I have a ProLiant server that has Windows Server 2003 on it, on a hardware RAID 5 setup. The machine is taking up a lot of space. I want to completely wipe the drives of all data, operating system, etc., and sell the machine.

How would you recommend wiping the server?

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    Sell the machines without drives. – pkhamre Oct 23 '12 at 6:16
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    The fact that this is a ProLiant system with a hardware RAID controller (and a unique block device driver) is key to this question. This is different than asking how to wipe a desktop drive. – ewwhite Oct 23 '12 at 6:32
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    So I don't mean to be rude, but is it worth the effort of doing this drive wiping, putting an ad on ebay, and then dealing with the shipping/pickup of the item for the $50 you'll get for it? – Mark Henderson Nov 20 '12 at 1:45

Either sell the server without disks or initialize the RAID array from the BIOS-based HP/Compaq RAID utility...

By that, I mean, delete the existing array, reorder the disks, and reinitialize the array as something like RAID 0 or RAID 5. That should be good enough for what you're doing.

The server has a RAID controller, and some of the recommended tools like DBaN will not recognize the Smart Array RAID configuration easily or without modification (see here and here).

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    This is probably "good enough" here, but I'd never be happy with this if I were selling an ex-production server. Anything less than a pass of zeroes (Or ones, or random, whatever!) could still be classed as a potential risk. – Dan Oct 23 '12 at 8:02
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    Then break the array, shuffle disks or write new data to the array... There are secure-erase features in newer ProLiant systems, but nothing that would help the pre-2004 system that the OP is talking about. – ewwhite Oct 23 '12 at 8:42
  • @ewwhite while i need the compaq proliant bios drivers if i delete the raid and reshuffle the drives? – andreas Oct 23 '12 at 9:49
  • No, you won't need any drivers. – ewwhite Oct 23 '12 at 12:26
  • What is the reason that the disks need to be reordered? Doesn't an initialization overwrite the whole drive during the process? – Bigbio2002 Feb 19 '13 at 15:48

The disks should be unbound from the RAID and individually wiped. Anything else requires confidence in the RAID controller's pattern of writing, and they're often "too smart".


You will definitely want to do something to actively erase the drives before selling them. Simply deleting the logical volumes isn't sufficient. There are troubleshooting scenarios in the HP documentation which indicate that you can sometimes recover from an accidentally-deleted logical volume by re-creating it using the exact same configuration parameters. If nothing had modified the data on the platter yet, then the data from the old volume could be readable. It's unlikely that the purchaser of your system would set up a volume that happened to have the exact same configuration as yours, but it's still a real possibility that isn't worth risking (IMO).

If you bought the Smart Array Advanced Pack for your system (and if it's a G5 or newer), you will have access to a feature called "HP Drive Erase" that's designed for this very scenario. The controller will erase your drives by overwriting the data with random data patterns and with zeroes (you can select how many passes to make) and will optionally delete your volumes once it completes. This is probably the easiest way to go, although it's not necessarily the fastest.

If your particular drive model supports it, you can use the "Secure Erase" ATA command to instruct your disks to erase themselves (similar method via DOS instead of Linux). This is my favorite method because it is extremely thorough and relatively fast (it can be near-instantaneous on some SSDs). The downside is that there are still some older drives out there that don't support this command. If you go this route, delete your logical volumes before starting the erase operation.


Boot the server from a DBaN CD.

  • Won't work for the Smart Array RAID controller in the system... at least, without fixing the init scripts. – ewwhite Oct 23 '12 at 6:17
  • You can use the NWipe utility to access the core DBaN functionality from any Linux distribution. Running NWipe from a Live CD is often easier than trying to get DBaN to work. – bta Nov 19 '12 at 22:58

Download sdelete from microsoft.com. It's completely secure.

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