Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

When you are about to dispose of a computer or hard disk it's critical that you erase your data. DBAN does it, simply and securely.

I get questions surrounding data recovery fairly often. People are often concerned that files they've deleted might be recoverable after the fact, and it's good and security conscious of them to be concerned.

At the other end of the spectrum are people who give no thought at all to the potential recoverability of their data, and discard old computers and hard drives without giving it a second thought. We often hear about people who've picked up an old computer at a recycler or yard sale, only to find that the hard disk is full of the previous owner's sensitive data.

Identity theft often follows.

DBAN, short for Darik's Boot And Nuke, is a free utility dedicated to doing one thing, and one thing well...

Erasing hard drives.

"... it will detect and erase everything on every hard disk ..."

You boot from it, and you nuke the hard drive. It's that simple, and it's very, very effective.

DBAN is available as either an ISO file you can burn to create a bootable CD, or as an installer that will allow you to create a bootable floppy or USB stick.

Once you boot DBAN, there are several options which, for most practical purposes you can safely ignore. Press F10 and it will detect and erase everything on every hard disk on the machine.

Let me say that again, this time quoting the site:

DBAN will automatically and completely delete the contents of any hard disk that it can detect.

Once you run DBAN on a machine, whatever was on the hard disk is gone. Forever.

Which is exactly what you want when you're about to dispose of a machine or hard disk.

DBAN does have advanced options for overwriting data multiple times, using different algorithms to even more securely erase your data, but for common usage the defaults are plenty.

DBAN: Boot and Nuke your data.

I recommend it.

Article C3585 - December 6, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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26 Comments
Rick
December 9, 2008 8:50 AM

Hi Leo, that was a good article about computer theft and how hackers can get about everything personal from a stolen computer hard drive. I was wondering if online banking files can be accessed too or if not, why not?

Thanks a bunch, Rick.

Store your on-line banking password on your computer somewhere? Like, maybe, in your browser's auto-complete or "remember password" feature? Then yep, someone who steals your machine can access your accounts.
- Leo
10-Dec-2008
WordsMytrh
December 9, 2008 9:46 PM

Another fine article, Leo.

Back in May I donated my old circa 1997 Gateway 2000 266 mHz PII w/256 MB of SDRAM and a massive 8 GB hard drive running Win 98SE (flawlessly, I might add) to our local Goodwill charity. I included all the manuals and all the OEM (and subsequent) software on CD (back in 1997, Gateway actually included a very nice book, holding all the OEM software CDs!), all the cabling, and the 19" monitor.

I used Sammi Torvaldsen/Heidi Computers free "Eraser" software (which incorporates the erasing methodology used in DBAN as well as several others) to totally wipe everything on the drive before donating it.

I urge folks to consider donating solid, functional (if older) computing hardware to charities such as Goodwill. You get a small tax write-off and the charity gets to resell the system to someone who can put it to use!

Don
December 15, 2008 2:51 PM

I would like to delete the files on my laptop and give it to a friend, but I want to keep Windows XP loaded. Will DBAN do this for me?

Thanks don

No. DBAN erases everything. Typically when you give away a computer you really want to erase everything includeing Windows, or do so and then reinstall Windows, to remove any traces of personal information.
- Leo
16-Dec-2008
JOETTE
December 15, 2008 11:14 PM

I WANT TO CLEAN EVERYTHING OFF MY HARD DRIVE & REINSTALL MY ORIGINAL PROGRAMS. I WONDER HOW TO DO THIS. IS THIS PROGRAM GOOD FOR THAT?
THANKS,
JO

DBAN only erases data. The normal sequence for reformatting and reinstalling is:

- Back up your data using a good backup program

- erase the hard drive. Technically this is optional, but DBAN is perfect for it

- reformat the hard drive. Also technically optional, and typically part of the next step

- boot from a Windows Installation CD and install Windows

- update Windows.

- install all your applications

- restore any data from your backup that you need

- Leo
16-Dec-2008

Mohit Kashyap
January 6, 2009 8:27 AM

I used a DBAN cd to delete data from an old laptop, but I did not realize I had my external backup hard drive attached to it. Could the dban process have started with the external hard drive attached? The external hard drive is now not being recognised when connected to another computer. Also I cannot reboot the old laptop I was trying to DBAN, I am wondering what occured?
Will it be possible to retrieve the data off my external hard drive?

Kenny
September 8, 2009 11:01 AM

Leo,

Afer I use the "DBAN" and erase everything off of my HD, how do I go about reformatting it and then reinstalling windows or Linux or whatever? I'm not the smartest kid on the block, but I would like to try and do it with one of my old computers, just so that I'll know that I can do it, if I ever have to. Thank you

95% of the time you simply boot from the Windows or Linux installation media and follow the instructions. (After running DBAN, formatting it not required, as your hard disk is now completely empty.)
Leo
09-Sep-2009

MARIAN COOPER
September 8, 2009 7:32 PM

Hi Leo - thanks for all your advice, help and hints.
I have a computer running Windows XP. I want to delete everything and then re-install Windows. I am told I need to access BIOS to do this. What is BIOS please and how do I re-install XP?

Thanks a lot.
Marian

James
September 11, 2009 4:22 AM

I recently used DBAN on a computer I was disposing of and found it very effective. It's difficult to overstate it's effectiveness, since it can completely and utterly obliterate everything.

But it would also be worth emphasizing that it will if required obliterate only one disk, if you have more than one, or one partition if a disk is partitioned.

Jess
September 12, 2009 3:55 PM

ok i had an issue with DBAN you see im useing linux and im giveing my laptop to my bro and he wants xp so i used DBAN and linux still comes up know what im doing wrong here? It seems like it doesnt delete it please help.

