SSD Secure Erase (SE)
A Secure Erase (SE) command completely cleans and resets your SSD (Solid-State Drive) to a factory-fresh state of performance.
Secure erasing is where an enthusiast begins anytime they are not starting with a new SSD. Secure erasing involves sending a charge of sufficient voltage to reset all of the bits. After a successful Secure Erase there is no data left on the drive; there is no address table. This state is what we call an FOB state (Fresh Out of Box).
An enthusiast always begins with a Secure Erase; however, the casual user would be fine with a quick format. Executing a quick format, TRIM's (cleans) your SSD without resetting the drive's address table. For formatting instructions, see the "Partitioning" section of this guide.
These days, there is very little reason for an optical drive on your computer, so what we need is an easy way to perform a Secure Erase without resorting to pulling out an optical drive to do it. Certain motherboards have a built-in capability to perform a Secure Erase. However, most motherboards do not have this capability, so we will look to the Secure Erase tool of choice, Parted Magic, to issue the Secure Erase command to our SSDs.
Parted Magic is a Linux-based tool that boots into DRAM, creating a temporary OS environment operating outside of Windows. You can perform a multitude of tasks within the Parted Magic environment, one of which is to issue a Secure Erase (SE) command that will reset your SSD to a FOB state.
First, we will create a bootable USB drive that will allow us to boot into Parted Magic without the need of an optical drive to do it. There are three items we need to create a bootable Parted Magic thumb drive. Of course, the first thing you will need is an unused thumb drive. Just about any thumb drive will work; although, in rare cases, the software will not detect your thumb drive, and you will need to try another thumb drive. The second and third items we need are an ISO of Parted Magic, and the software that creates a bootable thumb drive from the Parted Magic ISO; this software is called UNetbootin.
Both files can be downloaded by clicking HERE.
To create a bootable Parted Magic USB thumb drive, extract the files you just downloaded to your desktop. Insert a thumb drive into a USB port. Right click on the unetbootin-windows-585 file, and run as administrator.
Select Diskimage, ISO, and browse to the "pmagic_2013_08_01.iso" file on your desktop. "Type:" should read USB Drive. "Drive:" should show the thumb drive you intend to use; if not, select your thumb drive. Click "OK".
UNetbootin, will do the rest. When this notice pops-up:
Select "Yes to All". When install is complete, select "Exit."
Now we are ready to boot to Parted Magic and Secure Erase (SE) the attached SSD(s). Reboot your computer, and select the boot device (the thumb drive with Parted Magic)
At this screen:
Push "enter," and Parted Magic will finish loading.
Now you need to momentarily unplug and re-plug the power cable to the SSD(s) you intend to Secure Erase. If you do not hot-plug the drive(s) you intend to Secure Erase, it/they will be inaccessible to Secure Erase, and locked in a frozen state.
Double-click the eraser icon on the desktop. Select "Internal Secure Erase command writes zero's to entire data area" (I know it says it is going to write zeros across the drive, but that's not what happens):
Select the SSD:
Select the default password by pressing "OK."
Select yes to move forward with the Secure Erase.
If your drive is capable of an enhanced Secure Erase, the following screen will pop-up:
Select "No." A standard Secure Erase is better. Depending on the SSD, the Secure Erase will take between one second and two minutes. The estimated time given is never accurate. When the command is complete, the following notice of completion is given:
That's it; you're all done. Your SSD is now in a factory fresh performance state, and is ready to load up Windows. There are other methods/toolboxes out there that will Secure Erase a SSD, but none are as universal and easy to use as Parted Magic. The Parted Magic version we are using for this guide is the latest free version available. We know this version works up to Z87 chipsets. There is a newer, paid version of Parted Magic available that works with chipsets up to X99. Click HERE to purchase.
The paid version works in the same way the free version we demonstrated works. You can use the same version of UNetbootin to create a bootable USB drive.
The procedure on the paid version is as follows:
Momentarily unplug and re-plug the power cable to the SSD you are going Secure Erase. Double-click the eraser icon on the Parted Magic Desktop, and the window above will open. Click the ATA Secure Erase button, and the following window will pop up:
Select your device or devices (the only device(s) not frozen), and click continue. Do NOT select "Enhanced" if it is available. Proceed to the following window:
In the window above, check the "I allow this utility to erase the listed device(s)" box, and then click the "Start Erase" button. The Secure Erase will run for between one second and two minutes.
When the Secure Erase has completed, this notice of completion is given:
Now your SSD is in a FOB state of performance, and is ready to partition. One of the nice things about Parted Magic is it allows you to erase multiple devices at the same time, which is something that BIOS utilities and toolboxes do not allow.
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