Updated: Mar 30, 2018

Format A Drive

When a drive arrives from a manufacturer they may or may not need to be formatted. The format process establishes a chosen partition on a drive to be used by an operating system. There are many different types of formatting – FAT32, NTFS, HFS+, ExFAT, etc. These formats are for specific use applications but overall, they allow data to be stored and read from a drive.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s formatting was seen as a viable method to sanitize a drive. IT assets were reformatted, which would remove the addressable areas on the drive and then donated or sold throughout the world. Security agencies would test these IT assets in the wild and find that data could still be recovered from them. Luckily, data recovery tools were not sophisticated and it would take considerable resources to retrieve the data. In the present-day, any data recovery tool on the internet can easily recover data from a formatted drive. In fact, most advertise that they can recover data from reformatted memory sticks, SSDs and hard drives.

There are still groups that rely on a Low-Level Format for data erasure. These groups feel that the LLF will securely erase all the data on the drive at no cost. Unfortunately, the new IDE and AT drives do not allow true LLF on their drives because of a change in manufacturing. New drives now have the formatting done on a servowriter before the disk is assembled into the drive in the factory. Formatting a drive, whether low-level, deep or quick is not a viable option for a secure data sanitization process.

Formatting Can Cause the Following Issues

  • Does not provide an audit trail of the process. All records are manually created, if at all. WipeDrive provides a tamper-proof wipe report with the date/time of the erasure.
  • Lack of verification. Drives that have been formatted cannot be tested with a 3rd party verification tool. There is no proof that all data has been overwritten.
  • Solid-state drives require an AT command to securely erase the flash chips on the drive. A format will not properly address the flash memory and data will be recoverable.
  • Bad sectors are not reported by formatting and may still contain recoverable data. Erasure solutions list the bad sector count and high-count drives can be flagged for physical destruction.
  • Cannot be scaled. Data erasure tools are designed to wipe 200+ computers simultaneously and all internal drives. Formatting only allows one drive at a time per computer which is cumbersome and labor intensive.

Oem Drive Tools

OEM tools are designed to manage and erase manufacturer’s own drives. The OEM tools provide multiple functions, like format, partition and erase. Though each OEM tool is unique, most of the tools provide a cryptographic key removal and securely erasing all the data on the drive. The erasure is secure if the manufacturer supports the AT Secure Erase or Sanitize disk commands, which most do. Some manufacturer’s OEM tools also offer the option to revert a drive back to its original state, remove OPAL and eDrive protection, and remove drive passwords.

OEM tools may seem live a viable alternative to data erasure software, but they have major weaknesses that cause them to be ineffective for the corporate and government environment. The major issue is the OEM tools are not certified by an outside party. There is no review, testing and verification that drives are securely erased.

The OEM tools provide simple erasure patterns, but most don’t provide the specific NIST and DoD 5220.22M overwrite patterns. The OEM tools fail to provide verification of the erasure and on some drives, you must boot from the BIOS or recovery partition to start the deletion. Labor intensive and difficult to start, most OEM tools are not designed for high volume, high throughput wiping.

Audit reports are the most important part of any data erasure. The OEM tools do not provide logs of the erasures. Drives that have been erased with OEM tools must have reports manually created for proof of erasure.

OEM tools may be adequate for a typical home user that isn’t concerned about their data being exposed but it is much too difficult, time intensive and lacks reporting that is crucial for corporate and government use.


Why use WipeDrive Enterprise Data Erasure Solution

WipeDrive Enterprise is a globally certified erasure tool and is designed to be cost effective, automated and reliable in any environment. If you want your data wiped securely and quickly, WipeDrive is the solution for you. Here are some additional benefits of WipeDrive Enterprise:

Key Benefits

  • WipeDrive Enterprise is automated and scalable across your organization.
  • Audit reports are provided for each wipe. The reports are not locked in a console but are provided to the user in any manner they select.
  • WipeDrive Enterprise certified by Common Criteria, NCSC and NATO. It is consistently tested by third-party tools to ensure compliance.
  • Integrates with your ERP system to ensure proven erasure of systems before they leave your facility.
  • WipeDrive Enterprise implements AT commands to ensure SSD and NVMe drives are erased to government regulations.

Low-level format and OEM tools are popular buzzwords in the data erasure industry, but they do not provide adequate protection, reporting, and are not compliant to industry standards to be a viable alternative for data wiping solutions. Practical, global applications require highly developed wipe software tools that can meet an organization’s requirements and provide high volume, high throughput wiping.

For more information, contact our Sales team at 1.801.224.8900.