May 16, 2005

Wiping Hard Disks with AutoClave 0.3

This is about University of Washington's autoclave, as tested in 2003 on a test PC and on my own (then). It seems to work great, despite being beta. We looked at it based on a tip from another SysAdmin.

Autoclave is built on a stripped-down version of Linux that fits on a floppy and includes everything necessary to completely wipe a hard drive clean. More powerful than Windows format, and free.

Since 2003 we have used Autoclave when retiring old PCs at the Bio-Medical Library. To build this disk (for our Systems staff):

1. Copy directory k:\systools\software\autoclave to your C: drive

2. Put a blank, formatted floppy into your a: drive

3. Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> Command Prompt

4. Within the command prompt (not Windows) "CD \autoclave"

5. Enter the command "rawrite" from within that directory

6. Enter "clave03.img" for the image source file

7. Enter "a:" for the target, then press enter twice

8. In a minute or two the floppy is ready. Type "exit"

Rawrite is a very old and widespread standard tool for creating Linux floppies from a DOS command prompt. After the prompt is closed, remove the floppy and label it "Autoclave" or the like. You can then delete directory c:\autoclave or make more disks.

When using Autoclave here, option 2 (with one random pass) is probably adequate for old "public" PCs, but Autoclave also offers several more exhaustive (and much slower) choices.

I am impressed with how a complete (albeit stripped) Linux fits so nicely on a floppy. Other floppy Linux versions are listed at They include routers, terminal servers, firewalls and toolkits. One should be careful with such freeware (likewise with commercial software).

Posted by tapli005 at May 16, 2005 9:27 AM