For Mac repair shops, enterprise tech support teams, and consultants who need to wipe all data off of hard drives before selling or recycling old Macs, there's now a fast way to erase those drives without tying up a machine for a long time. WiebeTech has a new device called the Drive eRazer Ultra (US$249) that promises to make cleaning those pesky drives a fast and easy process.
WiebeTech provided a Drive eRazer Ultra to TUAW for testing and review, and the device does an amazing job of wiping all of that private or corporate information off of hard drives. In this review you'll read about what makes the Drive eRazer Ultra such a useful device.
To start off with, erasing a computer's hard drive completely usually means that you remove the drive from the computer. Sure, you can boot a computer off of an external drive and then run a utility to do the dirty work on an internal drive, but that ties up the computer for the entire time that the drive is being erased. Using a multiple-pass erase to ensure that your drive is completely unreadable can literally take days if you're using Apple's Disk Utility to do the job, and other software-based erasure methods take equally as long.
The Drive eRazer Ultra erases drives at their maximum write speed, so the job is done faster. WiebeTech says that new drives are erased at 7 GB/minute while older drives will putt along at 7 GB/minute. No computer is required -- you just remove the hard drive, then use the included cables to connect it to the Drive eRazer Ultra. The device has a rocker switch and two-line LCD display for selecting the erase mode and showing how long it will take to the erasure to complete.
There are ten different erase specifications that are supported by the device: a quick erase that just does a single pass writing all zeroes on the drive, a custom erase that can run 1 to 99 passes overwriting with zeroes or a user-selected pattern, Secure Erase N or E that initiates a drive's built-in Secure Erase normal or enhanced function, US Department of Defense "Clear" or "Sanitize" standards, NIST special publication 800-88 "Clear" or "Purge" standards, the Canadian CSEC ITSG-06 data sanitization standard, Great Britain's HMGIS5 "Baseline" or "Enhanced" drive erasure standard, and the Australian government's DSD ISM 6.2.92 data sanitization standard.
If your job requires you to print out labels that describe the details of the erasure (for audit reasons, for example), there's a serial port for Zebra brand label printers. Those labels can then be attached to the drives or to a box or bag used for disposal of the drive.
The Drive eRazer Ultra supports 2.5" and 3.5" SATA drives, 3.5" IDE/PATA drives, and other drives using optional adapters. If you're erasing a 3.5" drive, there's a metal protective plate included that you can screw onto the drive to protect the drive electronics and help dissipate heat.
For my testing, I grabbed a 160 GB Hitachi drive that had previously resided in a MacBook and that was loaded with about 100 GB of video backups. To use the Drive eRazer, you need to plug in a power brick that's about the same size and weight of the unit itself, grab the correct cable (SATA in this case), and make both power and data connections to the drive. Flipping the power switch on the box powers up the drive, and the display shows a command for doing a quick erase.
I chose to look at the drive information screens first, which provide data on the capacity of the drive, the number of bad sectors on it, the number of times that the drive has been powered on and off, the number of times the drive has been stopped and started, and an estimate of the time to do a Secure Erase (enhanced or normal).
The user interface is really quite simple to use, and it took very little time for me to set the default erase specification to "DOD Sanitize." The device warns the user that it will erase all data -- which I thought was silly since that's what the device is supposed to do -- and then estimates how long it will take to perform the erasure.
Sanitizing is "the removal of sensitive data from a system or storage device with the intent that the data can not be reconstructed by any known technique," according to Wikipedia. The DOD Sanitize specification (DOD 5220.22-M) recommends that you "Overwrite all addressable locations with a character, its complement, then a random character and verify" to sanitize information on writable media.
To complete this process, the Drive eRazer Ultra took about 2 hours and 16 minutes. As soon as that was done, I took the same drive and ran it through the "Most Secure" erase option in Disk Utility, which also complies with DOD 5220.22-M. That method took slightly over 8 hours to complete.
This isn't a device that most Mac owners are going to rush out and buy, but for those who are constantly erasing drives, the Drive eRazer Ultra can pay for itself quickly in terms of sheer convenience and time saved wiping data. For those teams and individuals, this is an indispensable device.