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Decommissioning old Macs - Mac Applications & Software

>"Format" _may_ mean writing an initialization value to all bytes of all  Many people refer to these things as "formatting," though strictly speaking, they are not the same. In fact, strictly speaking, formatting is not usually done on an IDE disk drive except at the factory. The process of creating and setting up a disk directory on a disk drive is more properly called "initializing" the disk, not "formatting" the disk. technically speaking, "formatting" a disk is a process whereby sector headers, sector ID marks, interleaving information, sector fill bytes, and similar low-level information is recorded on a disk. Modern ...

  1. #1

    Default Re: Decommissioning old Macs

    >"Format" _may_ mean writing an initialization value to all bytes of all 

    Many people refer to these things as "formatting," though strictly speaking,
    they are not the same. In fact, strictly speaking, formatting is not usually
    done on an IDE disk drive except at the factory.

    The process of creating and setting up a disk directory on a disk drive is more
    properly called "initializing" the disk, not "formatting" the disk. technically
    speaking, "formatting" a disk is a process whereby sector headers, sector ID
    marks, interleaving information, sector fill bytes, and similar low-level
    information is recorded on a disk.

    Modern IDE disk drives can be partitioned and initialized, but they aren't
    formatted by the user. the process of completely erasing all the information on
    an IDE disk is done by "zeroing" the disk--writing binary zeroes in all the
    sector data areas--but this process is not formatting either; the sector
    markers, fill bytes, and so on are left intact.
     

    Absolutely; this takes recovering the information out of the hands of anyone
    without a considerable amount of specialized equipment.


    --
    Rude T-shirts for a rude age: http://www.villaintees.com
    Art, literature, shareware, polyamory, kink, and more:
    http://www.xeromag.com/franklin.html

    Tacit Guest

  2. #2

    Default Re: Decommissioning old Macs

    Tacit:

    Thanks for your reply on this thread:

    in article aol.com, Tacit at
    com wrote on 8/4/03 12:24 PM:
     
    >
    > Many people refer to these things as "formatting," though strictly speaking,
    > they are not the same. In fact, strictly speaking, formatting is not usually
    > done on an IDE disk drive except at the factory.[/ref]

    Right. Many people, and many vendors, perpetuate this confusion by sloppy
    usage -- they hardly ever speak "strictly". 

    Hmmm, not to confuse things (further), but I use the term "low-level
    formatting" to reference what you label "initializing". 

    Right.

    Whacking the sector markers etc., would certainly make data recovery harder,
    independent of what you do to the sectors.

    By the way, disk drive manufacturing is _extremely_ competitive. If there
    really was a significant demand for drives that could wipe themselves
    (toilet image unintended -- sorry), I would expect that this capability
    would be incorporated as a matter of course.
     
    > Absolutely; this takes recovering the information out of the hands of anyone
    > without a considerable amount of specialized equipment.[/ref]

    I think another post on this thread (yours?) gives an estimate for what it
    might take to sniff out a disk, and it is definitely big bucks -- and a
    speculative investment, because recovery of juicy data is by no means
    assured.

    In perspective, it might well be fun to torture some disk platters in new
    and innovative ways to remove all chances that some tidbit might be
    recovered from them -- but, in perspective, the likelihood anyone would
    bother with recovery attempts is very small.

    Unless someone is already interested in your data, in which case you've got
    a lot of problems.

    Thanks,

    Henry

    com remove 'zzz' 

    Henry Guest

  3. #3

    Default Re: Decommissioning old Macs

    >Hmmm, not to confuse things (further), but I use the term "low-level 

    "Low-level formatting" is called "low level" because it writes the low-level
    structures--specifically sector headers and fill bytes--to the disk.

    SCSI hard drives can be low-level formated. IDE hard drives can't; this
    information is recorded when the drive is manufactured, and stays constant
    throughout the life of the drive. (That's why Drive Setup has the option to
    low-level format a drive grayed out when you're formatting an IDE drive.)
     

    Yes, because the operator trying to recover the information would have a
    difficult time locating the data without them.
     

    There is a demand for secure deletion of hard drives; think of the Pentagon and
    the CIA (who will pay a premium for secure computers; remember the "black Macs"
    with Tempest shielding back in the day of the Mac SE?). Problem is, even if you
    use a strong magnetic field to wipe the information, some trace of it still
    remains, owing to the high coercivity of modern hard disk drives.

    Modern magnetic media have high coercivity because the higher the coercivity of
    the medium, the closer together you can space individual magnetic domains, and
    the smaller they can be; high coercivity directly translates into higher
    storage density. It also makes it very difficult to wipe all traces of recorded
    information by any technique short of physical destruction, preferably by
    incineration (which burns the magnetic material right off the platters).
     

    Yep. If someone wants your data, and has the resources to get it, it's very
    difficult to protect it. You'd have to start by shielding your computer from
    electromagnetic radiation, for starters. But that's a whole 'nother ball of wax
    entirely.

