Breakdown of the various sanitation methods

Method Description Limitations
Clear Uses software or hardware to overwrite storage space on the media with non-sensitive data. Data in bad tracks or sectors will not be overwritten and may remain recoverable. Margin data may remain after completion of process, and could be recovered in a lab environment.
Purge Includes degaussing and Secure Erase (for SATA, ATA and IDE drives only). Degaussing exposes the magnetic media to a strong magnetic field to disrupt the recorded magnetic domains. Secure Erase purges data at rates as fast as 17 minutes per 100 GB. Degaussing: Mechanical components and circuit board may be disabled before media is purged. Media could be removed and recovered if not properly processed; not a green solution; degaussed devices are not reusable.
Destroy Includes disintegration, pulverization, melting, incineration and shredding. Effective physical destruction technology typically requires installation in an environmentally isolated location; typically not well suited for most offices; not a green solution; shredded media should be of a diameter smaller than a single 512K Block; typically less than 1/125 of an inch.

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This was first published in January 2008

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