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Data Sanitization Method

A List of Software Based Data Sanitization Methods


Definition: A data sanitization method is the specific way in which a data destruction program or file shredder overwrites the data on a hard drive or other storage device.

Most data destruction programs support multiple data sanitization methods.

Note: Technically, other methods of destroying data not based on software overwriting are also referred to as data sanitization methods.

Here are several popular data sanitization methods used by data destruction programs:

Most data destruction programs also let you customize your own data sanitization method with whatever overwriting pattern and number of passes you want.

Which data sanitization method is best?

Overwriting one or more files, or an entire hard drive, just once with a single character, should prevent any software based file recovery method from recovering data from a hard drive. This is almost universally agreed upon.

According to some researchers1, a single overwriting of data is enough to prevent even advanced, hardware based methods of extracting information from hard drives meaning that most data sanitization methods are over-kill. This is not so agreed upon.

Most experts agree that Secure Erase is the best way to overwrite an entire hard drive in a single pass. The very simple Write Zero method accomplishes essentially the same thing, albeit much slower.

If a single overwrite is enough, why are there so many data sanitization methods?

As I mentioned above, not everyone agrees on a software based data sanitization method that will prevent all possible methods of recovering the data.

Because advanced, hardware based methods of extracting information from hard drives exist, several governmental organizations and researchers have independently devised certain methods of overwriting data that, according to their research, should prevent these advanced recovery methods from working.

[1] Craig Wright, Dave Kleiman, and Shyaam Sundhar R.S. in Overwriting Hard Drive Data: The Great Wiping Controversy available here [PDF].

Also Known As: data erasure method, data wipe method, wipe algorithm, data wipe standard

Alternate Spellings: data sanitisation method

Examples: "One of the most popular data sanitization methods is the DoD 5220.22-M method. Almost all data destruction software programs utilize this method, among others."

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