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43 Free Data Destruction Software Programs

Completely Free Disk Wipe and Hard Drive Eraser Software Utilities

By

Updated July 2014

Data destruction software, sometimes called data sanitization software, disk wipe software, or hard drive eraser software, is a software-based method of completely erasing the data from a hard drive.

When you delete files and then empty the Recycle Bin, you don't actually erase the information, you just delete the reference to it so the operating system can't find it. All the data is still there and, unless it's overwritten, can be easily recovered using file recovery software.

Data destruction software, however, truly does erase the data. Each data destruction program utilizes one or more data sanitization methods that can permanently overwrite the information on the drive.

If you need to remove all traces of a virus or you're planning on recycling or disposing of your hard drive or computer, wiping your hard drive using data destruction software is the best way to protect yourself.

Note: Data destruction software is just one of several ways to completely erase a hard drive. Also, if a complete hard drive wipe isn't want you're after, check out my free file shredder software list for programs better suited for individual file destruction.

Below is a list of the best, completely free data destruction software programs available today:

1. DBAN (Darik's Boot and Nuke)

DBAN - Darik's Boot and Nuke - Data Destruction Software

Darik's Boot And Nuke, usually referred to as DBAN, is the best free data destruction software available.

Data Sanitization Methods: DoD 5220.22-M, RCMP TSSIT OPS-II, Gutmann, Random Data, Write Zero

DBAN is freely available in a ready-to-go ISO format so all you need to do is burn it to a CD or flash drive and then boot from it. The DBAN program's menu interface is also very easy to use.

DBAN is an open source project.

DBAN Review & Free Download

2. CBL Data Shredder

Screenshot of the CBL Data Shredder boot disc program

CBL Data Shredder comes in two forms: you can either boot from it via a disc or USB stick (like with DBAN) or use it from within Windows like a regular program.

The bootable version tells you how large each drive is but that's about the only identifiable information given, whereas the Windows version makes it easier to know what drive you're about to wipe clean.

Data Sanitization Methods: DoD 5220.22-M, Gutmann, RMCP DSX, Schneier, VSITR

In addition to the above, you can create your own custom method to include 1s, 0s, random data, or custom text with a custom number of passes.

To erase the hard drive that's running an operating system, you're required to boot to the program, whereas deleting another internal or external drive can be done with the Windows version.

CBL Data Shredder Review & Free Download

3. ErAce

ErAce - Data Destruction Software

ErAce is very easy to use because you simply boot from it and then press one button to wipe all the data from a drive.

Data Sanitization Methods: DoD 5220.22-M

Something I didn’t like about ErAce is that it doesn’t provide any information about the drive you’re going to wipe, which makes it difficult to ensure you’re wiping the correct one.

Important: ErAce doesn’t ask you to confirm a disk wipe. It will begin the moment you press Overwrite. Be very careful when using ErAce if you have multiple drives installed at once so you don't end up wiping the wrong one!

ErAce Review & Free Download

4. HDShredder Free Edition

Screenshot of HDShredder in Windows XP

HDShredder is a data destruction program that's available in two forms, both of which work with one data wipe method.

Data Sanitization Methods: Write Zero

You can use HDShredder from a disc or flash drive and boot from it for erasing the drive that has Windows installed to it, like the C drive. Alternatively, you can install HDShredder to Windows like a regular program and use it for securely erasing data from a different drive like a flash drive or a different hard drive.

Note: Several additional features appear to work in this free edition until you try to use them, after which you'll be told you need to upgrade to a paid version to use it.

HDShredder Review & Free Download

5. HDDErase

HDDErase - Data Destruction Software

HDDErase is probably the best Secure Erase based data destruction software available.

Data Sanitization Methods: Secure Erase

The easiest way to use HDDErase is from the bootable ISO image included with the download. You can also create any boot media you want (floppy, disc, flash drive, etc.) and copy the HDDERASE.EXE file to it.

The HDDerase program was created by researchers at the Center for Magnetic Recording Research (CMMR) at the University of California, San Diego, supported by a grant from the National Security Agency.

