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By Darin at 2004-12-01 16:48
Case:
I have some hard drives that I had donated, on the condition that I zero-fill them. Zero-fill will erase all data on a hard drive, but this needs to be differentiated from a low-level format, which could damage newer (pretty much anything over 512MB) drives. The key is to find a way to wipe the data on a hard drive without destroying the current manufacturer's low-level format. I searched the web and found DOS utilities that sounded like low-level format utilities and usually were vendor specific, but then I ran into some information about using the simple Linux dd command to zero-fill.

Solution:
What you need is a bootable Linux, there are several available, booting a live Linux such as knoppix or even Tom's RTB, a bootable Linux that fits on floppy, but I happened to use my trusty Slackware Installation CD which, during the install, dumps you to a handy root shell for this. When you boot into a command shell, as root, simply pick the drive you want to fill, hda is primary master, hdb is primary slave, hdc is secondary master, sda is the first SCSI drive, etc, and use the command:
Code:
dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda bs=1M
WARNING! This will destroy ALL data on the hard drive, all boot sector info and all data on all partitions. It will not however render the disk useless, you simply have a clean disk that only needs to have partitions created and a new boot sector installed, which will happen when you install any OS including Linux or Windows. This is a good way to clean up any bad partitions, viruses, botched installs or data that you don't want to be seen (OK, it is theoretically possible to forensically retrive data after using this method, but not likely and not doable by the average computer user) and it is simple to do with existing GNU/Linux!

by amfoster on Tue, 2004-12-28 21:22
What's to discuss? dumping /dev/zero to the hard drive will send an endless supply of nothing across the hard drive.

by Darin on Sat, 2005-02-05 09:59
AFAIK This is an automatically generated post when you submit a LinuxAnswer.

As far as what's to discuss, I guess whether others have used it and had success. Personally, I find it's a great alternative to paying for commercial drive wiping utilities.

by Bruce Hill on Thu, 2005-03-10 20:05
Could you explain how doing a low-level format "could
damage newer (pretty much anything over 512MB) drives."

I have used utilities from Maxtor, Seagate, and IBM to do
low-level formats on drives for at least 7 years, and have
never had a single problem. And I've never even seen a
drive of 512MB or under.

In fact, there are at least 4 drives in computers we're
using every day, which are under 3 years old, and all
40GB or above, which have had more than one low-
level format -- and they're all just fine.

by tormented_one on Thu, 2005-03-10 21:06
^^Agreed Doesn't hurt the drives, either in linux or with manufacturer software

by amfoster on Fri, 2005-03-11 20:25
Really the most it does is void the manufacturer's warranty. I had a reason to do a low level format on a hard drive in years. Back in the day of the whopping 10, 20 and 40 MB hard drive days, there may have been a reason. Drives are formatted by the manufacturer, so why would you ever have to do a low level format? I am curious how long it takes. It used to be a nearly all night thing back with those small drives.

by Bruce Hill on Fri, 2005-03-11 20:46
Quote:
Originally posted by amfoster
Really the most it does is void the manufacturer's warranty.
Tim,

I don't know where you got this information, or if that was just a guess. I'd like to see you produce some "evidence" to corroborate that statement; otherwise, you should edit your post appropriately.

About four years ago I had a new IBM hard drive in a RAID array that seemed to be defective, and IBM told me to low-level format both drives as part of the evaluation process before they gave me a RMA number.

I have these tools from IBM, Seagate, and Maxtor. I believe I had the same tool from Western Digital until perhaps 1999 when I quit using WD drives.

I've used a lot of Maxtor hard drives, and their utilities for a number of years now. The reasons to perform a low-level format may vary, but is the safest way to write a drive completely back to zeros if a "zero fill" option is not available.

You can read this page from Maxtor where they suggest a low-level format, and provide the utility.
Quote:
Question
I ran the PowerMax diagnostic utility on my hard drive but the BIOS continues to report a S.M.A.R.T or imminent drive failure. What should I do?
Answer


Problem:
The BIOS and third-party utilities report S.M.A.R.T. errors even when the tests from the PowerMax diagnostic all pass.

