Fitlet - How To Secure Erase SSD

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hassellbear
Posts: 106
Joined: Mon May 28, 2012 12:25 pm

Fitlet - How To Secure Erase SSD

Post by hassellbear »

Overview

Many Solid State Drive Manufacturers recommend performing a Secure Erase prior to re-installing an Operating System or if drive performance issues are encountered.

Solid State Drives (SSDs) utilize NAND flash memory as the storage medium. NAND flash memory cells must be empty before data can be written to them. Non-empty cells have to be erased before they can accept data, and doing this on the fly decreases drive performance. Manufacturers use techniques such as building in extra capacity (over provisioning) and garbage collection routines where uneeded blocks of memory are consolidated and erased. However, these methods aren't perfect and over time perfomance can suffer.

Techniques used for Hard Disk Drives such as re-partitioning and formatting aren't completely effective at refreshing a SSD as they do not operate at a low enough level to erase all memory cells. In order to clear all cells and refresh the SSD, you can use the Secure Erase Command which is contained in the firmware of all modern ATA drives.

Here is one way of performing a Secure Erase on your Fitlet's SSD.

Things You Will Need

1. Fitlet's Internal SSD - Removed from Computer
2. An external USB to mSATA SSD adapter/enclosure
3. A suitable software package for accessing and executing Secure Erase (I am using the Linux based package Parted Magic configured as a bootable USB flash drive.)
What You Need.gif
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Last edited by hassellbear on Sun May 31, 2015 12:04 am, edited 6 times in total.

hassellbear
Posts: 106
Joined: Mon May 28, 2012 12:25 pm

Re: Fitlet - How To Secure Erase SSD

Post by hassellbear »

*******************************************************************************************************************************
Caution: Although I have successfully Secure Erased several Solid State Drives, there is always the potential for someting to go wrong resulting in a "bricked drive".

Exercise caution and proceed at your own risk. If you are uncomfortable with this procedure, DO NOT PROCEED.

Also, I recommend all work be performed using proper precautions against damage due to Electro-static discharge.
*******************************************************************************************************************************


Part 1 - Removing the SSD from Fitlet and Installing It in External Adapter

Modern BIOS for x86 systems places ATA drives in a frozen state during the booting process. This is done to prevent certain types of malware from injecting malicious code during booting. Unfortunately, the frozen state prevents access to commands included in the drive's firmware including the Secure Erase command. The simplest way I have found to overcome the frozen state is to remove the drive from the computer, install it in an external USB adapter, and connect the drive to the system only after booting is complete. Another suggested method is to hibernate and re-awaken the computer, but I have never had success doing this.

Here are the steps I used.

1. Invert Fitlet.
Fitlet Step 1.gif
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2. Remove the bottom cover.
Fitlet Step 2.gif
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3. Detach the Bluetooth/WiFi adapter and gently move it to the side.
(Remove 1 machine screw, unplug from edge connector, and leave anntenna leads attached)
Fitlet Step 3.gif
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Last edited by hassellbear on Sun May 31, 2015 12:06 am, edited 5 times in total.

hassellbear
Posts: 106
Joined: Mon May 28, 2012 12:25 pm

Re: Fitlet - How To Secure Erase SSD

Post by hassellbear »

4. Remove the SSD.
(Remove 2 machine screws and unplug from edge connector)
Fitlet Step 4.gif
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5. Disassemble the USB to mSATA adapter.

Fitlet Step 5.gif
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6. Install the SSD in the USB to mSATA adapter and re-assemble.

Fitlet Step 6.gif
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Last edited by hassellbear on Sat May 30, 2015 11:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

hassellbear
Posts: 106
Joined: Mon May 28, 2012 12:25 pm

Re: Fitlet - How To Secure Erase SSD

Post by hassellbear »

7. Connect the USB-mSATA adapter to the host PC.
Fitlet Step 7.gif
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Part 2 - Secure Erase Fitlet's SSD


Here are the steps I used


1. Boot the host PC in the Parted Magic Linux Environment and select the Erase Tool

PM.png
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2. Select Internal Secure Erase
PM Step 2.png
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Last edited by hassellbear on Sun May 31, 2015 12:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

hassellbear
Posts: 106
Joined: Mon May 28, 2012 12:25 pm

Re: Fitlet - How To Secure Erase SSD

Post by hassellbear »

3. Select the correct drive for erasure.
Exercise caution - verify you are about to erase the intended drive.
PM Step 3.png
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4. Accept the default "null" password.
PM Step 4.png
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5. Read the Warning !!!
(There is a chance you may brick your drive - although I have done this many times with no problems)
PM Step 5.png
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hassellbear
Posts: 106
Joined: Mon May 28, 2012 12:25 pm

Re: Fitlet - How To Secure Erase SSD

Post by hassellbear »

6. Select "No" when given the option to use Advanced Secure Erase - Don't Tempt Fate !
PM Step 6.png
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7. Hopefully, at this point, you have successfully completed a Secure erase of your SSD. Your drive is now restored to factory performance and state.
PM Step 7.png
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8. Re-install the SSD into Fitlet and re-install the Operating System
Last edited by hassellbear on Sun May 31, 2015 12:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

Arwen
Posts: 145
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2011 10:43 pm

Re: Fitlet - How To Secure Erase SSD

Post by Arwen »

Linux users,

Note that the default for Linux EXT4 file system creation on a SSD that supports
TRIM / DISCARD, is to use that support to clear the partition before starting the
make file system.
man mkfs.ext4
...
discard
Attempt to discard blocks at mkfs time (discarding blocks initially is useful on solid
state devices and sparse / thin-provisioned storage). When the device advertises
that discard also zeroes data (any subsequent read after the discard and before write
returns zero), then mark all not-yet-zeroed inode tables as zeroed. This significantly
speeds up filesystem initialization. This is set as default.
...
This may not be as clean as a manual clear of the entire SSD, but in practice should
work pretty good. Especially since Linux users with SSDs should be using a TRIM /
DISCARD aware file system like EXT4 or BTRFS.
Arwen Evenstar
Rivendale, Middle Earth

hassellbear
Posts: 106
Joined: Mon May 28, 2012 12:25 pm

Re: Fitlet - How To Secure Erase SSD

Post by hassellbear »

Hello Arwen,

You make a good point concerning Trim/Discard. In most cases it is probably unnecessary to Secure Erase newer drives coming out of Trim enabled systems. However, since even with Trim enabled there are subtle SSD performance losses over time, I opted for a complete reset as a personal preference.

One thing is for sure, reliance on Trim lets one avoid all the fuss and hazards of disassembly and reassembly required for a Secure Erase.

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