Eraser 5, best methods


New Member
Before I ask my questions, please let me say this: I have a PC running Windows XP SP 2. Not SP 3. This is no place to go into why I won't install SP 3, so please spare me a dozen replies telling me to 'upgrade', because I won't. In a few weeks I'll have a new machine running Windows 7. Right now, however, I'm stuck
with several Macs and this beast from hell, which will be taking a bullet in due course.

I'll also say that I've been Googling away for some time & can't find anything meaningful.

I have 3 Maxtor 750 GB external hdds. They've been very nice, but I now have 2 larger ones, and want to sell the Maxtors. Before I sell them I want to wipe them. All trace of file names/directory information, the lot. I reckon I could get £30-40 each for them and I want the cash, so a quick trip to the river isn't an option (besides, long-term soaking wouldn't work, would it? I have some old PATA drives I can't connect to anything and would like to dispose of, so if that method would work I'd love to know).

Because I'm using XP SP 2 I have to use Eraser 5.82. So, what's the best way to proceed? I'm sure Eraser 5.82 can do the job, but as the help files point to an faq page for 5 that is no longer online (it seems) I'm asking here. I could use trial & error and then Recuva or Disk Investigator, but that would take several nights per drive and I'd like this done inside a week.

Basically, I'm happy that overwriting once with pseudorandom data is good enough. But:
a/ do I just erase the drive as it is, place the drive in the task list and say erase it all, including free space and cluster tips?
b/ should I quick format the drive, then erase free space (the method recommended when using Eraser 6)?
c/ should I fill the drive completely, then use a or b?
d/ should I delete (or format the drive) or erase every file, then fill with files I don't mind people seeing the names of, then use a or b?
e/ am I just neurotic?

BTW I have considered using a Mac running Leopard to secure erase the drives one at a time(would take 3 nights). But I'm not convinced. Also the Macs are all laptops and I don't like leaving them doing that all night, I fear they'd catch fire or something (this may be e/ again).

Please advise . . .
You need Eraser 5.88, which is still available here. You may find it useful to use the portable version; the interface will be virtually the same as that in Eraser 5.82.

Erasing strategies have not changed much from Eraser 5 to Eraser 6. I suggest explicitly erasing anything you know to be sensitive, quick formatting the drives, then erasing the free (= all the) space. There won't then be any cluster tips worth speaking of, so that option is irrelevant. You can run Recuva to test the erase if you wish, but you should find that the drives are pretty clean.

Hope this is what you wanted.

Thanks DavidHB,

Yes, that's pretty much what I wanted to know -- there's a page on this site says something like 'with Eraser 6, format then erase free space' so I wanted to see if my version was different.

Having said that I decided I was in danger of running out of time (this machine being cranky) so I erased some stuff then formatted and went to erase free space.

I didn't find 5.88 when I was looking, so I'll try that.

Is Recuva best for looking at a drive? I have a version of OnTrack Data Recovery somewhere, but that is slow. I already took a look at Disk investigator, which is useless for my purposes -- can't find deleted data on NTFS, apparently. Time is my main consideration.I really want to sell these drives before buying a new laptop.
Actually it's traces of directory entries I'm most worried about. A long time ago, I erased a drive using Eraser 3 or something. When I ran Norton Undelete afterwards the files were all gone, but the names could be easily read.

It's a serious thing for me, because there's just a chance someone could read enough stuff to damage my business. (If it were just Evil Pirated Mp3s or something I'd just run eraser, then format the drives a few times in different formats and, if necessary, claim that anything anyone could see must have been there when I bought the drives).

Unfortunately I'm on a shoestring right now so it has to be free tools.
The Erase free space command is supposed to clear the unused entries in the File Table.


Just wanted to say thanks for this. I got everything wiped OK in the end.

The drives were pretty well clear, though there were traces of one or two files left. Unfortunately one of those was an email that I wanted completely gone so I had to repeat. Filling the drive with meaningless files and then wiping again worked.

So presumably in an extreme situation, two wipes is best, or perhaps filling with junk, erasing every file, then format and erase free space. Virtually the same thing.

But it works.
david23 said:
So presumably in an extreme situation, two wipes is best, or perhaps filling with junk, erasing every file, then format and erase free space. Virtually the same thing.
Exactly. Actually, the free space erase is a 'filling with junk' process; you don't need to do it twice.

Ah, no. One of the drives was formatted, then 'erase free space' was ran. After running Recuva a few -- 5 or 6 -- files were there as well as all the eraser junk files. They couldn't be read, despite what Recuva said, but I wanted the email header to vanish -- didn't want my enemy to find out who I'd been corresponding with.

(Paranoia? There've been various incidents and at my old address, which was listed online, I twice caught people going through my rubbish. It would only take one person working out who I am on eBay to cause trouble. I wouldn't mind if I were rich and famous, but I'm just self-employed.)

Anyway, that drive was then filled with junk files copied from another drive, then formatted and 'erase free space'd for a second time. That got every trace.
Running free space erase more than once, particularly on a system drive, does seem to work better than running it just once. That is, in effect, what you did. It's probably not necessary in most cases, but in your circumstances I do understand the concern.

Email is a real problem, because the messages are contained in what, for want of a better term, I will call database files. Often, you don't want to delete the email sore, but you do want to be rid of deleted emails. And Recuva is really good at reconstructing them, even from drives that have been formatted. One trick is to delete everything in the email program and then compact the email folders. If you then run Eraser free space erase. the deleted email files are wiped, and you are left with a 'clean' email store.

If you want to get rid of the recovered/unused space erase filenames, just do another quick format. That would destroy the MFT, and since it contains mainly invalid/garbage entries in the first place (thanks to the unused space erase) it should not be much of a concern.

I would agree that system drives are annoying, hence my previous "case study"