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"shred" operates on files (and--I assume--complete directories) "man shred" for details.
For secure erasing of a disk, you need to wipe everything---not just specific files. If you don't want to use something like DBAN, then you can do it manually with dd**. Regardless of the method, it takes time.....
**"Secure wiping" is nothing more than multiple passes using combination of random data, zeros, etc. I'm no expert, but it's hard to imagine anyone easily recovering data after 2 passes: random, then all zeros.
Software like DBAN wipes your drive(s) at the bit level. Not just files or directories. It wipes out EVERYTHING. Boot sector. FAT. Etc. If there is a faster way to kill all the bits on your drives, please let us know. Start it on your computers and let it run overnight.
Just for the knowledge what is the complete to wipe hard disk through dd.
dd if=/dev/zero of=[device]
Where device can be /dev/sda, /dev/hda, etc. If you think overwriting with random data is more secure than zeroing, you can do
dd if=/dev/urandom of=[device]
You might be able to speed it up by adding the parameter bs=1G (read/write 1GiB blocks at a time), I'm not sure. The command shred [device] effectively does many of the above random overwrites, followed optionally by an overwrite with zeroes. This may be overkill though from what I've heard elsewhere.
Don't really see the need for DBAN et al when dd is so simple and comes with every linux distro, but maybe the others have some advantages I don't know about.