Overwriting Hard Drive Data: The Great Wiping Controversy

  • Craig Wright
  • Dave Kleiman
  • Shyaam Sundhar R.S.
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 5352)


Often we hear controversial opinions in digital forensics on the required or desired number of passes to utilize for properly overwriting, sometimes referred to as wiping or erasing, a modern hard drive. The controversy has caused much misconception, with persons commonly quoting that data can be recovered if it has only been overwritten once or twice. Moreover, referencing that it actually takes up to ten, and even as many as 35 (referred to as the Gutmann scheme because of the 1996 Secure Deletion of Data from Magnetic and Solid-State Memory published paper by Peter Gutmann) passes to securely overwrite the previous data. One of the chief controversies is that if a head positioning system is not exact enough, new data written to a drive may not be written back to the precise location of the original data. We demonstrate that the controversy surrounding this topic is unfounded.


Digital Forensics Data Wipe Secure Wipe Format 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Abramowitz, M., Stegun, I.A.: Handbook of Mathematical Functions. Dover, New York (1965)zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Amit, D.J.: Field Theory. In: The Renormalization Group and Critical Phenomena. World Scientific, Singapore (1984)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Braun, H.B.: Fluctuations and instabilities of ferromagnetic domain-wall pairs in an external magnetic field. Phys. Rev. B. 50, 16485–16500 (1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Brown, G., Novotny, M.A., Rikvold, P.A.: Thermal magnetization reversal in arrays of nanoparticles. J. Appl. Phys. 89, 7588–7590 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bulsara, A., Chillemi, S., Kiss, L., McClintock, P.V.E., Mannella, R., Marchesoni, F., Nicolis, G., Wiesenfeld, K. (eds.): International Workshop on Fluctuations in Physics and Biology: Stochastic Resonance, Signal Processing and Related Phenomena, p. 653. Nuovo Cimento 17D (1995)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Carroll, T.L., Pecora, L.M.: Phys. Rev. Lett. 70, 576 (1993a)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Carroll, T.L., Pecora, L.M.: Phys. Rev. E 47, 3941 (1993b)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Gomez, R., Adly, A., Mayergoyz, I., Burke, E.: Magnetic Force Scanning Tunnelling Microscope Imaging of Overwritten Data. IEEE Transactions on Magnetics 28(5), 3141 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Gammaitoni, L., Hänggi, P., Jung, P., Marchesoni, F.: Stochastic resonance. Reviews of Modern Physics 70(1) (January 1998)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gomez, R., Burke, E., Adly, A., Mayergoyz, I., Gorczyca, J.: Microscopic Investigations of Overwritten Data. Journal of Applied Physics 73(10), 6001 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Grinstein, G., Koch, R.H.: Switching probabilities for single-domain magnetic particles. Phys. Rev. B 71, 184427 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Gutmann, P.: Secure Deletion of Data from Magnetic and Solid-State Memory. In: Proceedings of the Sixth USENIX Security Symposium, San Jose, CA, July 22-25, pp. 77–90 (1996),
  13. 13.
    Hänggi, P., Bartussek, R.: In: Parisi, J., Müller, S.C., Zimmermann, W. (eds.) Nonlinear Physics of Complex Systems: Current Status and Future Trends. Lecture Note in Physics, vol. 476, p. 294. Springer, Berlin (1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Liu, D.: Topics in the Analysis and Computation of Stochastic Differential Equations, Ph. D. thesis, Princeton University (2003)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Mayergoyza, I.D., Tse, C., Krafft, C., Gomez, R.D.: Spin-stand imaging of overwritten data and its comparison with magnetic force microscopy. Journal Of Applied Physics 89(11) (2001)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Moss, F.: In: Weiss, G.H. (ed.) Contemporary Problems in Statistical Physics, pp. 205–253. SIAM, Philadelphia (1994)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Ren, W.E., Vanden-Eijnden, E.: Energy landscape and thermally activated switching of submicron-size ferromagnetic elements. J. Appl. Phys. 93, 2275–2282 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Reznikoff, M.G.: Rare Events in Finite and Infinite Dimensions, Ph. D. thesis, New York University (2004)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Rugar, Mamin, P.H., Guenther, P., Lambert, S., Stern, J., McFadyen, I., Yogi, T.: Magnetic Force Microscopy: General Principles and Application to Longitudinal Recording Media. Journal of Applied Physics 68(3), 1169 (1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Tesla, N.: The Great Radio Controversy,
  21. 21.
    Jiles, David: Introduction to magnetism and magnetic materials, 2nd edn. Chapman & Hall, Boca Raton (1998)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Craig Wright
    • 1
  • Dave Kleiman
    • 2
  • Shyaam Sundhar R.S.
    • 3
  1. 1.BDO KendallsSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.ComputerForensicExaminer.comFloridaUS
  3. 3.SymantecUSA

Personalised recommendations