Securely Erasing Your Old Hard Drive Easily with Linux or a Mac

I have been thinking of the easiest way to completely and securely erase a hard drive lately.  I was given two old laptops and was asked by a dear family member to help get some personal effects off of an old laptop.

To keep this short, I was able to do that using an external hard drive case and my own machine.

Since I use Linux, I am immune to windows viruses, I can simply copy the desired data to my computer.  I now have a directory of 1.1 GB of pictures, writings and other information on my desktop which I will burn to a DVD and say “Here you go, enjoy”.

Mac people and other BSD people can rejoice in that as well.

She’ll need to scan that for viruses before she looks at it in detail since she’s on windows.

Ok, that’s all done right, just toss the drive in the nearest secure shredder or sneak it into the trash or….

Not so fast.

You see, data can be forever.

A CD typically lasts 10 years.

A CD that “you” wrote may not last that long, say 5 years.

A DVD will last longer, I haven’t had one that I wrote fail yet, and some are well more than 10 years.

I still don’t trust that removable and optical stuff.

But, if I can get the computer I am looking at now to recognize the drive, the data will still be there.  Useful or not.

Even those old 500 MB drives from the first days of the IDE era can be read if I have a way to convince my laptop to read it.  How?

Get an external hard drive case.   You need to know what kind of hard drive you have in your hands.

IDE External Cases are still available.

Serial ATA or SATA cases are available in USB 3.0 and 2.0 if you want cheap.

I paid under $5 for mine when they were on sale.

Put the drive in question in the case.

Plug the drive case into the computer.

Assuming that your computer can see the drive and the data on it, now what.  You’ve got your data off and you want to securely erase the drive.

Here’s where Linux comes in to play, although a Mac will work as well.

Don’t have a Mac or Linux computer?  The easy fix is to download a copy of Ubuntu and burn that to a DVD or to a memory stick and boot from that.   That is all done via a program called unetbootin and it is available for any modern operating system that I can reasonably think of.   Follow the instructions and you end up with a bootable USB stick.  Boot from that stick.  Plug the external drive in.

Now you’re looking at Linux.

(If you’re a Mac guy, you can to follow this on your Mac.)

Commands from this point forward will be in BOLD
Start Terminal.

Get root with “su” or “sudo su” and give it the system’s password.

Verify the address of the external drive.  “dmesg” will give the device name at the end of the display.  You can also find it in gparted (if installed).  The address will be similar to /dev/sdb.

Verify it again.  “Measure twice and cut once”.

In terminal enter the following command – I am assuming that the operating system thinks that the external drive is on “/dev/sdb”.  You need to know which partition and this will tell you where it is:

fdisk -l /dev/sdb

(Man, I hate Helvetica – That is a lower case -l )

On the Windows drive I have in question, it gave me two partitions – sdb1 and sdb2.  Windows being what it is, will almost always use sdb1 as the boot partition, and it will almost always be the largest one and the one in question with your data.

Since I have cleared out all the data that I would be worried about in an earlier step, I do not have to worry about deleting any partitions.  But I do have to create a space to work with.

Within terminal, mkdir work will make an empty directory to play with.

To access the data on the external drive: mount /dev/sdb1 work

To verify you have connected to the drive, cd work 

To list any data files you left in that directory, ls  will show you.

To create a big file to overwrite all that empty space enter the following command.

    dd if=/dev/urandom of=junkfile.txt

That dd Command will write random garbage out to the file called junkfile.txt until it runs out of space. Out of Space is a bit misleading because certain disk formats have maximum file sizes, so just run it again with a different name on the “of” portion of the command – like “junkfile1.txt” until you are satisfied.

That’s about it.   Your empty space on the drive has been filled with garbage.  You can delete that junkfile.txt and use the drive as a floppy if you like.  Since you previously deleted things that you wanted to be securely deleted, this happened with it was overwritten with random data.

The theory goes that with the “new” and “large” disks we have inside of our computers over the last few years, simply writing garbage out would be sufficient.
The Geek version was that the old drives had enough space between tracks that the data would sometimes, but not always, be mirrored and repeated in the empty spaces.  Some of the information could be “recovered” by reading that space.

You don’t have the technology to do that.  Any “normal” person finding your drive would not either.

New drives over the last few years are so densely packed that that space between the tracks is too small to store extra copies of the data.

If you are super worried (paranoid) about your data, give the drive to a destructive person, and some hand tools, and let them disassemble it for the magnets.  Or run over it with a truck.   Or both.

But this is as far as I go with my own personal data.

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I went to confession after a long break

I went to confession after a long break

I was feeling depressed, and life wasn’t going so well, when walking down the street I passed the church.

It had been many years since I went to church, and just as long since I last went to the confessional.

