Wipe external hard disk


New Member
I have an external hard disk that I want to completely wipe. I have formatted it, so at one level, there are already no files on it. How do I use Eraser to completely wipe it?

Have Eraser wipe free space on the drive.

Thanks David. Now I'm getting an error message "I:\System Volume Information did not have its cluster tips erased because of the following error: Access to the path 'I:\System Volume Information' is denied."

I'm running as an administrator in Windows Vista Ultimate. Suggestions appreciated!
You need to delete the System Volume Information folder before you run Eraser. It is a hidden system file, and the best way to access it is to right-click on the drive icon in computer, select properties, then disk cleanup on the General Tab, then cleanup system files. You may also need to turn off System Restore, at least temporarily, to delete restore files. You might find it helpful to search the net for information on System Volume Information and how to delete it, so that you understand the problem; fundamentally this is a Windows issue rather than an Eraser problem.

Thanks David. Did all that but still no luck. Have now posted question at answers.microsoft.com. We'll see what happens!
Please let us know what answer you get.

I've now done some research of my own on this. On Windows 7, you can't delete the System Volume Information folder. At all. Windows just ignores the instruction. Trying to erase it only produces an error report. What you can do is turn off System Restore, and all the restore points and safety copies of files should then disappear. If you enable viewing of hidden system files and folders in Folder Options (Windows will protest; proceed anyway), then look at the properties of System Volume Information, it will show the folder contents as 0 files and 0 bytes. At that point, any error message from Eraser about the folder can be ignored; Eraser should still have wiped the free space.

Thanks David. No answer from Microsoft yet. In Vista, in General Tab on Local Disk Properties, it shows:

Used space: 113,266,688 bytes 108 MB
Free space: 499,934,797,824 bytes 465 GB
Capacity: 500,048,064,512 bytes 465 GB

When you click on Disk Cleanup, Files to delete show as:

Office Setup Files 0 bytes
Recycle Bin 0 bytes

When you select and delete each of those it appears to go through the delete process again, even though both show 0 bytes.

So, I wonder what's in the 108 or 113.3 MB of Used space and in the gap between 465 and 500.0 GB of Free space? I'm guessing the 35 GB is Windows system stuff - presumably the same (except for Windows updates) as when one first purchases a computer with Windows preinstalled? I'd also guess the 108 MB is "cluster tip" stuff which could have some of my stuff in it - unlikely to be usable but who really knows? Are my guesses close to the mark?


Did you look at the properties of the System Volume Information folder?

Yes, that's where I got the info. I'm now trying a deep Recuva scan - if that doesn't find anything should I be happy enough with that?

Later and further edited/updated......

Think I'm probably OK. The "Not Deleted" files, about 25, have system file sounding names, and about 10 of them are zero size. The largest (65 MB) is $Log File. 2 of the others are $Bitmap and $TxfLogContainer0000000000000. The path for the last mentioned file is I:\$Extend\$RmMetadata\$TxfLog\, no paths other than I:\ for most of the other not deleted files.

The other "Unrecoverable" files, about 4,500 mostly have "garbage" names, eg. etilqs_B5427.......... and a path of I:\?\
and a comment of "No overwritten clusters detected."

There also 6 named SYMEFA.DB-journal with a path of I:\System Volume Information\EfaData\, 5 of which have a comment "This file is overwritten with...........". One of the SYMEFA.DB-journal files is listed as Status: Excellent and has a comment No overwritten clusters detected.

So, do you think all "my stuff" is gone?

If it's not gone, someone has to really want your data to go to the trouble of recovering it. Chances are they'd be out of luck after all that effort in any case.

Philosophical point. Security is a game of chance. 100% security is not achievable. Most of us would settle for the high 90s; at that level, even the really bad guys go elsewhere to find a softer target. If I had your results, I'd settle for them.

Hi David

Thanks very much. When I started this process I thought a simple format of a hard disk was enough, so I'm happy I went down this route. I know nothing is for sure, but very much appreciate your assistance. Never heard back from answers.Microsoft except another question asking whether I was an Administrator! Responded yes and haven't heard anything since!

Do you think DBAN would in fact remove all those remaining files? Why doesn't eraser take care of them? What are they and what's in them? Is it possible that sensitive data can exist in those files?
DBAN would certainly take care of the files. But it would 'nuke' everything else on the system as well ...

Eraser's problem is that it is run under the OS that is in use. What we need is a 'boot disk' version of Eraser which can happily deal with all those files that Windows insists on protecting. In part, I think that this protection is spurious. If you do manage to delete your Recycle Bin folders, Windows recreates them, but seemingly without the files that give all the trouble. I don't pretend to understand this, simply to report what is going on.

rgerard said:
Thanks David. Now I'm getting an error message "I:\System Volume Information did not have its cluster tips erased because of the following error: Access to the path 'I:\System Volume Information' is denied."

I'm running as an administrator in Windows Vista Ultimate. Suggestions appreciated!
Usually you can just disable System Restore on the external drive and do an unused space erase, it does the same thing. You are also right that you can't delete the System Volume Information folder.