the old machine at the e-recyclers will not protect your privacy.

The delete function does not actually delete your files, and someone with the appropriate software can recover whatever you have deleted.

This might be great for forensic accountants and the like, but it’s not good news for the average citizen like you and me.

This week I needed to find a solution for this issue. There were several old computers with mechanical hard drives sitting around the house waiting to retire, and I wanted to act.

For my ancient iMac, which was operating on Maverick, I discovered that using the Command+R (restore) feature opened a list of options that includes access to the Disk Utility. This allows you to securely erase the hard drive. By securely erase, I mean delete and overwrite several times.

With the iMac done, I then had to find a solution for two laptops and a PC running on various versions of Windows from XP through to 7.

A Google search turned up a tutorial on how to erase your hard drive using DBAN. All I had to do was find a usb drive and follow the instructions.

It’s a three step process as you need to download the DBAN software, a program to burn that software to your usb drive, and then alter the boot order on each computer so that it boots from the usb drive instead of its hard drive. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. All the steps and supporting documents and links to the downloads are in the tutorial.

It takes up to 12 hours to securely erase a 500 GB hard drive, so patience is required.

I now have four clean drives ready to recycle.

I guess in a few years time I’ll be looking for a solution for solid state drives.


IMG_0156Peter Mulraney is a creative writer from Australia. He is the author of the Inspector West crime series, the Living Alone series of self-help books for men, Sharing the Journey: Reflections of a Reluctant Mystic, The New Girlfriend and Everyday Project Management.

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