How to Wipe An External Hard Drive
When it’s time to get rid of sensitive information kept outside a computer, the most important question is, how do you wipe an external hard drive? For many people, this will lead to extensive internet searches for “how to wipe an external hard drive”, “how do you delete everything on a hard drive?”, “how do you permanently delete files from an external hard drive?”, or other topics relating to erasing external hard drives completely.
Wiping is often called formatting, and it basically means clearing all the data and starting fresh. It’s a good idea to permanently delete or wipe your data from your hard drive before you dispose of it, give it away, or resell it.
If you’ve been following the Data Destruction blog, you’d probably know that deleting files from a hard drive does not permanently remove them. When you want to do away with an old external hard drive, you must permanently wipe it.
Why is it important to wipe a used drive?
For most people, the first thing that comes to mind when erasing an external hard drive is to format it. However, formatting does not remove the data from a disk completely. It simply makes it a lot harder to recover, but it is still recoverable.
In short, if you keep confidential data on a hard drive, formatting it isn’t secure enough when disposing of the data. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to securely wipe the hard drive.
Here is why you must delete everything on a hard drive:
- To prevent identity theft: Identity theft is when someone steals personally identifiable information and uses it for malicious or other selfish ends, usually a fraud. For instance, the identity thief could use your information to apply for credit or access medical services. Ultimately your reputation is what suffers most when this happens.
- To prevent a possible data breach: A data breach happens when confidential information is accessed without authorization from the owner. In other words, if your trade secrets, personally identifiable information, or other proprietary data falls into the wrong hands, your data has been breached. Besides the loss of trust from your clients, you may suffer severe financial penalties for such a breach. Wiping your old external hard drives eliminates this risk.
- To protect your business’s reputation: When sensitive information about your business falls into unscrupulous hands, your reputation is likely to suffer. It may take years to recover and for some businesses, you may never recover at all. Wiping old hard drives puts your mind at ease knowing that your business’s reputation is always intact.
- To comply with data protection laws and government regulations: In most jurisdictions around the world, businesses, organizations, and other agencies that collect user information are mandated to protect it. Securely wiping your hard drives before retiring them is a sure way to comply with these regulations.
Wiping or formatting your external hard drive can also make it possible for you to switch to a different file system type.
Why can’t I just delete my files?
When you simply delete files on traditional hard drives your data isn’t being removed. However, your computer marks the space it occupies as “available.” Then, thrid-party data recovery sites can acquire your deleted data.
Two good reasons are deleting a file doesn’t delete it completely: 1. This measure allows you to recover files you may have deleted by mistake. 2. It’s faster and more efficient to delete a file entry rather than deleting the whole file.
Deleting data from modern internal hard drives is a bit different. After you delete a file, a TRIM command removes all references to that file from your computer. However, TRIM doesn’t work on external hard drives though.
To wipe data from an external hard drive, you can use the formatting features from the Windows and Mac operating systems. This method works for some users, but it’s not a fail-safe option. Some data recovery tools can still get around it.
Another option is to use a dedicated secure data deletion software. We’ll give you plenty of examples of these below.
Does the factory reset remove all the data?
Factory resets aren’t the perfect way to protect sensitive data. For one thing, they don’t delete everything on your hard drive. Factory resets can’t erase hard drive data, they only make it so that the operating system can no longer access the data.
There are many software options for restoring data your system can no longer accessible after a factory reset. Many people accidentally delete important documents of photos while performing a factory reset. When this happens, the data can easily be restored with the proper software.
Therefore, a factory reset isn’t a very safe way to permanently delete data from your hard drive.
3 Ways to wipe an external hard drive:
#1 Destroy the Drive Physically
This is the simplest DIY method to do away with an old external hard drive. You can use a hammer to smash it or use a heavyweight to crush the drive. You can set it on fire or shred it to bits. Another physical option is to use powerful magnets to damage the drive.
That said, you must realize that in some instances, data can be retrieved from a physically damaged hard drive using advanced and sophisticated tools. So, DIY physical destruction is not a foolproof method to wipe a hard drive.
#2 Use a Data Destruction Program
There are countless data shredder programs out there. It’s up to you to do adequate research before trusting any piece of hard drive data wiping software to wipe your external hard drive.
#3 Enlist a Professional Data Wiping Service
A professional service employs cutting-edge tools and techniques to wipe hard drives. For instance, the Data Destruction Corporation employs DoD-compliant methods to wipe hard drives before physically destroying them. These methods have been tested and benchmarked against DoD techniques, so you know that there are zero risks of a data breach.
