Take the 2-minute tour ×
Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What procedures do people follow before recycling or disposing of old PC's?

Do you:

  • Remove the hard drive
  • Damage it beyond repair
  • Use a tool to completely wipe the hard drive. If so, which?
  • Other

Is the hard drive the only component that you "cleanse"?

share|improve this question

11 Answers 11

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I like Darik's Boot And Nuke for wiping hard drives.

share|improve this answer
Making the dban image bootable via pxe makes things easier (old computers can have flaky cdroms and such). Just be very careful which machines you wipe... –  Koos van den Hout Oct 16 '13 at 11:07

You could use Gutmann method to wipe your hard drive. The shred program from GNU coreutils implements this.

share|improve this answer

I typically remove the hard drive. Alternately, I have used dd to copy /dev/null over the drive. If I had known about shred then I would instead have done

shred /dev/sda
shred /dev/sdb

from a rescue disk, but I only learned about that command in someone else's answer above. Hard drives are cheap enough, however, that I have typically just removed and disassembled the hard drive. (I like strong magnets, grin.) Since I'm not worried about the NSA trying to recover data from my drive, just wiping with dd

dd if=/dev/null of=/dev/sda
dd if=/dev/null of=/dev/sdb

from a rescue disk is sufficient for my worries.

There is no reason I can think of to cleanse anything other than the hard drive. However, I will sometimes reset the BIOS back to defaults just to put it in a known state for the next person. In case, for example, they want to change the RAM and my overclocked RAM settings don't work for their new RAM.

share|improve this answer
And there you have the reason why serverfault works. You not only provided some knowledge for somebody else but also learnt something new yourself :-) –  nzpcmad May 1 '09 at 3:55
This is incorrect, reading from /dev/null won't give you anything. If you want to read "null" data (zeros), use /dev/zero, if you want random data use /dev/urandom. By the way, for random data it seems that using shred is way faster than dd'ing /dev/urandom on the drive. –  André Daniel Jun 18 '14 at 21:33

there's a linux tool you can use called shred so I suppose a

shred -uf /*

would do it.

share|improve this answer
No, you need to do "shred /dev/sda" or whatever device you're working with. –  Chris Jester-Young May 1 '09 at 3:17

While I like shred, DBAN and dd... There is a problem deleting the data in sectors that were remapped by the drive itself. They would not be overwritten by the above utilities. Fortunately there is a way to tell the drive to do the destruction.


share|improve this answer

Remove hard drive. Load gun. Fire.

And yes, the hard drive is the only component I'd 'cleanse'

share|improve this answer

Turns out completely wiping the drive doesn't require writing over the data 10 times. Hurray for research. That being said, I still like DBAN for ease of use.

share|improve this answer

Just wipe the drive and sell it on Craigslist. Even if it's an old POS, it can make a good video player or footstool.

share|improve this answer

I've always liked BCWipe.

share|improve this answer

Avoid BCWipe - everthing it deleted, recuva could recover.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.