Destroying Data

See the University Security Framework Media Sanitization standard.

Sounds simple, but not all methods remove or erase the data. The Delete key or Format command does not equal erase.

Computer systems store data on a variety of storage media (e.g., hard drives, floppy disks, CD-ROMs, tapes, memory). It is important that data be securely removed from the media once the data and/or device is no longer required in order to prevent unauthorized disclosure of sensitive data.

There are a number of methods to delete data from a computer's hard drive (e.g., highlighting a file and pressing the Delete key, emptying a recycle bin or trash folder, or using system utilities to reformat the disk). These methods do not remove the data, they simply remove the pointers to the file. The data remains on the disk. Readily available software tools can be used to restore the data. Some are even free.

There are disk wiping utilities and programs available that will greatly improve the chances that your data cannot be recovered. Some programs erase the entire disk, while others allow you to select which files or folders to erase/shred. It is important that the utility or program provide an option to erase free space (temporary files).

Consult with your local technical support staff.

Below are options for various operating systems/media: Macintosh, Unix, Windows, and media.


Product Windows Platforms Options Website

Darik's Boot & Nuke

DBAN (recommended)

All operating systems Free

Full disk wiping:

R-Wipe & Clean* (recommended) 7, Vista, XP, 2000, 2003, 2008 and 98, NT4.0 Free (site licensed) for University-owned computers; free trial or purchase for non-University-owned computers

Shreds specific files or folders; see required configuration changes.*


* For R-Wipe & Clean, all users should select Tools and Customize and uncheck "event logs" and "firewall logs" under the System heading so that these important logs are always left alone. Also, some users may want to uncheck "recent documents" or they can uncheck each time they use the program.


Product Macintosh Platforms Options Website

Darik's Boot & Nuke

DBAN (recommended)

All Operating Systems Free Full disk wiping:
Secure Empty Trash (recommended) Macintosh (10.3 or newer) Built into the Mac Operating System Shreds specific files. Move the file to the Trash, and then the “Secure Empty Trash” is accessed from the Finder menu.


Product Platforms Options Website

Darik's Boot & Nuke

DBAN (recommended)

Various platforms Free Full disk wiping:

Other methods of destroying data include degaussing and destruction. Degaussing is a process by which the storage media is subjected to a powerful magnetic field to remove the data on the media. Degaussing may make the media inoperable; therefore use this method if the media does not need to be reused.

Destroying Media

Destruction is recommended for media (CD-ROMS, diskettes, tapes) containing highly sensitive data that cannot be wiped using the utilities and products described above. This is done by shredding disk platters, grinding the surfaces off of CD's, incinerating tapes, or cracking/cutting the media.

Dynamic Recycling is the University Contracted provider for physical media destruction for all hard drives, including hard drives from computers, printers, copiers, and multi-function devices. See the recycling program at the U.