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I'm currently securely wiping an old, failing 500 GB hard disk before I replace it. It will take about 18 hours to finish, using CCleaner's simple overwrite (all data are overwritten with zeroes [zero write], 1 pass) secure deletion method. (Might be because of the drive's age and that it is failing as it now has some bad sectors.)

I'm gonna be doing the same to another hard disk soon. Are there software that have secure deletion methods that are faster? Like only writing zeroes to every other bit / HD sector / unit of data? I don't mind if some of the data stay. I just would like the remaining data to be unrecoverable or effectively unreadable, even if recovered.

I've had experience with CCleaner and Eraser. Both of them have a 1 pass zero write secure deletion feature, which are the fastest methods they have, but it is still too slow for old, failing hard drives.

Requirements:

  • Uses a method faster than the 1 pass zero write method offered by CCleaner, Eraser and similar software (e.g. a "1/2" pass method - writing zeroes to every other bit / HD sector / unit of data)
  • Works on Windows 7
  • Can securely wipe an entire hard disk

Preferably:

  • Freeware
  • Does not need to run at boot (so I can still use my computer while it is wiping a hard disk)
  • Can securely delete just the hard disk's free / unused space
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    Wikipedia suggests disk transfer rates should be ~~1GBit/second. Writing 500GBytes should take 4000 seconds or 1.5 hours. Why don't you just invent a junk file containing 1Gb of data, and use a script to copy it to to the target drive until the drive runs out of space? (This will "securely write the disk's free/unused space"). – Ira Baxter Apr 17 '15 at 7:20
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    @IraBaxter too complicated. Just boot Linux (e.g. from a LiveCD if not installed), and then do a cat /dev/random > /dev/sdaX with /dev/sdaX being the device of the disk. That would write random bits to the target drive until it's full, and then finally crash (which is fine). Effective wipe that, using random garbage. For paranoia, repeat with /dev/zero (as the name suggests, write "zeros"), and then again with /dev/urandom :) – Izzy Apr 17 '15 at 11:04
  • If you think the drive has bad sectors, fix that first. It's going to slow you down with anything. Use something like SpinRite at level 2. – Jan Doggen Aug 17 '16 at 15:32
  • @JanDoggen In the case of the hard drive I mentioned in my question, the drive is failing, and I would like to securely wipe it before I replace it. – galacticninja Aug 20 '16 at 10:07
  • I'm pretty sure, that you won't find a tool which is makes a significant difference in speed. All the tools will finally use the OS to write to the disk, and with 1 pass, this cannot be boosted very much. The question though is why your disk needs so much time, this is surely not a normal behaviour. – martinstoeckli Sep 16 '16 at 19:28
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You drive is small and failing, so I doubt that you will be reusing it.

I would suggest a "hardware wipe", which is always quicker than software.

Suggestions:

  • a magnet
  • a Black & Decker drill
  • a drop from a tall building
  • a bath
  • bury it in the garden

use your imagination for more. None of those should take 18 hours (unless you dig a really deep hole in the garden), and all will wipe more effecitvely than a software wipe.

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    500 GB is not small, you can fit over 100 two-hour SD movies in that much space. You also need to specify the type of magnet (doubt a refrigerator magnet could hurt a hard drive), and a bath by itself wouldn't be enough. – pacoverflow Oct 3 '17 at 23:50
  • I guess YMMV, I have 1T SSD and a 2T harddrive in my laptop & am running out of space :-) Perhaps I should have picked on the OPs "old" (hence, likely to fail), rather than using the word "small". +1 for the referenced question. – Mawg Oct 4 '17 at 8:24
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I am using Microsoft SysInternals SDelete.

It can be run with two options:

  • -c: cleans the disk according military standard (which may be a bit slow)
  • -z: zeroes free disk space (which should be as fast as the hard disk can write)

That should match your requirements, because

  • it's free (closed source though)
  • works on Windows
  • will write as fast as supported by the hard disk

There can be several limiting factors when wiping disks:

  • IDE disks are limited by the IDE speed (133 MB/s)
  • When using a USB adapter, it's limited to USB speed (USB 2.0 is 480 MBps or 60 MB/s)
  • SATA I is limited to 1200 MBps or 150 MB/s

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