How does the software for wiping hard drives work?
This type of software includes Hard Drive eraser, data destruction tool, Disk Wipe software, Drive Wiper, and many more. These tools include different data removal techniques to erase sensitive data from your external hard drive.
With this type of software, the sectors on your hard drive are replaced, making it difficult to recover that data. Each of these methods for data destruction follows a different pattern and number of repetitions to overwrite the hard drive’s data.
4 Things to know before using software to wipe a hard drive:
- Many apps give the user some control over how data is wiped. Determine which method is best for your hard drive based on the sensitivity of your data. For example, a one-pass method could leave data behind and wouldn’t be sufficient for ultra-sensitive information. However, a more thorough method could take hours or even days to complete. That type of method would be best for destroying highly sensitive information.
- Think about how much control you need over which data gets destroyed. Do you want to erase specific data or wipe the entire external hard drive?
- Are you looking for a program that can also help you to manage your sensitive data? Some programs can be scheduled to free up space regularly by deleting or destroying unused files.
- It’s also important to consider the cost. The cost of software deletion apps is a practical consideration that you’ll need to take into account before you commit to this method.
How long does it take to format an external hard drive?
Formatting a hard drive means preparing the chosen partition on the drive to be used by an operating system. This is done by deleting all the data and establishing a file system for the drive.
The length of time needed to format an external hard drive varies depending on the size of the drive, the operating system, and the available connection speed. The bigger the drive, the longer it will take to format. Windows offers a quick format as well as a full format for drives. A full format will take longer.
Can you completely wipe a hard drive?
Yes, it is possible, but you will need to know how to wipe an external hard drive with the use of a hard drive eraser. It is a mistake to assume that a drive can be wiped simply by deleting all the files. Wiping a hard drive means that no one can recover the data in the future. For this reason, it’s important to be certain all data is backed up before wiping a hard drive.
The simplest more convenient method for erasing a hard drive is to use disk wipe or hard drive eraser software created for data destruction.
Can a wiped hard drive be recovered?
When a hard drive is wiped, all the data on that drive has been completely and permanently erased. Can it ever be recovered? The answer is sometimes, yes, depending on the method that was used to wipe the data.
A wiped hard drive recovery program can sometimes help recover data. These programs can help you recover data from a hard drive after it has been erased.
If your hard drive is already failing, and you haven’t been backing up your data, you’ll need to get in touch with a data recovery specialist. Data you think is lost forever may not be lost at all. Consult a qualified data recovery specialist to find out what can be recovered. And start backing up to an external hard drive regularly!
If you’re looking to permanently erase the data on your hard drive, the best method is to use a professional data destruction company. There’s full accountability when you hire a company to wipe your hard drives. Also, you will get a certificate of data removal for audit and compliance purposes from the data destruction company.
How To Wipe An External Hard Drive FAQ:
Can you destroy a hard drive by putting it in the water?
Drowning your hard drive in water or any other non-corrosive liquid will not destroy the data.
How do you dispose of a hard drive?
Don’t just toss your hard drive in the trash. First, you should physically destroy your hard drive.
Can I throw away a hard drive?
You can’t just throw away or recycle your hard drive without wiping it. Hard drives often contain personal or sensitive data that must be dealt with carefully to ensure that no one can recover your information.
Will a magnet erase a hard drive?
Yes, a magnet will erase the hard drive, but it must be a much stronger magnet than a refrigerator magnet. Remember, this method won’t just erase the hard drive, it will destroy the CD/DVD drive and any fans.
Where can I recycle my hard drive?
Best Buy has a hard drive recycling program. Before turning in an old hard drive for recycling, be sure to wipe the drive to protect your personal information.
Does removing a hard drive delete everything?
Yes, in a manner of speaking. Removing the hard drive ensures all of the computer’s data is gone.
What should I remove from my computer before recycling?
Before recycling your computer, you will need to completely remove or destroy the hard drives.
How do I transfer everything from my old computer to my new computer?
You can use an external hard drive to transfer your data from the old computer to the new computer.
Are hard drive platters toxic?
The platters are not toxic or dangerous. Many people use them for decoration or as art because it is safe to keep them.
How strong are hard drive magnets?
Hard drive magnets can hold up to 10 pounds despite being thin and narrow.
This blog was designed to answer all your questions about how to wipe an external hard drive. If you have any additional questions please drop them below. Run over to our blog to learn more about the proper disposal of a hard drive.