When you get rid of a credit card, you usually don’t want to just throw it in the trash. You will probably burn, cut or shred it first. However you proceed, the important thing is that the card is irrevocably and permanently erased, so your data is safe.
Don’t format your drive quickly to get rid of the information either, because that’s not really how you clean an SSD. And when it comes to formatting an SSD, it can be dangerous to do a full format.
So how do you erase an SSD so no one can recover it?
To securely erase data from the SSD, you must go through a process called Secure Erase using the BIOS or SSD management software.
But to explain how this works and how you can securely erase data, we first need to understand how SSDs work and how the standard format of a hard drive works. If you are already familiar with SSDs and just want to know how to erase an SSD, you can skip the next section.
How an SSD works
Traditionally, the disks are mechanically rotated disks (HDDs). They have magnetic disks, called platters, and drive levers that move across the platters to access the information stored on them.
Because they are mechanical, it is a slow process. The actuator carriers must be moved manually on the drawers to access the memory, which results in a slight delay in data retrieval.
That was handy for a long time and it still is for some types of files, but now we have hard drives with flash memory: Solid State Drives (SSD). So called because there are no mechanical parts that move.
SSDs have made a huge leap forward in storage technology and offer significant read and write speeds.
But how does it work, and why so quickly?
The memory in the SSD consists of tiny transistors and wires that are constantly receiving signals. These signals are converted to 1 and 0 on your SSD. Ultimately, it is these stacks that form the data that is written to the disk.
Transistors are made of cells and cells are made of pages. This is where the data is stored. The more sides the disk has, the more space there is to write data.
You’ve probably been using some form of flash memory for years: Your USB key. USB drives use a similar technology to store information.
This is where we begin to encounter the fallacy :. Formatting erases your data; is not the way to erase an SSD or hard drive.
It removes NOT your data. When you format your hard drive, you are essentially removing the old file system, which tells the operating system where data is stored and tells it where to store future data.
When you perform a quick format, your file system is erased and a new file system is written.
When you do a full format, your file system is erased and a new file system is written. He also checks for defective areas, which takes much longer. This is bad for SSDs because they have a limited number of read/write cycles and the entire format goes cell by cell to write/rewrite data to it.
It comes down to replacing the old data roadmap with a new edition. When you format the file system with a new file system, you are simply telling the operating system that the old data is free space to write new data.
Data is still present, but it is now marked as available for writing new data.
The same thing happens when you delete files from your computer. The data is still there, the space is just considered free space that can be overwritten.
There are many programs and methods to recover data from a formatted drive; it’s really not that difficult.
Secure erasure of data
To securely erase data from an SSD, you need software. In most cases, the manufacturer offers specific software for their brand of disc.
Below are links to software from three major hard drive manufacturers:
The SSD I’m going to wipe today is my Western Digital Blue M.2, so I’m going to use the WD SSD Dashboard program. After that, I will also show you how to use the BIOS to erase the SSD drive (Note: Each BIOS is different and you need to read the manual to find the motherboard settings).
DashboardWestern Digital SSD
The first thing you see after installing the WD SSD Dashboard is the dashboard itself, which looks like this:
You use this toolbar to navigate through the software and to use the various tools and monitors that come with the software. The secure delete option is located in the Tools tab. This will give you a new look with more options.
Select Clear Player from the left-hand menu and follow the on-screen instructions. The drive is then securely erased and you can dispose of it without fear of your data being retrieved.
However, if you see a message that your SSD is in a frozen state, like mine in the image above, you will need to take additional steps to wipe it. Freezing essentially means blocking it from accidental deletion. In this case, you have several options.
SATA SSD erased
If you have a standard SATA SSD drive that supports hot swapping, you can turn off the drive while Windows is running, plug it back in, and the power status should disappear.
M.2 SSD erase
If you have an M.2 SSD, you need to turn off the computer, disconnect the power supply, and then physically remove the M.2 SSD and insert it into the motherboard.
In that case, you may need to boot from a USB drive and securely erase the drive before starting Windows.
On the Tools tab, select Create USB Drive and follow the on-screen instructions. Then click Continue after noting the serial number (for RMA purposes, something happens when the mode is disabled).
Once the creation is complete, plug in the flash drive and restart the PC. You may need to open the boot menu before you can boot to the flash drive. On the MSI motherboard, just press F11 at computer startup.
You may have noticed that it says UEFI and not BIOS. Although we won’t discuss the term in this article, UEFI is essentially an advanced form of BIOS.
Follow the instructions on the screen.
Once the toolkit has completed the process and successfully erased all data from the hard drive, your computer should reboot and you should be left with a blank hard drive with no data to recover.
Safe erase via BIOS
If your BIOS has a safe erase feature, you may not need to load any software (check your motherboard’s capabilities). I am using the MSI X470 Carbon Gaming Pro.
To access this program, you must reboot your computer and open the BIOS (the BIOS on most motherboards can be accessed by pressing the Del key during boot).
Once you are in the BIOS, look for the Secure Erase setting (you will need to consult your motherboard’s manual to find the exact location). Then follow the instructions on the screen. It should be similar to my MSI as shown in the images below:
Securely erasing data can have many benefits. This means that you can throw away or sell your old hard drive without fearing the theft of sensitive information, which is no small matter.
However, if you only want to free up space on your hard drive and the data you want to lose is not sensitive, a quick format is usually the quickest and most efficient way to do it.
Now that you have learned how to securely erase data from your SSD, will you feel more comfortable knowing that your information is out of sight?
Don’t forget to leave your comments and let us know if you have any other questions about securely wiping your SSD!
frequently asked questions
How do I securely erase my SSD?
The label is definitely, uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh.
How do I delete the entire contents of my SSD?
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Does the secure erase feature work with an SSD?
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