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Completely Erased

How to completely and securely format a hard drive with DBAN

Steve Smith explains how to use DBAN to get rid of virus infections, or to securely wipe a hard drive clean before disposing of a computer.

Episode #3-25 released on March 17, 2013

What do you do if you have epic failed in the worst way online? What can you do to protect your privacy when you are giving or selling a computer or laptop? How do you clean up a hard drive that has many different types of partitions?

Today's world has many issues that include possible viral infections, data theft from data left on second hand computers, dual boot computers, etc...

In order to prevent issues, we will have to be smart about the way we clean our hard drives, dispose of older devices we get rid of, and even find more effective ways of cleaning hard drives from newer tasks.

The way to clean a hard drive of any kind for good is through the use of an intensive formatting. We sometimes call this nuking a hard drive. Depending on how it is done, it may take a few minutes, or many hours. Depending on how intensive the format we choose, the less likely anyone can every recover any data of any kind from the drive. The master boot record is also likely to disappear as we completely clean the hard drive, meaning all versions of viruses will be completely eliminated in the process.

There is a program that is able to do this all for you, and run from a optical disc that allows you to make sure you don't infect that media as well. The name of this application is DBAN or Darik's Boot And Nuke. You can get it at dban.org, and it is free. Once you have burned an optical disc with DBAN, all you need to do load it up and type in autonuke. This starts a process that will take a lot of time. We are talking many hours, but the benefits out way the amount of time spent. All your data is gone, any viruses you may have picked up are gone, the disc is unrecoverable so no one can reuse your data to commit fraud.

Now, why would you need such a tool?

Try Scareware on for size. One of my friends was infected with Scareware, which encrypts all your personal data then threatens legal action against you for several supposed actions you may or may not have done. Supposedly, if you paid, the drive would be decrypted, and you'd have your computer back. This scam works, which plenty of people paying up. Here is an example of Scareware.

If you ever see this, insert your DBAN disc in your computer and autonuke.

Next week, I'll be talking about content delivery networks, and how it can help you serve your web-site to more people and faster. I'll talk about the speed benefits, security benefits, and more.

Remember to like this episode if you were interested in today's topic, share if you think someone else could benefit from the topic, and subscribe if you want to learn more. For the show notes of this episode and others, for more information on other ways to subscribe to our show, to subscribe to our weekly newsletter, and how to participate by submitting your questions, comments, suggestions, and stories, head over to TQAWeekly.com.

Host : Steve Smith | Music : Jonny Lee Hart | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions

Sources & Resources


It should remove all traces of the virus, provided the hard drive has no bad sectors on it. It it does, you the mentioned Spinrite to try to fix the hard drive then run DBAN after, but usually, DBAN can erase the entire drive without issue. I've used it on maximum and let it run almost 16 hours on my friends computer, that is why this episode exists.

Posted by ask on February 1, 2014

Great! I am going to run 'autonuke' on a machine that has polymorphic malware, not sure if it is in the MBR or somewhere else on the machine. Assuming autonuke runs fully without any error, will it remove the malware from the computer with certainty?

Posted by battsj on February 1, 2014

Yes, it will wipe all data, including the master boot record on your hard drive. If you are unable to get DBAN to work correctly, consider using Spinrite to fix the drive so DBAN can work, rarely needed, good to have.

Posted by ask on February 1, 2014

Running DBAN and using 'autonuke', will that also completely wipe the Master Boot Record (MBR)?

Posted by battsj on February 1, 2014