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How to "erase" external harddrive

Posted: Wed Feb 01, 2012 9:48 am
by Kirsten Ruhl
I want to wipe out all contents from my old external harddrive.

How do I do that?

Re: How to "erase" external harddrive

Posted: Wed Feb 01, 2012 10:52 am
by Richard Serkes
Connect your external HD to any Mac. Open Disk Utility, identify your external HD by selecting it on the left then click the ERASE tab at the top. Follow the instructions and you're good to go.

Re: How to "erase" external harddrive

Posted: Wed Feb 01, 2012 11:12 am
by Kirsten Ruhl
Sounds easy enough ---

Thank you, Richard

Re: How to "erase" external harddrive

Posted: Wed Feb 01, 2012 3:16 pm
by Stephen Hart
Richard's right, as far as he goes.

But the situation may become more complex depending on what you want to do with the drive.

If you plan to put the drive to use elsewhere in your own setup, you need no more than Richard's solution. What that does is delete the disk directory. No other data is erased. (That's why data recovery software can recover data from accidentally "erased" disks. Same with erased or formatted camera cards.)

But if you plan to send the drive elsewhere, where it's out of your control, you have to decide whether it has any information you wouldn't want someone else to get possession of.

Disk Utility can give you the option to write zeros to every track on the drive. That takes a long time (a very long time if you opt for the triple-pass feature). Just set it up to run overnight. Such a drive is probably safe to give away, unless you're a spy.

If you're sending the drive to recycling, you can merely destroy it for all intents and purposes. For full-size drives, I use a drill press to drill a 1/4" hole in the drive about half-way out from the spindle center. (Though NSA might be able to get some information from such a drive, effectively no one else can.) You could also whack the drive with an axe or give it a really good whack with a hammer. For laptop drives, a smart smack with a hammer breaks the disk, which is glass in the small drives. I would do this to any drive I recycled, including drives that appear to have failed. (If you send drives to DriveSavers, and they can't recover any data, they'll shred the drive for you rather than throwing it in the recycling bin.)

I once took a couple of drives to Staples, which offered to recycle old drives responsibly. They wanted my name, address, phone number and SSN (maybe my driver's license number?) for a label they affix to the drive. The clerk claimed it was for law enforcement use. You can work out the implications of that.

Also note that companies make "forensic" data recovery kits including software and special drives. Anyone can buy these kits. And ordinary data recovery software is inexpensive.

I should also note that over a few years I've tried to give away to SMUG members drives that are only a couple of years old. I've essentially never had a taker. Drive prices go down relentlessly, so for most users, it makes more sense to buy a new drive.

Re: How to "erase" external harddrive

Posted: Thu Feb 02, 2012 11:39 am
by Kirsten Ruhl
Thank you, Stephen for additional, important input on this issue.

Re: How to "erase" external harddrive

Posted: Tue May 01, 2012 8:03 am
by Stephen Hart
The right way to discard a hard drive:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... IxAibjtG2U#!

Re: How to "erase" external harddrive

Posted: Mon May 07, 2012 7:45 am
by Stephen Hart
One more note on this thread.

If an Apple Store replaces your hard drive under AppleCare, you do not get the old drive back.

So, if you know this is going to happen, do all erasing ahead of time. Or just trust Apple.
Given the brouhaha that would ensue if anyone figured out that Apple violated their privacy with a returned drive, I tend to trust Apple on this.

Re: How to "erase" external harddrive

Posted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 4:30 pm
by Stephen Hart
Stephen Hart wrote:One more note on this thread.

If an Apple Store replaces your hard drive under AppleCare, you do not get the old drive back.

So, if you know this is going to happen, do all erasing ahead of time. Or just trust Apple.
Given the brouhaha that would ensue if anyone figured out that Apple violated their privacy with a returned drive, I tend to trust Apple on this.
Followup:
I've seen posts on Macintouch where someone asked an Apple Store to return the old hard drive and there was no problem. I've seen other posts on Macintouch where the Apple Store charged a stiff fee to return the old hard drive (maybe because they get a rebate from the manufacturer).
Furthermore, some people seem to be able to talk the Apple Store into upgrading their hard drive (for a fee) when replacing a drive covered by AppleCare. That was not my experience.