    --
    Rude T-shirts for a rude age: http://www.villaintees.com
    Art, literature, shareware, polyamory, kink, and more:
    http://www.xeromag.com/franklin.html

    Tacit Guest

  4. #4

    Default Re: Decommissioning old Macs

    Tacit:

    Thanks for your response on this thread:
    in article aol.com, Tacit at
    com wrote on 8/4/03 6:12 PM:

    <snip>

    <snip> 

    Of course, there are spooks and such who have such requirements.

    I remember a long time ago someone at my place of work convinced management
    that a "free" (for the cost of shipping) surplus computer that was used in
    the MOL (Manned Orbital Laboratory program would be a great bargain. The
    equipment was all Tempest-shielded The shipping cost of what amounted to
    armored enclosures themselves, let alone the weight of computers themselves,
    probably came close to breaking the company.

    But that was a long time ago... No, I don't recall a black SE. I did own a
    white one. 

    I didn't say it would be easy, or fast.

    There's a DOD standard that says to really erase a disk drive "write all 1's
    followed by all 0's followed by ... n times" or something like that
    (right?) and there's no reason that the drive couldn't do it internally.
    It wouldn't be a big deal to do, though you might want to be bit careful
    about the possibility of accidental activation. 
    >
    > Yep. If someone wants your data, and has the resources to get it, it's very
    > difficult to protect it. You'd have to start by shielding your computer from
    > electromagnetic radiation, for starters. But that's a whole 'nother ball of
    > wax entirely.[/ref]

    I'm expect that none one would pay for than a couple of bucks to snoop what
    I've got on my machine. A sobering thought.

    Thanks,

    Henry

    com

    Henry Guest

  5. #5

    Default Re: Decommissioning old Macs

    Henry <com> wrote in comp.sys.mac.system:

    [...]
     

    If that is what the standard says, it is, umm, sub-standard.

    In general, overwriting a file with a fixed pattern is not a good way
    of making sure that all bits are overwritten. There are drives that
    do on-the-fly compression. With one of those, a fixed pattern compresses
    much more than the original data, so it would only overwrite part of
    the original. A random bit pattern (a little longer than the original
    file) is much safer in such cases.

    Anno
    Anno Guest

  6. #6

    Default Re: Decommissioning old Macs

    >But that was a long time ago... No, I don't recall a black SE. I did own 

    The so-called "black" Mac SEs were not really black; they looked just like
    normal SEs. they were "black" because they'd been ordered by the Defense
    Department, and were fully Tempest shielded (AFAIK, the only Tempest-shielded
    computers Apple has ever made).

    A bunch of them turned up on eBay a few years back, sans hard drives. I really
    wanted to get one. :/

    --
    Rude T-shirts for a rude age: http://www.villaintees.com
    Art, literature, shareware, polyamory, kink, and more:
    http://www.xeromag.com/franklin.html

    Tacit Guest

  7. #7

    Default Re: Decommissioning old Macs

    In article <BB545C56.F94C%com>, Henry
    <com> wrote:
     

    No longer. DoD hard drives must be physically destroyed before
    disposing of computers. Many other organizations have similar policies.

    Couple of points to consider:
    1) The "CIA" isn't the only group that has sensitive data.
    Corporations, physicians, lawyers, accountants...

    2) It's not as hard as some of the posters have been saying to recover
    data. Do an internet search for the companies that offer to do it.
    There are many more who DON'T advertise, or don't offer their services
    publicly, for various reasons...
    halliday Guest

  8. #8

    Default Re: Decommissioning old Macs

    Tacit (com) wrote:
    : >Hmmm, not to confuse things (further), but I use the term "low-level
    : >formatting" to reference what you label "initializing".

    : "Low-level formatting" is called "low level" because it writes the low-level
    : structures--specifically sector headers and fill bytes--to the disk.

    : SCSI hard drives can be low-level formated. IDE hard drives can't; the
    : information is recorded when the drive is manufactured, and stays constant
    : throughout the life of the drive. (That's why Drive Setup has the option to
    : low-level format a drive grayed out when you're formatting an IDE drive.)

    Tacit, perhaps you can help me out with a question about this formatting
    topic.

    Back in the good old days of SCSI, several Mac books recommended performing
    a low-level reformat of your hard drive(s) every year for safety's sake.
    Now since IDE drives _can't_ be low-level reformatted, what has changed?
    Does the higher coersivity of the modern media mean that they are less
    likely to have individual bits, most importantly in header blocks, go bad?

    BTW, do you get a piece of the action at villiantees? If so, I'll go buy
    one right now. I've been thinking about the 'sudo rm -R /' anyway.

    Thanks for all your help.

    --Fred
    Fred Guest

  9. #9

    Default Re: Decommissioning old Macs

    In article <aol.com>,
    com (Tacit) wrote:
     
    >
    > Yep; I'm one of the partners, and the designer of all the shirts. :)[/ref]

    Any discounts for members of this newsgroup?

    --
    Never play strip tarot.
    Michelle Guest

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