My guess is that your system has multiple partitions, and you're not letting DBAN erase the boot partition.
Leo
13-Sep-2009

Ed
September 20, 2009 9:05 AM

I have a 2 year old Dell Laptop (Vista) that I am going to give to a friend. The hard drive has a PC Restore partition which can be used to restore the computer to the factory delivered state. Can I use DBAN to only nuke the main hard drive partition and leave the PC Restore partition alone?

flex42
December 1, 2009 10:24 AM

hey leo i was wondering does dban delete your window software

DBAN removes erases the entire hard disk, and removed everything. All of it. Forever.
Leo
02-Dec-2009

Sandy Keeping
December 13, 2009 9:22 AM

i have nuked my drive and i am now reinstalling wxpp how long dos this take hours days mine is @ 42% 12hrs later is this normal.Thanks

alexphazon
January 19, 2010 4:20 PM

I want to use this to remove Windows 7 and Windows Vista from my 2 partitions, now you said it will delete EVERYTHING but will it also delete the BIOS or my just Stupid?

The BIOS is not on your hard disk. DBAN erases everything on your hard disk.
Leo
20-Jan-2010

Den
April 29, 2010 8:57 AM

I am trying to wipe completely a Window 98 from my compuer and I have downloaded and burned DBAN on a CDR disk, but it doesn't do anything, do you have any suggestions? Thanks

Boot from that disk and follow the instructions?
Leo
30-Apr-2010

Ed
May 4, 2010 7:57 PM

Leo, This may seem like a stupid question,but I honestly don't know the answer.I am going to download DBAN and save it for erasing my hard drive on disposal, so the question- when downloading DBAN do I RUN it or SAVE it when downloading ( I don't want to erase my harddrives by accident.

DBAN is provided as an ISO image that you download, Save to your computer, and then burn to a CD. TO use DBAN - and get all of its destructive goodness - you boot from that CD.
Leo
05-May-2010

Jeff Bowman
May 12, 2010 5:38 AM

When disposing of computers, I always remove the hard discs, open them up and use the nice shiny disks as cup coasters! I suppose I could be even more secure by running this utility first...

Madadkhany
June 2, 2010 8:43 PM

hi,
yesterday i use your software to delete one of my hard disk. but i don't know how but i lost all of my 5 hard disk & now I have no data anymore.
after a few second that dban run i restart computer to prevent from data loss. but it's doesn't work.
please help me to recover my hard disks.

Frank Rozee
July 24, 2010 2:40 PM

I Had a problem runing DBAN. [ up-down arrows not responding ] -- On a hunch I changed the keyboard. and all worked fine.It turned out I had a FAULTY KEYBOARD aftr changing DBAN worked perfectly. So THANK YOU DBAN

Gwyn
July 27, 2010 4:21 PM

"DBAN only erases data. The normal sequence for reformatting and reinstalling is:

- Back up your data using a good backup program

- erase the hard drive. Technically this is optional, but DBAN is perfect for it

- reformat the hard drive. Also technically optional, and typically part of the next step

- boot from a Windows Installation CD and install Windows

- update Windows.

- install all your applications

- restore any data from your backup that you need"

Are you saying here that if you have the Windows Installation CD there is no need to erase anything using DBAN or anything else, and that using the Installation disk will do the job itself before installing the installation files?

If you skip both optional steps there may be data left on the unused areas of the hard disk that could be recovered. If you allow Windows setup to do only a "quick" format, the same results. If you have Windows setup do a complete format then the entire hard disk is erased, making the DBan step redundant for all but the most paranoid. OTOH, if you run DBan, you can then let Windows Setup do a quick format and still be safe.
Leo
29-Jul-2010

ninja
October 3, 2010 8:48 PM

I tried to use DBAN on my laptop that is having problems after downloading an update from the Windows site. I boot from the disc and told it to "autonuke." DBAN started but soon after said "PCI(sysfs)" and didn't do anything after that. How do I get it to complete the erasing process? What could be the reason for this fail? Thanks!

dave
October 19, 2010 9:52 AM

Interesting regarding DBAN.
KILL DISK is another free utility to completely wipe-ouy the Hard Drive before disposal.
Why throw away if the hard Drive is usable.
Re-Use for Back-ups as Internal or External source.

Maarten
October 19, 2010 2:29 PM

@ninja You will probably have to get into your BIOS and disable any card reader port to an external drive that is enabled by default, it usually hangs on something like that.

louise mercier
January 29, 2012 6:40 PM

Just wanted to thank you for your very informative and useful website and newsletter

Dave J.
May 8, 2012 4:13 PM

DBAN is FREE and it does one thing only. It wipes the HD completely and forever.

Kevin Beasley
May 24, 2012 12:06 AM

This article talks about running DBAN from bootup and wiping ALL detected hard drives - is there an option to run it manually such that you can specify a specific drive? Often, people/friends give me drives that I take to work to run through the degausser to wipe them, but it would be easier if I could connect the drive to my PC and properly wipe it from there instead, without killing my entire PC.

DBAN is a bootable disc, so you can't run it from within Windows, for example. But once you do run it you can control it manually as well. For running within Windows Ithink CCleaner will do what you need to any disk that isn't your system disk.
Leo
24-May-2012
Mark J
May 24, 2012 12:34 AM

@Kevin
If you just want to wipe one drive, you can use CCleaner. Under Tools there is a Drive Wiper option. It can be set to to wipe the contents of any specified drive. CCleaner windows cleaning tool.

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