A few months ago I picked up a Western Digital external hard drive at Costco since my MacBook’s internal drive was a bit stuffed with digital photos. The WD drive is a pretty nice USB drive and really portable.

The problem?

I started having some intermittent failures on the drive. Since this is where I now keep my wedding photos (backed up somewhere else, of course) I decided to return it before it totally died on me.

I got the replacement drive, packed up the original, and heading to the shipping store…

… where I realized I hadn’t wiped the drive.

While it’s just photos, and none of them are of an embarrassing nature, I still don’t relish the idea of seeing them “enhanced” and posted on MySpace. Lucky for me I use a Mac and safe erasing is an integral part of Disk Utility. I ran the program, clicked the security options button, and chose the 7 times overwrite option.

7x might be overkill for some non-sensitive photos, but I figured it would be a good test to see how long it takes.

The answer is about 7 hours for a 120 GB USB 2.0 external drive. For the record.

Oh well, I guess it isn’t going out today. But I’m darn glad I remembered to wipe the drive before shipping it back. I’d really hate to see any pictures of our cat show up on some sick kitty-porn site.

And I’m really glad Apple makes it so easy. Microsoft also has secure formatting options, but generally you need a third party tool (or write your own script) to get the same degree of security. Unless the data is encrypted, without overwriting it’s pretty likely someone can recover it.

Then again, smashing is probably faster. But Western Digital might not appreciate a smashed return. I’d probably lose my deposit.

(edited 9/10 to add disk size of 120 GB)