- The Washington Times - Monday, March 2, 2009

With spring cleaning around the corner, some computers that retain private information such as legal documents, corporate data, credit card and Social Security numbers may wind up in the trash or on the secondhand market, prey to scavengers.

But there are ways to completely erase data from a computer before it is thrown out, said Dan Ackerman, senior editor of consumer information for CNET.com.

CRU-DataPort WiebeTech, a Wichita, Kan., manufacturer, offers the Drive eRazer in 2007. The Drive eRazer uses a single-pass mode to write over every piece of information on the drive, leaving nothing behind to recover. Erasing a 250-gigabyte hard drive takes about two hours.

“The average person can use this for their computer,” said Jon Johnson, executive director and marketer of CRU Data-Port WiebeTech. “It’s super easy to use, no operating system is involved, it protects data, and you can…walk away from it [and leave it unattended].”

Dong Ngo, a senior technology editor of CNET.com who has reviewed the device, agrees.

“The Drive eRazer is very simple,” he said. “All you do is plug it in, turn it on, and wait [for the device to erase information].”

The Drive eRazer overwrites information from a computer hard drive and does not require a computer to do so. All that is needed is the computer’s hard drive, which the Drive eRazer plugs into. In comparison to software programs, which can tie up the computer and slow it down, the Drive eRazer erases hard drives as fast as they are made to perform. Additionally, the device does not require an upgrade as computers do.

Once information has been completely erased from a hard drive, the Drive eRazer can be used again on other machines and does not destroy the computer or the hard drive in the process.

Consumers may believe that simply deleting information from a computer will dispose of it completely. However, that is not the case. Whenever information is deleted from a computer, it remains in computer storage. The computer’s directory listing becomes altered and is made to “forget” that the files exist.

“When you delete a file, you are erasing the flag pole of that piece of information, which tells the computer what that piece of information is and where it is located,” Mr. Ackerman said. “What happens to deleted information on a computer is like a file in a drawer without a tab — you may not be able to locate the file right away, but it’s still there.”

Destroying the computer is no different. Hard drives are built to be exceedingly tough, so even a computer that has been in a fire or a flood can reveal its contents.

The standard version of the Drive eRazer sells for $99.95. Is it worth the price?

According to Mr. Ackerman, it depends. For a business that wants a convenient solution that requires no computer, the Drive eRazer is a good deal. The average consumer, however, can download a free or less expensive version of a software-based program that will generate the same results as a hardware-based version. Although the process of cleaning out the computer is slower, the time invested insures that the drive is being overwritten several times so information won’t be retrievable.

However, there is an even easier way to get rid of sensitive data: Remove the hard drive when disposing of the computer.

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