User Guide

Version: 4.1.2 (Maverick Mackerel)

Getting Started

Hardwipe is a data sanitization utility designed to permanently erase (or "hard wipe") data on disk and portable storage media, ensuring that discarded, but sensitive, information can never be recovered by someone else.

It supports the following sanitization tasks:

The software runs from within the OS and is designed to be a convenient on-demand data sanitizer, rather than a bootable utility.

Sanitization Schemes

Hardwipe supports all major sanitization schemes in common use throughout government agencies around the world.

Additionally, verification can be performed for any scheme. When selected, an additional read-back pass is performed as part of the wipe process which verifies the values written by the last overwrite. Any verification errors will be reported in the audit log and on task completion.

Hardwipe Screenshot

Right-click Context Menus from Windows Explorer

Explorer Context Menus

Hardwipe supports integration with Windows File Explorer, so that right-clicking on a file or drive items shows relevant Hardwipe sanitization commands. See right.

Note. These context menus are available only with the installer based edition of Hardwipe. They are not supported with the portable edition.

Sanitization Tasks

Wipe Volume

Wipe Logical Volume

When wiping logical drive volumes, Hardwipe will open the raw volume and overwrite all accessible storage, including the volume's file system. Therefore, the drive volume will need to be re-formatted once wiping is complete. Typically, it may take several hours, or longer, to wipe a large drive, depending on the chosen sanitization scheme.

Multiple volumes can be selected when using Hardwipe as a standalone application, and they will be queued and wiped in sequence. You will not be allowed to select the volume on which the OS is hosted (the option will be greyed out).

Where multiple volumes are hosted on a single device, overwriting at this level allows for volumes to be wiped individually, leaving others intact. Where possible, however, it is recommended that the entire device be cleared using "Wipe Physical Device", rather than wiping its accessible volume(s).

Wipe Device

Wipe Physical Device

Use this command to overwrite all accessible storage of the physical device, including all partition and volume information. Therefore, once wiping is complete, it will be necessary to initialise the device before it can be re-formatted and used. Typically, it may take several hours, or longer, to wipe a large drive, depending on the chosen sanitization scheme.

Multiple devices can be selected and they will be queued and wiped in sequence. You will not be allowed to select the device on which the OS is hosted (the option will be greyed out).

Important. This operation is not available as an Explorer context menu. You must run Hardwipe in standalone application mode to access it.

This feature is only available as an professional upgrade option.

Wipe Files

Wipe Files

The "Wipe Files" command overwrites only those file items you select. You can select a combination of files and folders using either the right-click context menu command from Explorer, or from within the standalone Hardwipe application. When wiping folders, Hardwipe will recurse down sub-folder trees as necessary in order to overwrite every file item. Hardwipe will also attempt to destroy the filenames of files and folders by randomly renaming them multiple times prior to removal.

This feature offers a convenient way to wipe data on-demand, and files will generally be unrecoverable using common "undelete" utilities. However, caveats apply for modern journalling file systems and SSDs when subjected to laboratory level analysis. For increased security, it is always better to wipe the entire device rather than individual file items.

Clean Space

Clean Free Space

The "Clean Free Space" command overwrites previously deleted files that, although no longer accessible by the file system, still physically reside on the device. It does not delete existing file data.

Free space cleaning is performed at the file system level. Hardwipe creates a number of large dummy files on the drive until it is completely full (it does not delete any existing data). As the free space on the drive gets less, smaller files are created until Hardwipe can no longer create even a zero sized file. Once the drive is completely full, all dummy files are removed.

Wipe Recycler

Wipe Recycler

Running this command will overwrite items held in the Windows recycler bin(s).

To wipe the contents of the recycle bin on all fixed drives, simply right-click on the "Recycle Bin" in Explorer or on your desktop, and select the Hardwipe "Wipe Recycle Bin" option. You can elect to purge the recycler with either normal user or admin/elevated privileges. If you use admin privileges, all files in the recycler will be erased, including any files moved their by other users on the system.

Behind the scenes, Windows maintains separate recycle bins on each fixed drive volume (not including USB storage devices). Right-clicking on a drive in Explorer allows you to wipe its recycle bin independently of other drives. You can also wipe the recycle bins using Hardwipe in standalone mode. In this case, bins are selected separately, and you can simply select them all to wipe everything.

Note that wiping the recycler can sometimes be a lengthy process, as large amounts of remanent data can accumulate there over time.

Audit Logging

Audit Log

Clicking the "Log" button on the Hardwipe main window will display the results of the most recent tasks in an audit log tool window. This lists all files removed and records any issues encountered. See right.

The audit log is normally cleared and re-started on every wipe task, but its behaviour is configurable from the options window.

Special Features

Auto-Shutdown

During a prolonged wipe task, you may wish to leave your computer unattended and have Hardwipe shutdown it down (or log off) automatically when it has finished. In this case, simply select an auto-shutdown option on the main window at any time before the sanitization command completes. Ensure that you save any work and quit other foreground applications.

In the event the task does not fully succeed, computer shutdown will not occur, so as to give you the opportunity to see that a problem was encountered and review the audit log window.

If you change your mind at any time prior to the job completing, you can simply de-select the shutdown option to prevent shutdown from occurring.

Speed Setting

The speed setting allows the disk writing speed to be reduced. Lowering the write speed on lengthy tasks may improve the computer's responsivity if it is being used for other tasks.