Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Using DBAN for Data Sanitation

If you're getting rid of your PC at home or retiring PCs in the office it is recommended that you first wipe the drive of any remaining bit of information.  I'm not going to debate the merits of method or the other, or if this is even worth while. I'm a firm believer that 99% of the time this tool will wipe your drive and the data will be unrecoverable to most people or attacks.  Personally, I run the PRNG method with 8 passes to overwrite the drives I'm getting rid of.  This is on top of using secure delete methods to overwrite individual files as I delete them on my PC in day to day operations.

If you're very paranoid anyhow, you should be using something like Truecrypt to encrypt everything at rest on your hard drive, and possibly even a hidden encrypted volume inside of that.  Even here, I would wipe a drive when I was done with it.

The first thing to do is to download the ISO image from Then you will need to burn the ISO image to a CD. (A quick Google search should get you some results.)

Once you boot your PC with the burned image you should come to this screen.
Initial Boot Screen
If you hit the F2 key you will see this screen.
DBAN About Page
Hitting F3 will get you this screen.
Quick Commands
F4 will get you to this note about RAID devices.  Remember always dismantle your RAID volumes before wiping them!
A message about RAID devices
If you hit enter on the Initial Boot screen you'll end up here in Interactive Mode.
Interactive Mode
In Interactive Mode you can choose which Pseudo Random Number Generator to use. You have two choices (Mersenne Twister and ISAAC, but I go with Mersenne Twister, but apparently ISAAC is more secure.
Pseudo Random Number Generator (Mersenne Twister) explanation

Pseudo Random Number Generator (ISAAC) explanation
If you need to quickly zero out a drive, such as before re-installing Microsoft Windows or for some other reason this option is for you.
Wipe Method (Quick Erase explanation)

Wipe Method (RCMP TSSIT OPS-II explanation)

Wipe Method (DoD Short explanation)

Wipe Method (DoD 5220.22-M explanation)

Wipe Method (Gutmann Wipe explanation)

Wipe Method (PRNG Stream explanation)

Verification Mode (Verification Off Explanation)

Verification Mode (Verification Last Pass Explanation)

Verification Mode (Verification All Passes Explanation)

Changing the number of rounds
Something to note, if you have multiple drives installed and selected for wipe (from Interactive Mode) they will wipe in parallel.  This can speed things up significantly if you have a lot of drives to wipe
Running in parallel
When DBAN has finished you'll come to this screen. If you don't have a Green pass next to each disk you wiped it may be a failed disk.
All Done!

After running DBAN a few times you should become comfortable with the different options and what they do. I started out running in interactive mode all of the time, but now when I get to the Initial Boot Screen I simply type prng (Which used the prng method with 8 passes and verification on the last pass) and let it go to town.  I only do this however on machines where I want to wipe everything.  For safeties sake I always physically disconnect drives I do not want to wipe.


Justin said...

Be careful, as it will overwrite any flash drive you've inserted. Even it you're running the program from a bootable flash drive!

Thankfully I keep backups of my flash drive with Microsoft's Flash Drive manager tool.

Steve.Lippert said...

You're correct. I only use a bootable CD to start DBAN, so this isn't a concern for me. You can use interactive mode to select which disks you wish to sanitize.