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Jason in Fairbanks, Alaska and asked: “I have some laptops and desktops that I want to donate to a charity, and I was wondering what is a cheap or free way to make sure that all the data is securely deleted from the hard drives?”
Jason, the first thing we should mention here is DoD 5220.22-M.
Plenty of software, free and otherwise will mention how they apply Department of Defense level security by wiping the drive to DoD 5220.22-M standards.
That standard basically consists of writing all 0s, then all 1s, then something random with a check after each pass. There’s nothing wrong with that method, especially if several passes are involved, but keep in mind that it is misleading to clean DoD-level encryption when offering that.
That method is not permitted by any member of the Cognizant Security Authority which includes the DoD, the Department of Energy, the CIA, and plenty of others as a way to secure a drive. No software-only method is allowed at all.
For your purposes, it’s probably more than enough, and you should mostly just try to choose a method that does as many passes as you have the patience for of random data, and there are plenty of solutions.
DBAN is probably worth a try, it’s been around forever, it will give you just about every data destruction option you can imagine, it doesn’t rely on an OS so it works on just about any computer and it’s free.
All of that goes for CBL data shredder too, except that it does offer a Windows UI in case you’d prefer to set things up from there.
Both should destroy your data beyond anything a casual user will be able to undo.
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