Why Wipe Hard Drive Space - Better Ways To Do It

By: Sam Miller

As computers become increasingly popular for use in almost every aspect of human endeavor, the question of data security also becomes important. That is, with the rise of computers also comes the rise of digital storage of information, since it is in this digital form that they can be accessed by computers. Digital storage comes in the form of compact discs, flash memory devices, and hard disk drives (which are currently the standard and usually are built into most computer setups).

Now, physically securing the digital storage devices in question is of course an option. However this may not always be possible. For instance, these devices may be in regular use by many different people, and restricting access would just become counterproductive.

Password protection is another option, when talking of digital data security. However, the security afforded by passwords depends upon the strength of the system in use, and also on the passwords used themselves. Passwords that are easier to somehow guess would result in weaker security than passwords which are harder to guess.

There are cases when neither of these two security options is feasible, however. For instance, it may be desired that all of the data on the hard drive is permanently removed. Normal deletion (using the current operating system on the computer, for example) does not remove all of the traces of deleted data. In this case, security can be increased by performing a hard drive wipe, instead.

A hard drive wipe is a process performed on a hard drive to help ensure that all of the data and information on the drive are removed beyond possibility of recovery. This becomes important when a computer changes ownership, for example, or when a hard drive or computer is to be disposed of. In both of these situations, potential access to deleted files may result in the unintentional exposure of confidential information.

How does a deleted file still have traces on the hard drive? Well, when a deletion is performed on the file, it is marked 'deleted' and the space it occupied is made available for new use. However, the data on the actual hard drive corresponding to the deleted file is in fact not removed or overwritten. So the data on the hard drive is still there, even if it is hidden from plain view. There exist software utilities that can facilitate the process of recovering the content in these supposedly deleted files.

A hard drive wipe helps to prevent this by actually overwriting all data on the hard drive with random sets of data. This makes it next to impossible to decipher the data on the hard drive to recover any of the deleted data.

Many hard drive wipe programs perform this overwriting process multiple times, which increases the security provided. There are also various algorithms used to generate the random data with which the existing data is overwritten. The better algorithms produce random data that is closer to being truly random, making it even harder to try to recover the original data.

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