What is a hard drive eraser?

Federal legal standards for the disposal of protected health information (PHI) on digital media require that patient information and vital identity information be completely erased and rendered unrecoverable before hard disks on which the data are saved can be re-used, transferred or sold. The hard drive eraser refers to the technology that makes complete unrecoverable removal of disk stored data possible.

Hard disks are really engineered to protect their data. Each file, or group of data is indexed on a special index sector of the disk. The index contains a file name, file location, and file size information. Any location noted on the index is indicated as being occupied.

When you delete files or even when you format the disk you really do not eliminate the data. What you do is turn on a switch the tells the computer that this location, formerly occupied by the deleted file, is now empty. The computer will no longer be able to locate the file and load it. The space now mapped as empty is ready to be filled with new data.

As long as no new data actually replaces the old data, the old file data still occupies the space. The space is simply mapped as empty. Special software can still read the file data. So, this presumably deleted data is still completely available to be restored.

There are only three ways to completely erase data from the disk so that it is no longer recoverable.

  1. You can replace the old files with new data.
  2. You can completely demagnetize the disk, so that the entire disk system including the magnetic structure is wiped out.
  3. You can physically damage the disk by crushing it or drilling holes in it.

If you intend to use the disk drive again, the only way you can permanently remove the sensitive data is by systemically replacing every file with new data. The hard drive eraser goes through every file space and over-writes it with meaningless data, like strings of numbers or characters. In this way the formatting of the disk is not damaged, but the original file information is completely destroyed.

Hard drive erasers of this type are available in more time consuming software form for small-scale use and high-speed digital disk writer form for large-scale use.

Magnetic disks, like hard drives, store data in the form of patterns of molecular polarity of magnetic particles on the surface of the disk. Disk degausser devices use powerful magnetic fields to obliterate and scramble the polarity patterns. These degaussers render the entire disk drive permanently unusable since all the indexing and the formatting patterns are completely removed.

Phiston Technologies has a full range of disk drive products to support large scale compliance with Federal data security standards. Please contact us for more information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *