Paul L . Snyder on 21 Apr 2007 22:42:00 -0000

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Re: [PLUG] OT: NTFS cleaning

On Sat, 21 Apr 2007, K.S. Bhaskar wrote:

> Reformatting the hard drive only makes it harder to recover the data.  Even
> writing zeroes or ones on it can allow a skilled data recovery organization
> to recover data.  Short of using sophisticated tools like a sledgehammer to
> crack the drive open followed by sandpapering the platters, the next best
> option is to write a series of random data patterns over it.

It's a cost/benefit tradeoff.  While it is theoretically possible to
recover data that's been overwritten several times with a random pattern,
my understanding is that it's at least pretty theoretical and certainly
quite expensive.  Pounding, sanding, and burning is perhaps overkill in
circumstances driven by practical, personal-level paranoia.

There are a bunch of utilities out there for scrubbing free space that
should be more than adequate for small-potatoes applications.

> If the laptop has to be returned in a bootable state, write random patters
> on the entire disk (e.g., using Darik's Boot & Nuke) and then install a
> fresh OS.

I think part of the query had to do with preparedness...the idea is is
have the laptop in a state where it can be reclaimed at anytime, so
a total wipe of the hard drive would not be ideal.  Here's a utility
from Lawrence Livermore that can be used to wipe free space to
government specs:

It's Linux-based, so booting with an NTFS-enabled Linux LiveCD would be

For use within Windows, here are a couple of free Windows utilities that
will wipe free space...I can't vouch for them as I've never used them.
Of course, having these installed could be prima facie evidence of
dubious goings-on...that could be a reason to go with a boot CD.

Consider what might be in browser records, temp directories,
etc.; wiping free space won't eliminate all tracks.


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