How to use DBAN

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Before discussing DBAN (Darik's Boot And Nuke), let me briefly mention how a computer writes data in the hard disk, what "delete" really means, and how data destruction software permanently and surely removes data from a computer's hard disk.

A computer turns every bit of data (whether text, music, photo, video or whatever) into a set of zeros and ones and stores it in its hard disk that way (0's and 1's) when you save something (a file). When you open that file again, the computer retrieves those sets of 0's and 1's, interprets them, and presents them to you in the same manner as you as you saved them, ie, text, music, photo, video, etc.

What happens when you delete a file from your computer? By deleting a file, you are actually just deleting the switch that is necessary for easy retrieval of the file. The actual data stays in the hard disk and can be retrieved by data recovery software until such time when those sets of 0's and 1's are overwritten by another set of 0's and 1's.

Data destruction software writes a series of 0's and 1's on the entire body of the hard disk covering up the entire space available on the hard disk - whether empty or containing data. Thus any data that were on it gets covered up with a new series of 0's and 1's making it impossible for even the data recovery software to retrieve (find) any data. Not only that, data destruction software gives its user the choice to specify the number of passes to make. That means you can ask it to write 0's and 1's any number of times you want (just to be doubly sure!) Usually 3 passes are considered by the industry to be safe enough. But for computers containing highly sensitive data (like the computers of the United States defense department) more passes are recommended (7 for US defense department) before they are disposed off. One has to always consider existence of highly skilled and highly resourceful hackers!

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Okay, now let's jump into the topic of this chapter - how to use DBAN.

DBAN is a freeware which comes as an ISO file. An ISO file is simply an image file of several files and folders packed in a small package. Download the ISO file from here and save it in your computer.

To use DBAN, you will have to first burn DBAN into a CD. Burning ISO files into a CD is a little tricky. Your computer's regular CD burner cannot do the job properly. You need a special ISO burner which luckily can also be downloded for FREE from the Internet. There are many ISO burners available but I strongly recommend that you get Free Iso Burner from here. Free ISO Burner is a stand-alone program meaning it does not need any installation. After downloading it, just double-click on it and it will open - ready to do its job!

A few quick notes: 1. Both DBAN and Free ISO Burner are very small files. They download very quickly and occupy very little space in your computer's hard disk. 2. Free ISO Burner download page (hosted by SoftSea.com) might lure you to download something else. Don't click on anything. Free ISO Burner downloads automatically in a few seconds. Keep an eye on your monitor's lower left corner. You will see it is downloading. 3. Free ISO Burner works on Windows XP and all later versions of Windows and can burn ISO image files on CDs, DVDs, and BDs. Use the smallest capacity disc (CD) to burn DBAN to avoid wastage.

Here is what Free ISO Burner looks like when first opened:

how to use dban

After opening Free ISO Burner, insert a blank CD in the drive. Click the Open button next to the long, empty space under the ISO File section, near the top of the program. (Please see the screenshot above.) When the Open window appears, locate and select DBAN and hit Open to confirm your selection. Once back on Free ISO Burner main screen, make sure the drive info already written under Drive is in fact the correct drive where you have inserted the blank CD. You can safely skip the Options offered below the Drive area and just hit the "Burn" button at this stage.

how to use dban, how to use free iso burner

Free ISO Burner will start burning DBAN on your CD and will show you the Progress made. It takes just about a minute or two to burn DBAN on a CD. When finished, the CD will automatically eject from the drive. At this time, you can close Free ISO Burner.

Note: If you downloaded DBAN as a ZIP file, you must first unzip it to find the ISO file inside it. You have to burn the ISO file (.iso) into a CD to use it. Please look at the ISO File name in the above screenshot.

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The next step is to use the DBAN CD you have made to wipe your computer's hard disk clean. Before you proceed, please make absolutely sure that you have saved everything that you need from this computer elsewhere (ie, external hard disk, flash drive, CD, DVD, etc.) or already transferred them to your new computer. Because once you use DBAN to wipe data nothing can be recovered. They will be gone forever.

It is really easy to use the DBAN CD to wipe your computer's hard disk clean IF your computer's BIOS is set to look in the CD/DVD drive first when starting up. Some computers are set up that way by the manufacturer. If so, when turned on, the computer first looks for any bootable disc that may be in that drive and boots up from it. If not, it boots up from the hard drive where your operating system (Windows) is located.

