We’ve all heard about tools like Darik’s Boot and Nuke for performing secure hard drive wipes suitable for even the most paranoid.

However, in a pinch, there’s an alternative that often goes overlooked, but is able to erase data at a level comparable to all the usual standards like DoD (or even the incredibly obnoxious 35-pass Guttmann method)

The ‘shred’ utility exists on nearly every popular Linux live CD/DVD and can be executed in a live environment to do the job when it’s all you have.

A popular implementation of this command could be:

shred -fvz -n 3 /dev/sda

What this does:

  • The “f” forces to allow writing if necessary
  • The “v” verbosely outputs progress to the prompt (This will take a while, you need this!)
  • The “z” adds an additional pass of all zeros to help hide shredding, if hiding is what you’re after ;-)
  • The “-n 3” specifies the number of passes, similar to the DoD 5220.22-M method

And that’s it! Well not really, there’s mostly a LOT of waiting involved, but if time is what you’ve got, then a relatively securely wiped hard drive is what you get.

Obviously don’t do this if doing so is illegal (like tampering with evidence - jail is a real lose-lose situation for everyone) or if you REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY don’t want anyone to know what was on that thing, I would recommend the “breakfast cereal” method, shown here and here. (Feel free to recast into some sort of sculpture, those are always a hit)

Matt Oswalt

Matt Oswalt is an all-around technology nerd, currently focusing on networking, software development, and everything in between. He is at his happiest in front of a keyboard, next to a brewing kettle, or wielding his silo-smashing sledgehammer. He spends his days diving deep into the intersection of networking and software, and likes to blog about his experiences when he comes up for air. You can follow him on Twitter or LinkedIN.