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Disk editing and consequences

Posted: 01 Dec 2010 21:31
by jackoma
I'm exploring several ways to securely delete information from a USB drive. Format (not quick) looks good so far, but I am considering writing zeros to all the bytes.

What is the worst thing that can happen when you open your physical USB drive (non-read only) in HxD and mess around? Is there risk of permanent damage? Is there data on, say, sector 0 that is essential for the functioning of the drive? Or can I just format the USB drive afterwards for a fresh start?


Re: Disk editing and consequences

Posted: 02 Dec 2010 18:10
by Maƫl
You cannot damage the disk physically. With flash based drives writing wears the drive off, thus you have only a limited number of writes and should avoid writing it too frequently (frequent wipes are probably not a good idea). That applies to any kind of writes, using HxD to edit the disk directly or when editing a file on the drive with any program.

There are drives which have software installed on them to offer special features, like U3 drives or some drives that have software based encryption. Zeroing out every sector will remove all the software/drivers on the drive. Technically there is nothing that would stop you from putting such software back on the drive, but it depends on the manufacturer if they give you the option to do that (it will usually be a kind of special formatting tool).

So, if you zeroed it out and then format it with the built-in Windows tool, it should work again like a normal USB-drive.

Re: Disk editing and consequences

Posted: 03 Dec 2010 00:06
by jackoma
Good point about the drivers. I prefer Truecrypt, so I wouldn't care for hardware encryption. Thanks for pointing out that flash drives can be zeroed and then reformatted without problems.

And thanks for the quick reply man.