What is the best and safest software for formatting drives such as usb and hard drives?

sparky6112

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Hello community. I'm trying to format my usb pendrive with one of those softwares which do offer low level options like Gutmann, DoD or filling with zeros to wipe all data.

I used Active DVD tools on Windows XP SP3 for years, but I always had the problem that happened after formating my pendrives they were not recognized by the OS and asked me to format again using Windows tool, which I did for FAT32 and hopefully they could be used again.

However a while ago I tried to do the same for an old pendrive on Windows 7 but the software freezed and rendered the drive unusable. Needless to mention that such drive was working just fine, but it seemed the software did satured the chip or overused during the process as it felt hot on contact after the attempt.

After such experience I'm looking for other options which could be safer, cover all the basics and be less consuming of resources i.e RAM, CPU and so on. Therefore, is there any recommendation on an utility which can do low level format and then format exFat, FAT32 or NTFS and creating a partition preferably open source or any at a reasonable cost and good reputation?

On my own I did a quick search and it gave me Eraser (which I'm not sure if it is a format utility) and Rufus which some user has complained about making unusable some of his pendrives. But since I have no experience with these can somebody recommend other tools? If possible one which do offers some graphic user interfase or an easy to use or to understand command line.

The program I'm looking for must be compatible with Windows from XP to onwards with x86 technology and 32-bit or it could be from Windows 7 as this is the one I'm using.
 

WyomingKnott

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The answers are completely different for pen drives and hard drives.
For modern hard drives, they will do a complete secure self-erase if you send the ATA command Secure Erase. You usually have to boot into a utility do do this; I use Parted Magic. SSDs self-clean in under a minute. Hard drives can run for hours, since a good erase calls for several passes of writing different patterns - not just zeros.

For pen drives, I can't help you.
 

sparky6112

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Thanks for the feedback hopefully more answers can come in and will solve the part for the pendrives. Regarding Parted Magic I don't think that will help me much as the software is linux distribution only (from what i'm understanding). Probably could exist an option for Windows other than the utilities offered by that OS and those which i mentioned in my earlier post?.
 
Why you need to format your hard-drives "low-level"? And what is wrong with the FORMAT utility available in every Windows since 1.0? Combined with FDISK / DISKPART - everything is cleanable / formattable.

And for me, "Safe" and "Format" should never be used in single sentence ;)
 

sparky6112

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Because for security purposes I feel it is more safe to the environment where I work with. Although I've read that even though information can be "recovered" after those methods, it is also true that such "recovery" is not that easy. As I mentioned in my post, I do not want to use the utility offered by Windows because it does not cover the "low level" option and also I'm looking for a software which can deliver more flexibility and options to customize, although in this case there aren't many other than partition.

I've got what you mentioned, but the remark was about a software which is less prone to freeze or consume lots of resources. This also reminds me that Active tools asked the user to write a confirmation message before perfoming the low level format. But i want to stay away from that software for now.
 
"Low-level" format of hard disk stopped to be "low-level" since IDE disks replaced XT/AT hard drives in early '90s. Since then, all what "format" does is to write zeroes, FFs, or any other random stuff using standard Disk I/O calls.

If you really want to do low-level format, you'll need special, hardware-dependent utility made by hard drive vendor.

As for "security purposes": For what I know, "secure" environments use shredders for low-level formatting ;)
 

WyomingKnott

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Not that this answer is useful, but Parted Magic is a boot environment. Boot from CD or thumb drive. So it doesn't matter what OS you normally run.

I came across a really nice answer to your question. Use a whole-drive encryption utility for the thumb drive, set the password to some long random string, and forget the password. I'm not linking to the particular post because it refers to using a self-encrypted device. You could use BitLocker, but it was added in Windows 7. Whatever you do, it will be a long and expensive operation due to the nature of the flash memory, its organization, and the controller's lack of a Secure Erase command.

You can borrow a Mac and do a format with the Erase option in the Disk Utility.

My personal solution to this issue is fairly expensive. It involves rendering the device useless (which you have indicated that you don't want) using a hammer.

EDIT: I have had good results with other free tools from Easeus in the past. Their Partition Manager has an option to wipe data with multiple overwrites. I can not endorse either the particular software or the method for clearing a thumb drive, though.
 

sparky6112

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From different sources I have checked it seems that you're right, but it does not cover about pendrives. At this point maybe I'm mistaken the term, but when does those options such as Random data, DoD and Gutmann applies?. My requirement is to "secure" erase all the contents by formatting the drive (pendrive or hdd) some softwares out there claim to use different methods but this could be false, not sure about that. Is there any software that you recommend or endorse any product from good results?. Yes or no?.

I don't know if it does really worth responding to the last sentence but it is clear my intention is to reuse the drive later, and yes I know that some environments rely in the destruction of the device, but I already mentioned in my post that I don't want this.
 

sparky6112

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Thanks for offering me that solution. But I cannot use a Mac at the moment. I've forgot to mention Easeus also is troublesome in my PC and I'd like to stay away from that particular software, at this point it looks that there aren't any other options.
 

USAFRet

Splendid
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What is the actual threat level if you just Format it in Windows?
If the USB once had sensitive data, AND it is likely to fall into the hands of the NSA...just put it in the shredder and get a new one.

Otherwise, just format the thing and use it.

For hard drives? DBAN should do the trick.
 
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