DBAN 2.3.0 (Darik's Boot and Nuke)

A full review of DBAN, a free data destruction software tool

Darik's Boot And Nuke (also known as DBAN) is the best free data destruction program available, at least among those that erase entire hard drives.

If you're familiar with this sort of thing, grab the program right now for free via the download link below. If not, we recommend reading on to find more about DBAN and how it works.

This review is of DBAN version 2.3.0, released on December 9, 2015. Please let us know if there's a newer version we need to review.

How DBAN Works

DBAN, Darik's Boot and Nuke

DBAN works outside of Windows, or whatever operating system you're running, so it might be a bit difficult for some of you to use if you've never burned a disc or booted from portable media before, but it's not impossible for even a novice.

See our Step by Step Tutorial on Using DBAN to Wipe a Hard Drive or keep reading for our thoughts on this awesome tool and some general advice on using it to erase a hard drive.

More About DBAN

What We Like
  • Small download file.

  • Can wipe the drive that the entire operating system is installed on.

  • Is quick to burn to disc and get started.

  • Supports all operating systems.

What We Don't Like
  • Instructions can be intimidating.

  • Doesn't wipe SSDs.

  • Can't erase certain partitions only (the entire drive is erased at once).

DBAN is designed to wipe all data from a physical hard drive, including all of the drive's partitions. It doesn't matter how many files are on the drive, what types of files exist, what file system the drive was formatted with, etc.

However, DBAN does not work with SSDs. If you have a solid state drive, DBAN will not be able to detect it and so it cannot erase data from it.

If you run DBAN against a hard drive, it will overwrite every single bit of data on it, preventing even the best data recovery programs from extracting anything useful from it.

DBAN can wipe data off a disk using one of the following data sanitization methods:

  • DoD 5220.22-M
  • Gutmann
  • Random Data
  • Write Zero

DBAN is "installed" on optical media, like a CD/DVD/BD disc, or on a USB-based storage device, like a flash drive. Like most outside-the-operating-system tools, you download it as a self-contained ISO image, burn that image to the disc or drive, and then boot from it.

If you plan on booting from a CD or DVD to run DBAN, see our article How to Burn an ISO Image File to a CD/DVD/BD Disc and then our How to Boot From a CD/DVD/BD Disc tutorial for help with getting DBAN to run after creating the disc.

If you don't have an optical drive, or just prefer to use a flash drive, see How to Burn an ISO File to a USB Drive for instructions. You can not just extract or copy the DBAN ISO to a USB drive and expect it to work. If you have trouble booting from the USB drive when you're done, see How to Boot From a USB Drive for a tutorial and some other tips.

Once DBAN's main menu comes up, just follow the instructions on the screen to wipe your hard drive(s).

As mentioned above, if you need some more help, check out our Full Tutorial on Using DBAN which will walk you through every step of the process, with screenshots.

Thoughts on DBAN

DBAN isn't hard to use, so long as you've followed all the instructions for getting it prepared on the disc or flash drive. That said, burning an image file and booting from something other than the hard drive, which is what's normally done, can be challenging. So for the average user, using DBAN can be a little scary.

We don't mean to demonize the fact that DBAN must be run from a disc or flash drive—it's this very "challenge" that enables DBAN to completely erase a hard drive. Many other data destruction programs are operated from inside the operating system, which means you can only erase other drives connected to the computer, or non-operating-system related files on the main drive.

Thanks to the fact that DBAN can completely overwrite every single file on a drive, it's a must-use program if you're selling a hard drive or starting fresh after a massive virus infection.

DBAN is an excellent tool and should be your first choice when you want to completely erase a hard drive. Just make sure you double-check that you're wiping the correct drive!

Given that DBAN hasn't been updated since 2015, it's possible that it won't support some newer hardware. If you find that to be the case, you might try Nwipe, which is a very similar program that's based on DBAN.

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