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I've used Eraser in the past, and recently became aware of the cipher command in Windows 8. Specifically, with the /w flag:

/w removes data from portions of the volume it can access and have not been allocated to files or directories. It does not lock the drive, so other programs can obtain space on the drive, which cipher cannot erase. Because this option writes to a large portion of the hard volume, it might take a long time to complete and should only be used when necessary.

When running it, I see it taking 20 minutes to write 0x00, another 20 writing 0xFF, then a good deal longer writing random numbers (all via the command prompt).

I'm a little confused as I've read conflicting information as to whether or not these "eraser" type methods are needed anymore with TRIM-enabled SSDs (which I'm guessing mine is).

Basically I'm deleting a bunch of old data before a laptop gets sent to the charity bin, and just wanted to do it the best way possible since I have no idea who's using it next.

I considered using dban, but right off the bat it says:

No guarantee of data removal (e.g. DBAN does not detect or securely erase SSDs)

I've looked at some other answers, but they seem ~3 years old and I know things might have changed in that time.

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  • Can you provide details on which type of drive? Certain controllers are better known and have been properly shown in tests for secure erase where others fail.
    – user84662
    Jan 1, 2016 at 19:33

1 Answer 1

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There is an ATA Secure Erase specification for SSD drives. Not every drive and not every operating system supports this. The secure erase is a method that tells the SSD to clear all the memory cells simultaneously. This erase method, instead of over-writing the memory cells, will tell the SSD to mark every memory cell as clear. This saves the drive from the additional damage of extra write operations. This is also secure, in that data recovery services will not be able to recover the data.

Secure erase implementations are available for Linux and there are many tutorials: SSD Secure Erase and SSD memory cell clearing.

An overview of secure erase for windows is available. Cypher aparently does not work. However PartedMagic does implement secure erase. Some vendor's SSD drives will come with a vendor-specific implementation of secure erase.

This is related to another question about secure delete on SSDs: Can wiped SSD data be recovered?

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