Sanitize your hard drives with Drive eRazer Ultra

If you want to make sure that your hard drive has been completely wiped, this small device can ensure that your data is gone.

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Using the Drive eRazer Ultra

I found it quite easy to use the Drive eRazer Ultra. There's no software to install; the Drive eRazer Ultra comes with everything preloaded.

You first connect the hard drive to the eRazer, using one of the provided data cables/ribbons (or an accessory adapter) along with the provided power connector.

For 3.5-in. drives that aren't enclosed (where you can see circuit boards on the bottom), CRU-DataPort includes a metal plate you can use temporarily to protect the drive's electronics and better dissipate heat. The package includes screws for connecting the metal plate to the drive, but I simply used a rubber band to hold it on.

You then plug in the eRazer's power supply and turn it on.

You decide which sanitizing mode you want by toggling through the eRazer's menu (which you follow on the LED display). The Drive eRazer Ultra offers 12 erase modes, including:

  • Quick Erase. This is a single-pass erase, overwriting data with zeroes. It is sufficient for most regulatory compliance purposes.
  • Custom Erase. This makes 1-99 passes, writing either all zeroes or a user-selected pattern. It's useful for companies that are required to do more than a single pass.
  • Secure Erase N. This starts the drive's built-in Secure Erase/Normal function so it can overwrite bad blocks using all zeros.
  • Secure Erase E. This starts an Enhanced Secure Erase, which removes data from the Host Protected Area (HPA) and Device Configuration Overlay (DCO), both of which are hidden areas. It leaves the areas hidden, and uses a write pattern defined by the drive's vendor rather than all zeroes.
  • Eight additional modes that reflect data sanitization/drive erasure standards from the U.S. Department of Defense, NIST, Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

You then select "Start Erasing" on the LCD display. The eRazer asks for a confirmation to proceed (requiring you to hit the Enter key again). After a minute or so, the Drive eRazer Ultra will indicate the size of the drive, and then display and update the percentage of drive erased and roughly how many minutes remain.

In my tests, which included old 40GB PATA drives and a 200GB SATA drive, a single-pass "scrub" took about 45 minutes. CRU-DataPort's Bill Head says that, in general, scrubbing new (manufactured after 2010) SATA drives should be about 7GB/minute for a single pass; so, for example, scrubbing a 1TB drive would take about 2 to 2.5 hours.

After the drive has been scrubbed, the Drive eRazer Ultra will perform a verification operation, checking a small sample of disk sectors to confirm whether they have any content other than the pattern that was written in the Erase cycle. You can choose how large the sample should be: "minimal," 0.1%, or 1%. Doing any more than that would take much longer than the actual sanitization process, says CRU-DataPort's Head -- trying to verify 100% this way on a 1TB drive could take days, even weeks.

Afterwards, I checked several of the erased drives by connecting them to my desktop computer and running the free version of Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery. I found no data remaining. As far as I could tell, CRU-DataPort's Drive eRazer Ultra did, as claimed, sanitize the disk to the point where data could not be recovered via software. Even if a forensic tech lab with a clean room and electron microscope looking at the disk were able to find some data -- and it's not clear this is possible -- it would be way more expensive than even your above-average data villain's budget could afford.

Conclusions

The CRU-DataPort's Drive eRazer Ultra does what it says. It's affordable, portable, and, once you've used it a few times, simple to use.

At $250, the CRU-DataPort's Drive eRazer Ultra is more than your average user needs. If you're only going to want to scrub a few drives per year, there are several free utilities available, including the previously mentioned Darik's Boot And Nuke (DBAN) or Eraser, a free Windows utility that safely overwrites previously deleted data. Mac OS X users can use its included Disk Utility, which offers single-pass and multi-pass disk-overwriting features.

But if you provide IT services and find yourself dealing with a number of hard drives that need to be securely wiped before being repurposed or disposed of, the Drive eRazer Ultra is a worthwhile addition to your toolkit.

Daniel P. Dern is a freelance technology writer based in Newton Center, MA. His website is www.dern.com and his technology blog is TryingTechnology.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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