Wiping A Hard Drive Before Dinner

Dennis Faas's picture

Last Saturday, one of my friends called me up at 8:00 AM and asked,. "I have 12 PC's that have been donated to me for use in my non-profit. They have all sorts of software that I need to get rid of before installing an OS on them. Can you help me?"

After pondering his request, I said, "Sure! I have just the tool for that job!" Before I could say "Bob's your uncle!" I had 12 PCs, with keyboards, mice, monitors, and speaker sets on my living room floor! What a mess! As my "friend" drove away, laughing gleefully, I resolved to charge him a very high fee the next time he asked for help.

Since it was a few days before Thanksgiving, the house filling with friends and family, I had to get the job done quickly with nothing on the drives except for what I was going to install.

What I needed to do was either remove or erase everything on the hard drive in each system completely. Using the uninstall processes wouldn't do the trick, and erasing files from the drive wouldn't do either since in both cases, the files are still on the drive afterwards. Formatting the drive wouldn't do either since is just readdresses things without really removing files. The only thing changed is the file address tables for the drive. I had to completely redo the entire drive.

Enter dban (Derik's Boot & Nuke). A word of caution here, folks! This thing DESTROYS data on a hard drive, 100%. That means everything will be gone – data, clusters, sectors, everything, so if there is anything you want to keep on the system, back it up BEFORE you use dban.

If you didn't catch that last bit, back up anything you want that's on the drive! It won't be there when it finishes. I promise! So if you run dban and decide you really needed a document that was on that system, you are out of luck! It is gone!

Back to my story. 12 systems and 5 days to clean the drives, install a OS on each system, clean the house, cook the turkey, decorate the house, and somewhere in there I need to get some sleep. Impossible? Nah, just difficult.

Fortunately, dban comes in a few different formats. ISOs for CDs and DVDs, and a diskette version that fit my needs to a 'T'. A quick visit to Source Forge, a quick download session, run the downloaded file which copies the files to a diskette automatically, and I'm ready to start.

I decide to do them in sets of 3 so I hook up power, keyboard, mouse, and monitor to my first 3 'victims', shove the dban diskette in the drive for the first system and power up. Dban boots up the system (its Linux based, of course) and loads up a selection of options. I decide to use interactive mode so I hit the enter key and I get a set of cleaning 'types' that will do the job.

The best one, I decide, is the DoD one (Not the DoD Short, the other one). I select it and it's off and running. I move the diskette to each of the others and repeat the process and smile to see that I have about 2 hours of run time before I need to do anything. (Where's my broom?)

While I'm sweeping, dban starts off by writing "0"s on the drive, to the very end. Then it writes '1's to the very end. Those 2 steps are repeated 7 times. So while I'm sweeping and vacuuming my floors, dban is sweeping the drive. Nothing is left on the drive but a long series of '0' that is written during the verification step. Those drives were cleaner than my floors!

About 1 hour and 45 minutes later (on 18 Gb drives) I get 3 beeps, one from each system. I remove the diskette and power them all down. I repeat the process 3 more times over the day and I have 12 systems that are certifiably clean and ready to install an OS. (I also managed to dust, sweep, mop my floors, and plump up the pillows on my couch so I got a lot done on day one).

Day two is where I got my revenge on my 'friend'. (Insert Evil Chuckle here) I installed Ubuntu 7.10 on each system and called my friend to come get his PCs. He was totally amazed when he came over to get his 'stuff'. He wasn't laughing this time as he drove away, just mumbling to himself.

The joke was on me, though. Yep, my friend was going to install Ubuntu anyway so I gave him a 'gift' without wanting to. Oh well! It was fun while it lasted.

Oh yeah! Thanksgiving was a blast. My friend brought over a few pies and several bottles of good wine for dinner so I guess I can't charge him next time after all.

Happy Holidays, folks!

Rate this article: 
No votes yet