I have assumed for years that a delete/repartition and reformat of a hard
drive will wipe it clean. I’ve done this to web viruses; recently one that put
itself into the drive system folder that couldn’t be removed by Norton or
manually. So my question is does repartitioning and reformat of a drive clean
In this excerpt from
Answercast #10 I look at reformatting and partitioning a hard drive, how
thoroughly it cleans a machine, and the effect this will have on your
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Cleaning a hard drive
The short answer is, “It depends.”
It depends on what you are attempting to do.
A reformat of the drive deletes all the files; which means that any file
that existed on the machine is no longer referenced and all of the data will
(presumably) be overwritten by whatever you subsequently write on the disk.
Partitioning, repartitioning the drive, or changing the partitions (in
other words, if you’re making the partitions smaller or larger) can make it
Reformatting may be recoverable
The problem is that formatting a hard drive may not actually erase the
contents of the sectors. It’s very much like deleting a file.
It would be possible, in many cases, to “unformat” using some utilities that
can do that; or to actually use forensic tools like
Recuva that will allow you to go in and undelete files.
In other words, the free space that you’ve just created could potentially
be analyzed and the files that used to be there recovered.
Recovering from a virus
Now, if you’re looking at this as a way to save yourself from a virus,
formatting is fine. It certainly does this “delete function” that you want.
I know of no malware that comes back from deleted files.
So, in that sense, formatting the hard drive works just great.
Partitioning adds to the mix in that (depending on which partition you are
dealing with) a repartition of the machine – into the same partitions it had
before – doesn’t really change a whole lot. It doesn’t make things more or less
Changing a partition’s size will impact the partition that follows it,
making it less likely to be recovered; but unless you’re actually moving
partitions around on the hard disk I don’t see an advantage to
If you’re really concerned, and I mean REALLY concerned, about making
absolutely sure that not only are the files deleted, but that they are also not
recoverable, then I would look into a tool such as DBan. That will not
just delete the files, but override all the free space so that the files can’t
ever be recovered.
Nothing is going to survive that.