How to Activate Secure Erase in BIOS

Written by heather lindsay
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Secure Erase provides a method to permanently delete data from hard drives by overwriting it with binary zeros. This function has been included with most hard drives since 2001, according to Robin Harris' Storage Bits on ZDNet, though it is disabled in many cases in the BIOS software. The functionality can be activated using the Secure Erase utility developed by the University of California San Diego's Center for Magnetic Recording Research. It is also known as HDDErase and is included on some freeware boot disks, or you can download it free from the CMRR website.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Boot disk with HDDErase.exe

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  1. 1

    Start the computer with the boot disk in the appropriate drive. Set the boot order in BIOS to access that drive first in the boot process so that the boot disk is accessed before the operating system loads.

  2. 2

    Type hdderase at the DOS prompt.

  3. 3

    Type the number indicated in the list of hard drives that identifies the particular hard drive you want securely erased, such as P0 or P1 and press "Enter."

  4. 4

    Type "Y" to enter the options menu.

  5. 5

    Type the number or letter to indicate your selection and press "Enter." For example, 1 to execute secure erase, 2 to execute enhanced secure erase, C to change the active hard drive, or E to exit the program.

  6. 6

    Type "Y" to start the Secure Erase procedure after the program sets the Secure Erase password. The program notifies you of the estimated time for completion, and the start and end times.

Tips and warnings

  • According to the CMRR Readme file, HDDErase locates drives on only the primary and secondary IDE channels. Use with a SATA drive may require configuring the BIOS to detect the SATA drive on one of those channels. To do this, enter the BIOS and change the SATA drive from "enhanced mode" to "compatibility mode," which may also be identified as "native mode" or "IDE mode." If none of these options are available, then it is not supported by the BIOS.
  • HDDErase, or Secure Erase, can only be used on SATA/ATA hard drives, not SCSI or USB.
  • If using this on a laptop, make sure there is enough power to complete the process, as interruptions from loss of power cause the system to lock up.

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