What Is GOST R 50739-95?

Securely delete data with zeros and random characters

GOST R 50739-95 is a software based data sanitization method used in some file shredder and data destruction programs to overwrite existing information on a hard drive or other storage device.

Erasing a hard drive using the GOST R 50739-95 data sanitization method will prevent all software based file recovery methods from finding information on the drive and is also likely to prevent most hardware based recovery methods from extracting information.

several pencil erasers

The Russian GOST R 50739-95 data sanitization standard, incorrectly called GOST p50739-95, doesn't actually exist, but a method by that name is often used in data destruction programs.

GOST R 50739-95 Wipe Method

The GOST R 50739-95 data sanitization method is usually implemented in one of these two ways:

First version:

  • Pass 1: Writes a zero
  • Pass 2: Writes a random character

Second version:

  • Pass 1: Writes a random character

One major difference between the GOST R 50739-95 method of erasing data when compared with others, is that it's not a requirement for there to be a "verification" pass after the information has been overwritten.

All this means is that the program using the wipe method can still claim to have used GOST R 50739-95 even if it doesn't double-check that the data was actually cleared away.

However, any program using GOST R 50739-95 can verify the overwrite if it chooses to; this is usually an option in data destruction programs and file shredders.

Free Software That Support the GOST R 50739-95 Method

There are plenty of free applications that can use a specific data wipe method to overwrite files and make it much harder, if not impossible, to recover by the average person. A few of these support the GOST R 50739-95 method, but before deciding, first identify what you want to delete and how you plan on deleting it.

For example, if you just need a simple file shredder that can delete specific files and not necessarily entire folders or hard drives at once, Delete Files Permanently is one that supports GOST R 50739-95. So too can Eraser and Hardwipe.

The latter two, plus Disk Wipe, are useful if you do need to erase all the files in a folder or erase every single piece of data from an external hard drive like a flash drive, or another internal hard drive.

However, you need to take a whole different approach if you plan to erase all the files on your primary hard drive; the one that you're using right now. This is because you cannot run software on the same hard drive that you want to erase.

For that, you need a data wipe program that runs before the operating system starts. That is, one that you can boot to from a flash drive or disc instead of your primary hard drive. That way, you can erase every single file that would normally be locked or in use while the hard drive is active.

CBL Data Shredder is one example of such a program. However, unlike the tools mentioned above, this one doesn't include GOST R 50739-95 as a default option. Instead, you must customize the passes to make the first one write zeros over the data and the second write random characters (the two passes that define the GOST R 50739-95 method).

See How to Change the Boot Order in BIOS if you need help changing which device your computer boots to, something that's required if you plan to run CBL Data Shredder.

Most data destruction programs support multiple data sanitization methods in addition to GOST R 50739-95. This means you can use the same software to utilize the DoD 5220.22-M, Gutmann, and Random Data methods, for example.

Hard Disk Scrubber is another tool that can overwrite individual files using the GOST R 50739-95 method, but you have to build the custom passes yourself like with what's required with CBL Data Shredder.

More About GOST R 50739-95

There actually never was an official GOST R 50739-95 data sanitization method (nor was there any GOST p50739-95 method). There is a GOST R 50739-95 document, which I discuss below, but the document does not specify any data sanitization standard or methodology.

Regardless, the implementations I mention above are labeled as GOST methods by most data destruction programs.

ГОСТ P 50739-95, translated as GOST R 50739-95, is an originally Russian outlined set of standards designed to protect against unauthorized access to information. The full text of GOST R 50739-5 can be read (in Russian) here: ГОСТ Р 50739-95.

ГОСТ is an acronym for государственный стандарт which means state standard.

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