How to Securely Wipe an External Drive

Digital devices come and go, and they will fail sooner or later. External hard drives made by Lacie, Western Digital (WD) or Seagate are most popular these days in the market. I’ve used both brands, one for backing up my Mac data, one for storing precious pictures shoot by my digital camera.

I’d say you can’t rely on too much on such external drives mainly for reliability concerns, and eventually, you’ll need to get a new one like I just got a shiny SSD (solid-state drive). Now, what are you going to do with your old external drive? Throw them away, re-sell them or donate them to a charity if you are generous.

Anyway, before you hand them over to the new owners, make sure you do one thing — wipe your external drive clean.

Why do you need to securely erase your external drive?

Simply put, you don’t want the new owners to have access to your data.

But hold on, are the files still recoverable even if you delete them or format the device? Yes, they are, technically. When you delete a file or format the external, the file is not really deleted. It’s similar to the situation when you empty Trash on Mac, the items are not erased immediately. Instead, only the references to the file are removed from the file system, but the real data retain 100% intact provided that they are not overwritten. If that is the case, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you can rely on data recovery software or some forensic tools to recover the data.

That’s why you need to securely wipe out the entire drive. But how? The best way is to a drive wipe software like Stellar Wipe (Mac), which is capable of shredding files and rewriting lots of zeroes and blank data to your external drive to overwrite the original data (i.e. the file you want to permanently delete).

In case you need, here’s a quick tutorial on how to use the app to wipe your WD or Seagate hard drive.

Step 1: Connect your external drive to your Mac. Make sure the device can be properly detected.

Step 2: Now get Stellar BitRaser and install the app on your Mac. Launch the software, you’ll see the main screen like this.

Step 3: click “Drive Wipe” option to continue. Now in the panel, select the disk that represents your WD or Seagate. Click “Continue” to proceed.

Step 4: Select an appropriate algorithm. Note: technically choosing any of them is okay. If you are paranoid, select a higher standard to ensure maximum erasure. But it would take more time as well.

Step 5: Click “Continue” again and wait until the wiping process is complete.

Whoa! Now you’ve managed to get it done. Next, carefully clean the device and put it into the original package box (if you have). Then hand it over to the new owner with confidence. Because no one can see or retrieve your personal data.

Leave a Comment