Wiping hard drives
The Working Centre’s Computer Recycling Project is a bit of a misnomer. Recycling is last in the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle chain, with Reuse normally at the top. We are a bit different than most reuse places in that our donations come about 50/50, half from businesses and various institutions, and half from individuals and families. The kinds of donations we get vary from pristine condition to ‘needs a lot of work.’
In the past we’ve used tools like Darik’s Boot and Nuke to ensure drives are wiped, Gsmartcontrol to look at the shape of the drives, and memtest86+ to test RAM, but lately I’ve been looking at the slew of tools in Phoronix Test Suite. Phoronix Test Suite is mostly a suite of benchmarking tools, but it can do some cool spec’ing and testing as well.
Pictured above is one of the towers we use to wipe hard drives. The unit has 2 PATA connections on the motherboard plus 2 PCI PATA controller cards with 2 connections on each. Since you can have 2 drives on each cable we can do up to 12 PATA hard drives (2 on each of the cables, each card can do 4, and we have 2 cards, so 8 on the 2 cards plus another 4 because of the motherboard pata connections, so 12 PATA drives). The unit also has several SATA connectors.
At one point I also had a SCSI controller card in the unit which would have added up to 15 x 68pin SCSI drives. Of course the computer PSU couldn’t handle all the drives together. I think the most we’ve ever had running was 13… and that was likely pushing the unit.
But back to Phoronix Test Suite. To check out a systems specs run the command phoronix-test-suite system-info the result will be something like:
Phoronix Test Suite v3.6.1
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 @ 1.80GHz (2 Cores), Motherboard: HP 30C0, Chipset: Intel Mobile PM965/GM965/GL960 + ICH8M, Memory: 2048MB, Disk: 80GB Hitachi HTS54168, Graphics: Intel Mobile GM965/GL960 IGP (primary), Audio: Analog Devices AD1981, Network: Broadcom NetLink BCM5787M Gigabit PCI + Intel PRO/Wireless
OS: Ubuntu 12.04, Kernel: 3.2.0-54-generic (i686), Desktop: Xfce 4.8, Display Server: X Server 1.11.3, Display Driver: intel 2.17.0, Compiler: GCC 4.6, File-System: ext4, Screen Resolution: 1280×800
For more detailed information run phoronix-test-suite detailed-system-info and you’ll get a bit more info that includes info like the following (edited here for brevity):
Core Count: 2
Thread Count: 2
Cache Size: 2048 KB
Instruction Set Extensions: SSE 2
AES Encryption: NO
Energy Performance Bias: NO
Phoronix Test Suite can do batches of tests. There are literally over 180 tests divided into Disk, CPU, RAM, System, and Graphics. One of the things we’re looking to do in the future is to benchmark different drives and start putting some results online. We don’t have a lot of drives past 320GB, so most of the results will be restricted to hard drives that are 40-320GB, but will include SATA, PATA, and SCSI.
We have some small 9GB SCSI hard drives that will probably get included in the results simply because we don’t have a huge stock of SCSI equipment. There are both 68pin SCSI drives and 80pin SCA SCSI drives in the shop. No problem hooking up the 68pin SCSI drives, but we don’t have a good small system to put the 80pin SCA hard drives in. There are a couple of monster Compaq servers in the back, but they’re heavy to lug around and they don’t seem to always see our 80pin drives.
If you live in the Kitchener/Waterloo area and you’re interested in getting involved in the project to benchmark the drives please let me know.