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    WS Lounge VIP access-mdb's Avatar
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    Wiping hard disks

    It's common knowledge that just deleting files from a hard disk doesn't really delete the file and that most of these files can easily be recovered. However, many say that the disk should have multiple wipes to get rid of data securely (up to 35 is sometimes quoted). Others talk about physical destruction of the platters being needed (though some say even that's not enough). I've found this paper which seems to imply that this is all overkill and that just one wipe is sufficient.

    What references are there that anyone can restore deleted data on an old HDD if it's had, say, a full format or some other simple method of wiping? Is this an old wives tale? Was it true many years ago, but no longer is?

    Or do we believe that Gibbs and McGee can read any disk?
    Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand

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    WS Lounge VIP mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    Personally, I think that formatting a drive is sufficient in just about every case. Unless you have data that is extremely sensitive, and certain people know that you have that data, it is highly unlikely that anyone is going to expend the time, effort, and expense in recovering what was on your drive.

    If you go a bit further than simply formatting by doing something like a CCleaner secure disk wipe, there is very little chance (slim to none, probably none) that anyone will ever recover your data.

    If, after doing the secure disk wipe, you then install Windows on that hard drive, no one other than an NSA agent (or a similar agent of a foreign government) would have the capability of recovering what is on your hard drive. And if they have no reason to think that they would want the data that was on there, they aren't going to make the attempt.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator RetiredGeek's Avatar
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    Access,

    Jim has hit it on the nose! Take it from someone who worked 26 years for one of those 3 lettered government agencies!
    May the Forces of good computing be with you!

    RG

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    WS Lounge VIP access-mdb's Avatar
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    Didn't know that VBA was a government agency

    But my request was for a source for all this. It's been around for years that you have to do a lot more than Jim suggests to stop the TLIs getting your data - but the link I supplied implies that just a format (full, not quick) or Ccleaner wipe (once) is enough to stop any of them. Has there been any evidence that anyone has managed to get data of a disk which has only had a full format etc.?

    I was going to ask that evidence be supplied (either way) rather than opinion (which is what has been supplied). I'm not being rude here - just want to know the facts, because everyone could have an opinion and those opinions could be contradictory.

    <pedant>TLI - three letter initialism. TLA - three letter acronym. The former is when you say the letters - e.g. NSA, BBC, the latter when you pronounce it as a word - e.g. NASA, UNESCO. </pedant>
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    A format (not a quick format) of the drive (or partition) using Vista or newer suffices. Not even the NSA can likely recover. This has already been covered here.

    http://windowssecrets.com/forums/sho...ta+destruction

    see comments and associated links, especially (and immodestly) mine
    Last edited by Fascist Nation; 2016-04-22 at 17:03.

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    WS Lounge VIP access-mdb's Avatar
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    Thanks FN - it would appear from those links that destroying the disks is over the top. Perhaps they can be donated rather than destroyed.

    Not having the premium subscription, I can't see what was said, but a lot of the replies seem to be opinions repeating what's been said before with no links to sources.

    I think the question's been answered now, and I will donate any old PCs to charity without any worries that someone can get the data back (after formatting of course).

    I note that SSDs have different issues, but I was just asking about spinners.
    Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand

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    Super Moderator satrow's Avatar
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    I've recovered a drive and booted the original OS successfully from it. It had previously been fdisk'ed, formatted, a different OS installed on it and used, probably lightly, for ~2 years.

    The recovery took me ~3 minutes (MBRWork).

    I suggest using at least a single pass.

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    WS Lounge VIP mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    If I was really worried about my data (I'm not), I would take the drive apart and hang it on my wall. A hard drive with the cover off is a really cool geek wall ornament!

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    Super Moderator RetiredGeek's Avatar
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    Access,

    I realize you are "across the pond" but here are the NIST Standards (National Institute of Standards and Technology) guidelines, what you're really interested starts on page 32 of the pdf.

    HTH
    Last edited by RetiredGeek; 2016-04-22 at 20:57.
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    WS Lounge VIP mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by retiredgeek View Post
    take it from someone who worked 26 years for one of those 3 lettered government agencies!
    Quote Originally Posted by access-mdb View Post
    didn't know that vba was a government agency
    lol!

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    Fascist Nation (2016-04-23)

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    #satrow
    Ditto with regard to MBRWork (and it's free).

    I've also used Easeus Deleted File Recovery to recover partitions after they were formatted.
    (Actually, anyone who wants can simply experiment for themselves. Have fun!)

    RockE

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    WS Lounge VIP access-mdb's Avatar
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    RG, it's not the how I'm asking about, it's the why. It seems to me that back in the early 90s, someone wrote a paper which said that data could be retrieved even after multiple formats and without some 'sanitization' requiring many passes. This seems to have become gospel and everyone quotes it. However, the link in my OP has (seemingly) debunked this idea and suggests at most that one pass of a sanitization program is all that's needed. Hence my question.

    Satrow, when you used fdisk and format, was it a quick format? Looking up fdisk (a blast from the past) it implies that it's used by OSs previous to Windows 2000, so I assume that it was an old disk. My link in the OP seems to imply that there was a problem with old disks so many you have confirmed that.

    As I said, I shall just DBAN and disk with data on it if I was to give it away. I've actually done this in the past - the charity in question said that's exactly what they do themselves - after all, they didn't know if I'd done something to give me a back door to that PC.

    I think this thread is done
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    Quote Originally Posted by RockE View Post
    ...Ditto with regard to MBRWork... I've also used Easeus Deleted File Recovery to recover partitions after they were formatted. (Actually, anyone who wants can simply experiment for themselves. Have fun!)
    Agreed. If you have an old working hard drive with data on it you no longer care about do a quick format. Then use a recovery app. Good experience.

    Then after recovering the drive, do a normal (long) format (assuming Vista or newer OS). Then try to recover it using anything you want: free, paid (which will show you what they can recover along with a website to pay for the recovery key) or a favorite forensic app (like ddrescue). See the difference? Fun of using desperate measures recovery apps which can be cludgy when you don't really need them and the satisfaction of knowing a single pass of zeros is sufficient security to donate a drive or send a failing one in under warranty.

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    Super Moderator RetiredGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by access-mdb View Post
    RG, it's not the how I'm asking about, it's the why.
    You seriously don't think they are providing a "how" if they don't know there is a why. You would be surprised what can be accomplished with the will and the means ($$$). As was stated earlier in the thread it all depends on what some one thinks your data is worth (to them at least) and do they have the means ($$$) to get at it!

    May the Forces of good computing be with you!

    RG

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    Quote Originally Posted by access-mdb View Post
    What references are there that anyone can restore deleted data on an old HDD if it's had, say, a full format or some other simple method of wiping?
    If a government agency has successfully recovered data from a wiped disk they are not likely to publicize it, but given the clarification from Gutmann and the paper quoted above, I am of the opinion that your data is gone after a wipe.

    cheers, Paul

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