Completely destroying all data on a Hard Drive

A few days ago while clearing through some old boxes of computer equipment I discovered an old hard drive. This drive had been removed from an old computer that had been disposed of. At the time of disposal I copied all information from the old computer its replacement and kept the old hard drive as a backup in case something went wrong.

Now more than five years later I no longer need the backup and want to dispose of the physical hard drive. But first, I want to ensure that the drive is completely clear of the old data. Connecting the drive to my current computer it can still mount and read the old drive and I can see all the old files on it. It’s good that the backup has lasted this long but to completely wipe the drive of all this old personal data is a little more complex than just selecting all the contents and pressing the delete button or doing a reformat under Windows.

Completely destroying all data on the drive is important. If the drive is not completely wiped (that is every single physical sector on the drive is written over) it is possible that someone using a few pieces of software could bring the old data back from the dead.

To completely nuke the drive I could pay for commercial software or take a hammer to the physical drive. But there is a free way to nuke the drive by using Ubuntu Linux and it’s quite simple to do:

  1. Boot Ubuntu (running from a live CD/USB should work too)
  2. Find the full device path of the drive you want to destroy by running at a terminal:
    sudo gparted

    If you don’t have gparted installed, then install it using

    sudo apt-get install gparted

    Then on the right hand side of the GUI window select from the drop down list of hard drives and check the partitions of each one to confirm the path of the device that you want to nuke is. For instance:

    /dev/sdN
  3. Shred the drive using the following command, replacing the path with the path you found in step 2.
    sudo shred –vzn 1 /dev/sdN

    This command will take a while to run. It will go over the entire drive writing random data into every single physical sector of the drive and then a second time writing zero into every single sector.

Once the command has finished your drive will be completely wiped. It can now be reformatted and reused without any worry about someone being able to resurrect the previously deleted data.

Central Europe Adventures 2016 – Part Twelve: Dresden

After a week exploring Vienna, Bratislava, and Prague it was time to return to Germany. The train pulled out of Prague just as the sun was setting on a Sunday evening. To get to Dresden the train runs alongside the Vltava and the Elbe Rivers which was a very picturesque until it became too dark to see outside. Darkness completely descended around an hour north of Prague as we pulled into the Czech city of Ústí nad Labem. Despite the darkness this city looked fascinating to visit and is somewhere I would love to return to.

As we crossed the border into Germany many hikers boarded the train who had been hiking in the nearby region of Saxon Switzerland. I got rather excited discovering new places to visit and I quized my German travelling companion about Saxon Switzerland and I began mentally planning my next trip to this area of the world.

Our train pulled into Dresden Hauptbahnhof just before 7pm and we immediately headed for the S-Bahn to take our luggage to our hotel before getting dinner. Our hotel was located next to the Dresden Mitte station and – as the German word mitte means centre – we were expecting our hotel to be in the middle of Dresden. However, both sadly and surprisingly the effects of the destruction of Dresden from the second world war are still visible. Our hotel was between a train station and a main road with nothing much else but light industry surrounding it.

Once we had checked out luggage into our hotel, my friend and I walked the 15 minutes from our hotel to Dresden’s Altmarkt, walking past the amazing Zwinger Palace along the way. At the Altmarkt we had dinner at a Hans im Glück restaurant on the very strong recommendation from one of my friends in Munich. The burgers at Hans im Glück are amazing, they are on par with the best that a Burgerfuel in New Zealand can produce.

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Central Europe Adventures 2016 – Part Eleven: Jewish Prague

I began my final day in Prague by walking from the hotel I was staying in near Wenceslas Square to Prague’s Jewish Quarter, Josefov. After getting quite lost trying to navigate the narrow streets of Prague’s Old City I found the ticket shop for the Jewish Museum.

I bought my ticket for the museum but, quite confusingly, I wasn’t able to figure out how to get from the ticket shop into the museum. When I went back to the ticket counter to ask, I was quickly told that the museum was in fact a series of buildings around Josefov that the ticket would get me into. Now in possession of a map showing a path I should take around the neighbourhood I headed off to the first building, the Maisel Synagogue.

The Maisel Synagogue contained a number of ~500 year-old artifacts from Jewish life and worship in Prague. The most disturbing part of this history lesson was that from 1215 until 1781 Jewish residents had to wear some form of distinctive hat or badge or badge showing they were Jewish.

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Central Europe Adventures 2016 – Part Ten: A History Lesson at Prague Castle

I started my second day in Prague quite early so that I could (as my guidebook suggested) get to Prague Castle before all crowds. My friend (for reasons still unknown) decided that he didn’t want to go to Prague’s primary tourist attraction and instead went for a long walk along the river.

To get to Pražský hrad I caught the metro from Můstek Station to Malostranská station. Finding the entrance to Můstek Station was easy, however, finding the platforms and working the ticket machine was a whole different story. I’m sure that on any other day it would be simple, but on a sleepy Saturday morning it was one of the most difficult things I did on my entire trip. When I got to Malostranská station I was also a little lost, as I had assumed that the metro would have gotten me to the top of the hill that the castle was on, not the bottom.

After finding the path to the castle that meanders up the side of the hill I entered into the castle complex. The castle complex is unlike other palaces and castles that I’ve visited before, there isn’t one “castle” building, but instead a number of buildings and churches that make up the complex. As I kept walking through the narrow streets inside the complex I was confused about the lack of tourists, that was until I realised that I had walked in the rear entrance (my meandering path was really the Old Castle Steps) and once I got to the area around St Vitus Cathedral I was in among the hordes of tourists.

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Central Europe Adventures 2016 – Part Nine: Culture Shocked in Prague

I spent the second weekend of my Central Europe Adventure visiting Prague. Prague was on my to see list because I’ve had friends visit it before and loved it. I did not know what to expect, I knew nothing about the city, other than it was old and they didn’t speak German and I’ve never met anyone who was Czech before.

The train from Vienna to Prague took four hours and I used this time to write up some of my trip notes and read a guide book on Prague. I was still in culture shock from my visit to Bratislava the day before and instead of being excited I had built up a little bit of anxiety about the unknown language and culture.

Arriving at Praha hlavní nádraží (Prague central station) felt like stepping into a different world. The train to Prague had stopped at Brno along the way and that had looked similar to Bratislava’s train station, and when we got off at Prague we didn’t have to cross the tracks but instead had the standard underground walkway between platforms and the main concourse. The main concourse of Prague’s central station was then like arriving into the middle of a shopping mall in London, New York or Singapore. I was hit by the modernist design and colour from the shops and the interior architecture. This was not what I was expecting.

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