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When it’s time to dispose of an old hard drive or wipe a drive you’re still using, you want to make sure your data is completely erased and unable to be recovered. DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke) is a free data destruction utility that can help you permanently erase data from a hard drive.
Using DBAN to wipe a hard drive is a fairly straightforward process, but there are some key things you need to know in order to use the software effectively and securely erase your drive. This article provides a step-by-step guide to using DBAN to wipe hard drives, with tips on the best practices for secure and complete data destruction.
Before You Begin
Before booting up DBAN and erasing your hard drive, there are a few preparatory steps you should take:
- Back up any important data. DBAN will completely wipe the hard drive, destroying all data in the process. So be sure to back up any files you need to keep before you wipe the drive.
- Remove all other drives. To prevent accidentally wiping the wrong drive, disconnect all drives except the one you want to erase.
- Download DBAN. You can download the DBAN ISO file from the official DBAN website.
- Create bootable media. Use the DBAN ISO to create a bootable CD, DVD, or USB drive. This is what you’ll boot your computer from to run DBAN.
Booting into DBAN
Once you’ve backed up your data and created bootable DBAN media, you’re ready to boot into DBAN and securely erase your hard drive:
- Insert the DBAN CD/DVD into the computer or plug in the DBAN USB drive.
- Reboot the computer. As it starts booting up, press the appropriate key to access the boot menu (F12, F8, F10, Esc etc., depending on your system).
- In the boot menu, select the drive containing the DBAN media to boot the computer from it instead of the hard drive.
- This will launch DBAN. The first screen will show the DBAN boot menu.
Using the Interactive Mode
To securely wipe your hard drive:
- Press Enter to launch the interactive mode. This allows you to choose which drives to wipe.
- Select the drive you want to wipe using the arrow keys and press Space to choose it.
- Press M to access the wipe methods and select the number of wipe passes. The more passes, the more secure, but slower.
- Once ready, press F10 to proceed with erasing the drive.
Alternative: Automatic Wipe with Autonuke
As an alternative to the interactive mode, you can also use DBAN’s autonuke function to automatically detect and wipe all connected hard drives at once.
To do this:
- At the main DBAN boot menu, type autonuke and press Enter.
- DBAN will automatically begin detecting drives and wiping them without confirmation.
Caution: Be absolutely certain you have removed any drives you do not want to erase before using autonuke, as it cannot be stopped once initiated.
The Wiping Process
With the wipe method selected and drive chosen, DBAN will now begin overwriting all data on the drive. The process generally involves:
- Repeatedly overwriting the drive with random bit patterns
- Verifying each pass completed successfully
- Showing statistics like completion % and estimated time remaining
Erasing a drive can take several hours depending on the wipe method chosen and the drive size. For a thorough wipe, expect anywhere from 2 to 24+ hours.
To confirm DBAN successfully erased your drive:
- When wiping is finished, you’ll see a success message.
- Check the stats for any errors – there should be none.
- Reboot computer and verify the drive shows the full unallocated space, indicating a complete wipe.
If no errors show and the drive space appears fully erased, you can safely dispose of or reuse the hard drive.
Cautions When Using DBAN
While DBAN is an effective data destruction tool, there are some important cautions to keep in mind:
- It cannot securely erase solid state drives (SSDs). For those you’ll need different software.
- No confirmation prompts are given when using autonuke, so drives may be unintentionally wiped.
- Once initiated, wipe process cannot be paused or stopped.
- It can take hours to days for larger drives to be fully erased.
So long as you use the interactive mode, only select the intended drive, and have time to wait for completion, DBAN can reliably wipe hard drives. But deviating from best practices risks data loss.
When Should You Use DBAN?
Here are some of the most common scenarios where wiping a hard drive with DBAN is recommended:
- Disposing of an old computer. Use DBAN to wipe the hard drive before disposal to protect sensitive files.
- Erasing a drive before selling it. Wipe drives to safeguard personal data from future owners.
- Permanently erasing data. DBAN wipes all data including partitions and system files.
- Eliminating malware. DBAN can wipe malware that may resist other secure deletion software.
- Following data security policies. Some corporate and government policies require physical destruction or wiping drives with software like DBAN before hardware disposal.
So in summary, DBAN provides an effective solution any time you need to permanently destroy data prior to selling, recycling or repurposing a computer hard drive.
DBAN is free, relatively straightforward data destruction software that provides a high level of confidence in securely erasing hard drives. By following best practices like using the interactive mode, selecting the correct drive, choosing an appropriate wipe method, and ensuring the wipe fully completes, you can use DBAN to permanently eliminate sensitive files before decommissioning a hard drive.
Just be aware DBAN isn’t suitable for all drive types like SSDs. And you need to be extremely cautious to avoid unintentionally wiping drives if using the autonuke function. Provided you use proper precautions, DBAN can reliably help you protect your data at end of life for traditional hard disk drives.