What to Look for in Hard Drive Wiping Software
When it comes to your personal and business information security, you can't be too careful. Sending your files to the "trash can" or "recycle bin" and then deleting everything from there may make it seem impossible to get that information back, but that's really not the case. Just because you can't see the files anymore doesn't mean that a hacker or hardware specialist can't use a few tools of the trade to access your information.
Relying on deleting your files and then reformatting your hard drive really isn't secure. To properly wipe your computer so that it may be used safely and securely, you'll need to either hire a specialized data erasure service provider or download hard drive wiping software to thoroughly clean your hard drive of any existing data.
Before you take your computer to the professionals, read the rest of this article. You might be able to purchase hard drive wiping software for a much lower price than you'd pay to have someone else use the same kind of software for you.
What Is Hard Drive Wiping Software?
Hard drive wiping software—also called "overwriting software," "shredding software," "data sanitization software," "data erasure software," or "wiping software"—is designed and developed to overwrite your old data, making it impossible to recover. Overwriting software like this will allow you to wipe your hard drive clean without damaging the hard drive or making it unusable in the future. The first thing you'll need to look for when searching for this kind of software is to ensure it actually overwrites data rather than simply "deleting" it. The software should leave your hard drive in a fully operable condition. WipeDrive meets all of these criteria.
You can find free or pirated hard drive wiping software on the internet, but you'll want to be careful if you're going this route. Black hat hackers trying to capture your information will not hesitate to embed weaponized code into a free download, especially a download of software that's intended to erase sensitive data. In fact, if you look at it from the hacker's point of view, this is a really great way to get their hands on some very sensitive information. After all, why would you download a hard drive shredder if you weren't trying to keep people out of your data?
Ease of Use
While you should be careful of free options, there are trustworthy hard drive wiping software options available. However, such tools are not certified or comprehensive. They typically leave certain sectors of your drive untouched including Host Protected Areas (HPAs), Device Configuration Overlays (DCOs), and re-mapped sectors. These hidden portions of your drive may still contain sensitive information. Freeware options also rarely come with any kind of instruction manual. They're not very user friendly, and you might be left wondering if you did it right, or if your information is still accessible. Sometimes it pays to spend the $25-40 on a piece of software that you know will get the job done right the first time, with no chance of it hiding your data being compromised.
Only Wipe What You Want
Many hard drive wiping software programs only give you're the option to wipe the entire hard drive including the operating system. If you're using one of these, be sure to backup all of your data first. Then, once you've performed the wipe, you'll need to reinstall all of the data that you want to remain readable.
However, you won't always want to go through all of this, as you won't always want to wipe the entire hard drive. What if you just want erase personal data while keeping the operating system intact? There are options available that will accomplish exactly that. SystemSaver is a good example of such a program. It will erase all your personal data using overwriting technology while leaving your operating system and programs intact.
We still recommend that you backup all of your files and folders before you proceed with any kind of hard drive wipe. You never know when something might go wrong. If you back everything up and it works fine, you won't have to do anything after the wipe. If you don't do a backup and something goes wrong, you'll be in pretty big trouble.
All in all, it's not always the best idea to go for the free option. Either it won't do exactly what you want it to, or you'll have to spend a lot more time than you want to, learning how to use the software and potentially wiping information that you want to keep. Read the features and instructions on the software you're looking at, and you'll be able to make a decision based on what will be the most effective for the least amount of money.