What is wipe? - Definition from WhatIs.com
Part of the Computing fundamentals glossary:

Wipe, in a computing context, means to render all data on a hard drive  unreadable. The term is often used in reference to making data stored on a computer, smartphone or tablet inaccessible before disposing of the device.

Although "erase" is often used as a synonym for "wipe," that term is a little misleading -- it isn't possible to actually erase hard drive data. Deleting a file only removes the file listing, which serves as a shortcut. The data is still on the computer and easily accessible to anyone with the right program and/or know-how. The same is true if you reformat a drive.

The most common method of wiping a computer's data is to use a hard drive overwriter product, such as Darik's Boot and Nuke. The more times data is overwritten, the more unreadable it becomes. The most thorough products overwrite each bit with a zero.

The question of whether overwritten data is still accessible is controversial. According to some security experts -- most notably, Peter Gutmann, author of "Secure Deletion of Data from Magnetic and Solid-State Memory" -- an individual with a great deal of expertise and motivation can still access data after a hard drive has been wiped. Some experts recommend that a hard drive should be physically destroyed to ensure that the data doesn't fall into the wrong hands. On the other hand, a NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) publication on the issue states that a single overwrite renders data unreadable.

There are various services and products available to physically destroy hard drives. A hard drive shredder is a mechanical device that physically destroys old hard drives so thoroughly that the data they contain cannot be recovered.

 

This was last updated in June 2012
Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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    Not if you do not know the passwords.If you know what they all are, most of them will let you request a password change if you know the answer to your setup questions.

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    In truth, a hard drive is really never wiped clean by a format, there will always be some bits of data that, with the proper tools, can be reconstructed.  Look what the three letter organizati...

  • How to securely wipe data from a hard drive

    Hey you can erase your all data or format hard drive completely again install windows. Remove all partions of hard drive. You can also took help from tools to erase data securely

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