Perhaps, I thought, getting right with god would help fix my life.

I went into the church, and the dim light and smell of incense brought it all back.

I headed for the confession booth and went straight in.

Wow, things had changed in all those years.

There was a comfy chair, a small screen TV, the WiFi password.

Then I opened the cupboard and inside was a bottle of fine malt scotch, and some cigars!

Suddenly the door opened and the priest appeared, and he said sharply “get out! your on my side!”

 

Or maybe that guy is confessing because….

 

A thief in Paris planned to steal some paintings from the Louvre

After careful planning, he got past security, stole the paintings, and made it safely to his van.

However, he was captured only two blocks away when his van ran out of gas.

When asked how he could mastermind such a crime and then make such an obvious error, he replied:

“Monsieur, that is the reason I stole the paintings. I had no Monet to buy Degas to make the Van Gogh.”

Retired Rattlesnake Roadside-Romeo

Retired Rattlesnake Roadside-Romeo was on the side of a dirt road in Arizona. On the other side of the road was a chicken.
So, he hollers, “Hey there babe! I don’t usually talk with random chicks, but you ought to know that I am like a hundred years old. Do you want to know the secret to long life?”
The chicken is intrigued and asks, “Well, what is it? Tell me”

Roadside-Romeo replies, “What’d you say? Can’t hear ya”
The chicken says, “I said, what is the secret to long life?”

Roadside-Romeo says, “What babe? Whatcha sayin’?”
So, the curious chicken crossed the road.

And went near Roadside-Romeo’s ear and yelled, “What is the secret to long life?”
Roadside-Romeo hissed and rattled and replied, “Oh!!! The secret is – Don’t talk to strangers!”

And in one quick swoop, pounced and ate the chicken.

And smugly, he thought to hisself, “Wow! Amazing that joke still helps me pick up chicks!”

With an Intelligent Dog, You Get Opinions

I have read that dogs don’t disobey.  They interpret.

You just may not understand how they are interpreting things.

Of course all of that interpretation will change based on where that dog finds himself in a pack.

A dog who is confident will decide that it wants to go for a walk, so it decides it will do so.  Whether it is on its leash or not.

Of course they tend to only do such a thing if they are not getting exercised enough or are deadly bored.

Don’t want your dog to wander off?   Walk him.  Long walks.  Three miles for a dog in a day really isn’t a lot unless you have one of those fussy little things that bark at a leaf moving in the next county or an airplane over head.

That’s your burden.  It still needs a walk.

Beta dogs are a puzzle.  They require careful handling.  After all, they are looking to you for guidance.

Constantly.

Rack is a Beta.  He’s also incredibly intelligent just like any other McNab Dog.  Intelligent breeds are that way.  Anything-Shepard.  Herding Dogs are used for their intelligence because they think.  In a house, they can get bored.   A Beta who is Bored is going to still find things to do and interpret what he thinks the rules are.

Luckily Rack isn’t bored often.  He’s happy to lay down and sleep next to me for most of the day.  My chair that I do most of what ever it is that I actually do is near a window.  I see things that happen, after all it is a busy street.

The other day I saw something go on.  Rack was asleep.  But being a herding dog, it was almost like there was someone whispering in his ear what is going on.

Then I spotted that something.  Could have been anything from the feral ducks to a neighbor getting landscaping to a passer by.

I made the mistake of saying “Oh.”.  Not particularly loudly mind you.  Just a slightly louder than a whisper “Oh.”

Rack had an opinion.  “WOO WOO WOO WOO!”

Standing up, he ran to the front door.  Fur up on his back.  I guess he didn’t like what was going on.

“Damnit Dog, go take a look, there’s nothing out there!”

“WOO! WOO woo grumblegrumble mmm”

The grumbling went on for a bit, then he lay down and go back to sleep.

“Knucklehead”.

I go back to entertaining myself answering emails.  Reading tech websites.  I realize that I have a website that needs attention.  He’s fast asleep and jogging in his sleep.  Alternating between running and wagging his tail.

“Hmm, better log into that site.”
“WOO WOO WOO”  He didn’t like my tone of voice.

“Rack!  Nothings wrong, go look!”

My standard thing is to keep him busy when he’s interpreting what I am going on about.  I won’t tell him to look if there’s a delivery in the area.  That would set him off again.

I get the same cycle of winding down and walking back to his place where he can continue watching me, getting things wrong, sliding into sleep, and wagging his tail.

When he’s not doing dippy things, he’s actually very quiet in the house.  But twice a day…

You see, the UPS truck comes through the neighborhood every afternoon and that would set him off.

Opinions.  Interpretations.  Two Plus Two are Five.