Important: CMMR, the University of California, nor the National Security Agency provide any kind of support for HDDErase but the information in the HDDEraseReadMe.txt file that accompanies the download should answer most questions you might have.

HDDErase Review & Free Download

6. MHDD

MHDD - Data Destruction Software

MHDD is another data destruction tool that utilizes Secure Erase.

The thing I like best about MHDD is the variety of easy-to-use forms that it's downloadable in. You can download an ISO file for disc or flash drive booting, a floppy image, the program itself ready for your own boot disk, and more.

Data Sanitization Methods: Secure Erase

There is plenty of documentation, a FAQ, and even a forum for the MHDD data destruction program, all accessible from their download page.

Note: MHDD only utilizes the Secure Erase method for data destruction if you use the FASTERASE option available in the program.

Download MHDD for Free

7. KillDisk

Screenshot of the data destruction program KillDisk

Active KillDisk is a freeware, scaled-down version of the KillDisk Pro data destruction tool.

Data Sanitization Methods: Write Zero

Like the above bootable data destruction software, you can download a simple ISO file for burning to disc or USB drive. You can also install a regular application to run KillDisk from within Windows.

Just visit the Active KillDisk website and click the Download Bootable ISO Image link (near the bottom of their page) to download the zipped ISO file. Choose Download Windows + DOS version to get the Windows installer file to run DOS + Windows Suite.

There's also a Linux Console version available.

KillDisk Review & Free Download

8. Format Command With Write Zero Option

Format Write Zero in Command Prompt From System Recovery Disc - Data Destruction Software

Beginning in Windows Vista, the format command was granted the ability to write zeros during the format, giving the command basic data destruction abilities.

Data Sanitization Methods: Write Zero

Since all Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista users already have the format command at their disposal, this is a quick and effective data destruction method. Granted, you won't be able to satisfy some stringent data sanitization standards, but if that's not a concern then this option is perfect.

Note: The instructions I link to here explain how to use the format command either as a data destruction tool from a bootable disc, enabling you to completely erase the primary drive, or as a way to erase any other drive from Command Prompt from within Windows.

Important: The format command included with Windows XP and prior operating systems does not support this option. However, there is a way to use this method on a computer with Windows XP if you have access to another computer with Windows 7 or Windows 8.

How To Use the Format Command to Write Zeros to a Hard Drive

9. Macrorit Disk Partition Wiper

Screenshot of Macrorit Disk Partition Wiper in Windows XP

Macrorit Disk Partition Wiper is different than the above programs in that it doesn't run from a bootable disc. Instead, you must install it to your computer like you would a regular program.

Data Sanitization Methods: DoD 5220.22-M, DoD 5220.28-STD, Random Data, Write Zero

The program has a very nice look to it and is super easy to use. Just select a hard drive that should be erased and choose a wiping method. Click the large Wipe Now button, type "WIPE" in the box to confirm you want to continue, and then click Start to begin the process.

Note: A portable version of Macrorit Disk Partition Wiper is available from the download page, while the regular installer takes you to CNET's Download.com.

Macrorit Disk Partition Wiper Review & Free Download

10. Eraser

Eraser - Data Destruction Software

Eraser is pretty easy to use and serves as a well designed data destruction program with some unique features.

Data Sanitization Methods: DoD 5220.22-M, AFSSI-5020, AR 380-19, RCMP TSSIT OPS-II, HMG IS5, VSITR, GOST R 50739-95, Gutmann, Schneier, Random Data

As far as advanced options go, Eraser wins the data destruction competition hands down. With Eraser, you can schedule data destruction with all the precision you'd expect with any scheduling tool.

Eraser works in Windows 8, 7, Vista, and XP. Eraser also works on Windows Server 2008 R2, 2008, and 2003.

Important: Because Eraser runs from within Windows, you can not use the program to erase the drive that Windows runs on, usually C. Use a bootable data destruction software program from this list or see How To Format C for other options.

Eraser Review & Free Download

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