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)