That’s what you get with an intelligent dog.  A Police Officer who worked with dogs once told me “On their best day, they’re still a dog”.  I can see that.  They just don’t always get it right.

But, I can easily tell him to walk around in the front yard to dry off his feet after I wash them at the end of a walk.  Even if his best dog friend the giant Rottweiler named “D.O.G.” is out there.

Yes, D.O.G., and no I don’t know what Double-Oh styled agency that he’s a part of or what it is short for.  It’s just 165 pounds of mostly black love sponge who whines at me from across the street.  And yes, he interprets as well since that whine is him saying come on over I am lonely.

Weirdly, Rack is now comfortable enough with that that he hasn’t taken the Once Around The Car “Walk in the Grass” order as being conditional and up for interpretation, but who knows.

After all, on his best day, he’s still a dog.

Shouldn’t We Be On Mambo Number 6 By Now?

At a lavish party the host calls for silence as he makes an announcement..

He says:

“To the first person who can swim from one end of my swimming pool to the other I will duly award them the sum of one million dollars but there’s a twist! As you can see there’s also three huge alligators and…

Before he could finish his sentence there’s a huge splash and commotion at one end of the pool. A man can be seen frantically swimming for his life towards the other end.

He makes it luckily without being eaten. The host congratulates him and asks him what he will do with the money.

The guy says “I don’t care about the money, I just want the name of the jerk who pushed me in.”

A Widowed Lady on the beach in Ft. Myers

A hot widowed lady, still in good shape, was sunbathing on a most deserted beach at Ft. Myers.
She looked up and noticed that a man her age, also in good shape, had walked up, placed his blanket on the sand near hers and began reading a book.

Smiling, she attempted to strike up a conversation with him. “How are you today?”
“Fine, thank you,” he responded, and turned back to his book.
“I love the beach. Do you come here often?” she asked.

“First time since my wife passed away 2 years ago,” he replied and turned back to his book.

“I’m sorry to hear that. My husband passed away three years ago and it is lonely,” she countered. “Do you live around here?” She asked.
“Yes, I live over in Cape Coral ,” he answered ,and again he resumed reading.

Trying to find a topic of common interest while also being flirty, she persisted, “Do you like pussy cats?”

With that, the man dropped his book, came over to her blanket, tore off her swimsuit and gave her the most passionate lovemaking of her life.
When the cloud of sand began to settle, she gasped and asked the man, “How did you know that was what I wanted?”

The man replied, “How did you know my name was Katz?”

Safflower and Milkweed

Why do you want to grow those things again?

Because they’re DIFFERENT!

But they look like weeds, the thorns on the leaves pinch, and then the flowers dry up and …

I said they’re different.  Besides, we’ve got the seeds.  Why not grow weird plants?

I have basil growing in my garden so I can make pizza.  Green onion in pots make so much that even I can’t eat it all.  My Rosemary has grown into a carpet of green.  I have banana plants in a pot that are taller than I am by a solid two feet that I need to break into separate pots for gifts. I can’t give away my spare coleus or mango trees.  There are peanuts growing all over the place…

Yes, PEANUTS!  As in Jimmy Carter’s pride

And the conversation petered off at the end.  People let their artichokes grow all the time and they end up with a big purple poof that looks like the yellow safflower blossoms.

Beauty is where you find it.  No, I mean YOU find it.  I may not agree, so don’t let that hold you back.  Be creative.  Grow what you like, especially if you like it on a pizza.

Gardening here is simple, drop a seed, it grows.  It may grow out of control.  Up North, that hardy Asparagus Fern you grow in your bathroom.  Down here, it is a noxious and invasive weed.  I can’t understand why someone wants all those thorns growing inside their house anyway.

But they like it.  *sigh*

So I’ll grow a few more oil seeds in my garden.  The flower bloomed, and stayed intact. I put the dried flower in a plastic bag, rolled it between my hands, and got more seeds.

You might ask where I get safflower seeds?  We ordered something electronic online.  It showed up saying that it was shipped from Bahrain of all places.

Bahrain?  Don’t they usually sell products in barrels?  Crude Oil?  Safflower oil too I guess.  There has to be a reason why you live where you do for centuries, so enjoy.

I put some seeds in the front garden and watched.  Landscapers came by and raked them up.  I put more seeds down and will “box” them off with old roof tiles.  They are good at figuring that all out.

I hope.

As for the Milkweed, well it was in the pot first.  It made it to the seed pod because the Monarchs never discovered it.  I carpet bombed the neighborhood with milkweed seeds where ever they were left to grow from the last time I did that.  The butterflies will enjoy that,  they’re back already eating the daylights out of what is in my yard.

Now, if I can only figure out how to squeeze inside my hedge so I can plant that variegated hibiscus to fill in some bare spots, I may be getting my flowers back!