Get right software, not a drill, to properly destroy computer data

LETTER — Posted Nov. 7, 2005

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Regarding "Going beyond delete: How to really erase information" (Article, Sept. 12): Your otherwise excellent article had one recommendation that was not correct, and it revolved around how to ensure that no data can be recovered from a hard drive.

The article states: "One way to ensure that data are permanently erased is to physically destroy the hard disk by removing it from the box and drilling a hole right through the center of the disc." This is not true.

If you simply drill a hole through the center of your hard drive, obviously it will not work in a conventional computer; however, data will remain on the platters, except for areas that were physically destroyed by the drill or its vibration. Should the drill go thru the center of the disc much of the data may remain. Companies that specialize in data recovery from physically damaged drives might be able to remove the individual discs in the hard drive without further damaging them and recover a considerable amount, and possibly all, of the data, depending on where the drill hole was made.

Using software such as programs conforming to U.S. Dept. of Defense standards for clearing and sanitizing sensitive information and degaussing the drive, which are other options you allude to, will give better insurance of data destruction.

Brett Elliott, MD, Milford, Del.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2005/11/07/edlt1107.htm.

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