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In the absence of physical destruction of hard drives including flash and SSD (since they are often re-used in different parts of the business or re-purposed for donation), the hard drives are securely wiped.

There doesn't appear to be an authoritative answer to whether all drives support DCO and HPA. Based on an article from Aleratec, it suggests that not all drives support DCO and HPA.

If this is accurate, does a secure wipe remove the ability to recover data if using wipe standards such as NIST 800-88?

What tools can be used to assess if a drive supports DCO and HPA? Currently we use Active@ KillDisk.

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I learned that often the best way to sanitize a drive is to use the software tools or guidance provided by the manufacturer. If such a tool is not available, then try hdparm.

sudo hdparm -N /dev/sdX to check whether HPA is enabled or disabled.
sudo hdparm -g /dev/sdX to check number of sectors.
sudo hdparm -Np<MAX SECTORS> /dev/sdX to disable HPA.
sudo hdparm --yes-i-know-what-i-am-doing --dco-identify /dev/sdX
sudo hdparm --yes-i-know-what-i-am-doing --dco-restore /dev/sdX

Make sure the drive is connected to a SATA port directly. (Don't use a SATA-to-USB adapter.)

  • Thanks FPU. Is there the ability to discern if DCO is enabled or disabled? Also what are the implications to HPA being enabled or disabled? Can you please elaborate on the disuse of SATA-to-USB? How does this affect external drives? – Motivated Oct 20 '18 at 19:51
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    Most (if not all) SATA-to-USB adapters cannot deal with the ATA Command Set correctly. (So, the commands don't make it to the controller of the drive.) If HPA is enabled, then you cannot access the sectors within this area. What do you want to sanitize? HDD or SSD? – FPU Oct 20 '18 at 19:55
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    Yes, if you attach a SATA HDD to a SATA-to-USB-adapter which is connected to an USB-port, then most ATA commands will not work. Your best bet is to connect your SATA drive directly to a SATA port on your motherboard. – FPU Oct 20 '18 at 20:24
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    IDE drives are becomming rare. I doubt anyone would want to re-use that HDD. You could do sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdX via USB-to-IDE-adapter (assuming you have such an adapter) a few times. But this zero fill will leave out any HPA. You could also open that HDD with a screwdriver and sand the platter. Maybe you could try to connect your IDE drive to a PATA-to-SATA adapter which is connected directly to a SATA port on your motherboard; disclaimer: i have not tried this myself. – FPU Oct 21 '18 at 15:28
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    I would guess most drives do feature a DCO. Not all drives have HPA enabled and if they do, probably you can disable the HPA. – FPU Oct 22 '18 at 16:42

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