Data Destruction Software...
ITE and eWaste Alternatives' favorite free open-source data destruction software is 'Dariks Boot and Nuke'. We've used it for 4-5 years now and if a drive functioned properly - DBAN was able to obliterate any data on it. The software provides an outcomes report at the end of the wiping process.
Download the software onto bootable media that can be made 'read only' such as CDROM (fast and easy), Lockable USB Thumbdrive (small, convenient and almost indestructible), or floppy (not so tough, slow but great for older systems) - instructions are available on the website (see below);
We use DBAN in one of three ways -
Per system: performed on whole working systems (desktops, laptops, servers) using the DBAN boot disk - prior to pulling the system from service, while it is still on the users desk - takes about 1.75 hours to complete. If successful label the system 'Declassified' with your initials. This works great for small organizations or offices (1-20 workstations), but not so well for large workgroups;
En Masse: Systems pulled from service are lined up on workbenches in the IT department, connected to power and a KVM, and are booted with DBAN media. When completed, they are marked 'declassified' with tech initials and put into storage for reuse/recycling. This works well if you have enough IT dept. space to line up 5-20 systems simultaneously;
After-the-fact in Bulk: As systems are pulled from service part of the procedure is to pull the hard drive and secure in a lockable container in the IT department. Once per week or month these drives are connected to what we call a 'Nuke-Zilla' station, which is really just a pentium 4 desktop with decent power supply that has a couple extra IDE or SATA controllers and long cables in it. Plug drives into the unit and boot with DBAN until all the drives have been wiped. The same can be done with an old server for SCSI or Fiber channel drives. This method requires a little work up front, but is quite fast (4-16 drives wiped simultaneously) and does not take much space. Then mark the wiped drives 'declassified' as mentioned earlier.
Not all drives will wipe successfully. Bad sectors, overheating, head collisions and other errors will fail a wipe. It has been our experience that a second attempt will be futile. Put failed drives in a secure container marked for physical destruction. Safety glasses and heavy hammer will render the drive mechanically inoperable, but doesn't ensure data destruction. We have a large hydraulic shear which destroys the platters and mechanicals, but there are also small portable crushers and shredders out there too (see links below). Otherwise, just include the sealed box of drives with your next donation of technology to eWaste Alternatives - we'll put them through our crusher for you (free service).
Hard drives are expensive, and we prefer to get systems with them included, but in some cases these hard drives contain information that is just too sensitive to risk. These devices really require physical destruction - its the only method that provides empirical evidence.
ITE provides technology donors with custom built 'Nuke Zilla' data destruction stations for as little as $200/unit. These units are capable of wiping up to 8 drives (sata, IDE or combination of the two) simultaneously. If you would like to build your own 'nuke' station, we will be adding instructions and diagrams to this post soon.
More on this subject in our forums...