Data destruction software, sometimes called data sanitization software, disk wipe software, or hard drive eraser software, is a software-based method of completely erasing the data from a hard drive.
When you delete files and then empty the Recycle Bin, you don’t actually erase the information, you just delete the reference to it so that the operating system can’t find it. All the data is still there and, unless it’s overwritten, can be easily recovered using file recovery software tools.
Data destruction software, however, truly does erase the data. Each data destruction program utilizes one or more data sanitization methods that can permanently overwrite the information on the drive.
If you need to remove all traces of a virus or you’re planning on recycling or disposing of your hard drive or computer, wiping your hard drive using data destruction software is the best way to protect yourself.
Data destruction software is just one of several ways to completely erase a hard drive. Also, if a complete hard drive wipe isn’t what you’re after, check out our free file shredder software list for programs better suited for individual file destruction.
Below is a list of the best, completely free data destruction software programs available today:
DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke)
Darik’s Boot And Nuke, usually referred to as DBAN, is the best free data destruction software available.
Data Sanitization Methods: DoD 5220.22-M, RCMP TSSIT OPS-II, Gutmann, Random Data, Write Zero
DBAN is freely available in a ready-to-go ISO format, so all you need to do is burn it to a CD or flash drive and then boot from it. The DBAN program’s menu interface is also very easy to use.
See our How to Erase a Hard Drive Using DBAN for help.
DBAN is an open-source project and a great tool that should certainly be your first choice if wanting to completely erase a hard drive. However, you should know that it does not support SSDs.
Because DBAN works from outside of the operating system, it can work with any version of any OS, like Windows, macOS, etc.
CBL Data Shredder
CBL Data Shredder comes in two forms: you can either boot from it via a disc or USB stick (like with DBAN) or use it from within Windows like a regular program.
To erase the hard drive that’s running an operating system, you’re required to boot to the program, whereas deleting another internal or external drive can be done with the Windows version.
Data Sanitization Methods: DoD 5220.22-M, Gutmann, RMCP DSX, Schneier, VSITR
In addition to the above, you can create your own custom method to include 1s, 0s, random data, or custom text with a custom number of passes.
The bootable version tells you how large each drive is, but that’s about the only identifiable information given, whereas the Windows version makes it easier to know what drive you’re about to wipe clean.
The Windows version of CBL Data Shredder works with Windows XP through Windows 11.
MHDD is another data destruction tool that utilizes Secure Erase to erase both mechanical and solid-state hard drives.
The thing we like best about MHDD is the variety of easy-to-use forms that it’s downloadable in. You can download an ISO file for disc or flash drive booting, a floppy image, the program itself ready for your own boot disk, and more.
Data Sanitization Methods: Secure Erase
There is plenty of documentation, a FAQ, and even a forum for the MHDD data destruction program, all accessible from their download page.
Like the bootable data destruction programs from above, MHDD can erase any hard drive so long as you use a working operating system to burn the program to a disc/floppy/drive.