Solution

1. It is recommended that you backup your data.


2. Use PowerMax to Low-Level format the drive and re-run tests.

Warning: Performing a Low-Level format on the drive will completely erase all data on the drive. Please backup data before performing a Low-Level format.

3. If the BIOS or third-party utility still reports an error with S.M.A.R.T. after PowerMax tests have passed and you low-level formatted the drive then it is recommended that you replace the drive. For more information regarding warranty please visit the Warranty Information Page

by amfoster on Sat, 2005-03-12 08:17
I retract some of that posting. The proper term would be that some manufacturers will void the warranty. I found about 20 before I quit searching. Try "low level format void warranty" in google for a comrehensive list of web sites supporting my statement. The fact of the matter is DO What You Want. It is your equipment after all.

by Bruce Hill on Sat, 2005-03-12 09:22
Quote:
Originally posted by amfoster
I retract some of that posting. The proper term would be that some manufacturers will void the warranty. I found about 20 before I quit searching. Try "low level format void warranty" in google for a comrehensive list of web sites supporting my statement.
Anyone can post something on the internet, which does not make it a fact. And just because some guy in a forum says "low level formatting voids your warranty" does not make it so.

Five pages into Google <Linux> produced not one single manufacturer link at all. And five pages deep into a normal Google search and I still fail to see one single manufacturer who says "low level formatting voids your warranty."

I did see one post where someone else told a user that low-level formatting voids your warranty, and the user posted back
Quote:
This is odd, everytime i go to RMA a drive to maxtor they suggest to use Maxblast to do this before sending a drive to them?
What I did see from Hitachi's website:
Quote:
Drive Fitness Test (v4.02)
Features:
# Low-level format utility (use DFT Utility option: Erase Disk)
And from Seagate:
Quote:
Formatting the drive
The drive has been low level formatted at the factory. Do not low level format
this drive again unless you need to perform certain diagnostics through the
host adapter. If you decide to perform a low level format, do not abort the for-
mat as this is likely to make the drive inoperable. Protect against power failure
or other power interruptions during the format. It may take up to one hour per
gigabyte to low level format the drive (18 hours). Do not reboot or otherwise
disrupt the process.
Warning. Formatting a drive erases all user data. Be sure that you understand
this principle before formatting any hard disc drive. It is not neces-
sary to format a drive that previously has been used to store data,
unless your intention is to erase all user data.
Note. Seagate is not responsible for lost user data.
which indicates that they do NOT void your warranty for low-level formatting a drive, but DO warn you against stopping before it's through.

And this from Seagate, also:
Quote:
What does "low level formatting" an ATA (IDE) drive mean?

Actually the term "low level" is a bit of a misnomer. The low level process first used years ago in MFM hard drives bears little resemblance to what we now call a "low level format" for today's ATA (IDE) drives. The only safe method of initializing all the data on a Seagate device is the Zero Fill option in DiscWizard Starter Edition.

The Zero Fill option in DiscWizard Starter Edition is the only safe method for use with Seagate hard drives. Some system BIOSs may include a Low Level Format option; use these at your own risk, as this may produce undesirable results.
Still no mention of "voiding the warranty," even though the Zero Fill options are advised over a low-level format by Seagate.

by amfoster on Sat, 2005-03-12 12:28
You said: Anyone can post something on the internet, which does not make it a fact.

I guess there is no practical use for this forum then. I will quit it. You are free to have mt posts removed.

by Bruce Hill on Sun, 2005-03-13 17:02
Quote:
Originally posted by amfoster
You said: Anyone can post something on the internet, which does not make it a fact.

I guess there is no practical use for this forum then. I will quit it. You are free to have mt posts removed.
IMO we should all have some integrity in our posting.
When others read our information, they're tyring to
get some legitimate help.

I've simply asked you to provide some evidence that
substantiates your post. It's not my responsibility to
edit someone else's incorrect posts. I've edited mine,
when it was brought to my attention that what I had
posted was incorrect.

As for the practical use of this forum, that really must
depend upon the quality of the information.


  



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