But many computers are not configured that way by the manufacturer and they boot up from the hard drive only. In that case, you first have to tweak the computer's BIOS to make it boot up from the optical (CD/DVD) drive. But how would you know in what way your computer has been configured by the manufacturer?

Simple. Just insert the DBAN CD in the drive and start (or restart, if it is already turned on) the computer. If nothing happens and Windows loads up as usual, it will indicate that you have to change the system BIOS. Sounds like a big deal but it is not. Here is how:

Start or restart your computer and within 2-3 seconds, just as soon as the computer manufacturer's logo show up, press and hold a special key (usually F2 or F12 but may be different for your computer - please read the User's Guide for your computer) until you see a different screen (not your usual Windows logo). If regular Windows loads up again, that will indicate you did not press and hold that special key soon enough. Restart the computer and try again.

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Here are some pictures showing my computer's boot sequence changing steps:

how to change boot sequence
Step 1
I have chosen to modify Boot Sequence from the left column.

how to change boot sequence
Step 2
I have selected the CD ROM Drive in the #1 position from the right field.

how to change boot sequence
Step 3
After confirming my selection, I have chosen to Exit Setup.

I cannot remember off hand what this special screen will say but your goal will be to come to that screen where it will ask if you want to change the computer's boot sequence. Of course, you do. Everything comes with instruction or a brief description. Just READ CAREFULLY what it says and follow instructions. Boot sequences are numbered. You will most likely see that the hard drive is listed in the number one position. You have to bring the CD/DVD (optical) drive in the number one poition and the hard drive in number two position by using the Up/Down keys. When successfully done, you have to CONFIRM and SAVE that setting before you exit that BIOS setup screen probably by hitting the Esc button or the space bar, but please read instruction on the screen. (Please note that you can keep this booting sequence permanently as the new configuration of your computer. Just don't leave any bootable disc permanently in that drive so that Windows can load up from the hard drive regularly without any problem. I prefer it that way so that I don't have to tweak the system BIOS everytime I have to use a bootable disc.)

Your computer will now boot up from that DBAN disc if you already have it in the drive. If not, insert it in the drive and restart your computer.

This time DBAN will open up. Everything is pretty automatic. Unless you have a special need, you don't have to change anything. Just select the drives you want to clean. DBAN can clean out drives of any attached peripherals too such as external hard drives, tablets, cameras, camcorders, smart phones, etc. In my case, it was just the hard drive I needed to clean. DBAN is automatically set to "dodshort" which cleans out the ENTIRE HARD DISK. You don't have worry about which partitions of the hard drive to delete. Unless otherwise selected, DBAN automatically makes 3 passes which is considered suffient for home computers.

Again. please read DBAN's opening screen to learn more and to make sure everything has been chosen as per your need. When satisfied just press Enter. DBAN will begin wiping your hard disk. You will be shown a progress screen along with the time remaining to complete the job. For desktop computers, the average time needed is 4-6 hours depending on the size of your hard disk. For laptop computers, the job is usually completed in 3-4 hours.

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Here are some pictures showing the DBAN screen at various stages of work:

how to use dban
DBAN opening screen.

how to use dban
Available/Not Available drives to clean. Notice the Method is already selected as "DoD Short". (Upper left side of the screen.)

how to use dban
Using the K key (see instructions on the bottom of the screen), I came down to my computer's hard disk.

how to use dban
By pressing the Space bar, I selected my hard drive to wipe. Then I pressed F10 to Start wiping.

how to use dban
This photo shows DBAN has just begun its work. Only 00.21% done. Pass 1 of 3 (Writing).

how to use dban
This photo shows DBAN has made much progress. 69.11% done. Pass 3 of 3 (Blanking). Time remaining 01:41:45. (See Statistics in the upper right side of the screen.)

how to use dban
DBAN successfully completed the task. My hard drive has been wiped clean. The Errors shown on the screen are not really errors. I had nothing attached to my computer. I had nothing else to clean.

Please share this page with someone who might be benefitted from this DBAN tutorial. Just press the Share button on the Charms Bar of your Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 computer. Thank you.


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