Recently, I had a mechanical hard drive with bad sectors, which I wanted to wipe1 before sending it in for an RMA. Of course the reason I wanted to return it was because of the bad sectors–which means any process that tried to access those sectors would hang. I figured that even a tool like Darik’s Boot And Nuke would choke on it. (I did not try.)
While researching this, I came across HDDErase, which uses the low-level ATA Secure Erase command to securely wipe an ATA or SATA HDD. HDDErase seems to be the most commonly-mentioned tool that uses this method, but I couldn’t get it to see the drive. I tried two different PCs, and mucking around with the BIOS settings as described in the readme–no luck.
Wilson’s blog post “How to secure erase your hard drive (HD/SSD)” gives some more options. (1) HDDErase and (2) hdparm both use the ATA Secure Erase command. hdparm? Score! Now I can use Linux…
The last link in (2) is to Secure Erase With bootable CD/USB Linux.. Point and Click Method. First I used UNetbootin to make a bootable Parted Magic USB thumbdrive, then I followed the guide. I used a Thermaltake BlacX ST0005U drive dock to connect the bad drive to the PC via eSATA. Note from the guide, “If Secure Erase fails you can try hot-plugging the drive after bootup”–I had to do this. It took a couple hours on a 500GB 2.5″ HDD, and it worked like a charm.
I love open source.
- ATA Secure Erase (SE) and hdparm
- Computer Forensics: Erasing drives should be quick and easy
- Securely erase hard drives – from ultraparanoid’s blog
- At Your Disservice – How ATA security functions jeopardize your data. (It’s an old article, from 2005–not even online anymore, so you see I’m linking to it on archive.org. I’m not sure if the author’s concerns have shown up anywhere in the wild. However, it does talk about the ATA passwords, and drive freezing, which explains why I had to hotplug.)
tl;dr: To quickly and securely wipe an HDD or SSD, even if it has bad sectors, use UNetbootin to make a bootable Parted Magic USB thumbdrive, then follow this guide: Secure Erase With bootable CD/USB Linux.. Point and Click Method.
 By “wipe”, I mean I wanted to securely erase all the data on it, so that it would be unrecoverable.