CBL Data Shredder is an easy-to-use free data destruction program that can be run from both inside and outside Windows, making it a very versatile program.
When run from outside Windows, you can use this program to destroy a hard drive that has any operating system installed to it. From within Windows, this free tool can completely erase any internal or external drive other than the one you’re using for Windows, which is usually the C: drive.
This review is of CBL Data Shredder version 1.0. Please let us know if there’s a newer version we need to review.
More About CBL Data Shredder
CBL Data Shredder comes in two versions, both of which are useful for different scenarios. The first is a bootable program that can be used on a floppy disk or a data disc, and the other is a regular program that works in Windows 7, Vista, and XP. It's also said to run in Windows 8 and 10 (and probably Windows 11), but only if the program is launched with administrative rights.
The bootable program that comes as a floppy disk program or ISO disc image is useful for erasing the hard drive that an operating system is installed to. For example, if you’re wanting to wipe a Linux or Windows hard drive, use this method to boot from the floppy or disc to erase the drive.
The Windows version is useful if you need to destroy all the files on a flash drive or some other connected hard drive other than the one you’re using right now to run Windows and the CBL Data Shredder program itself.
In both the bootable version and the Windows program, the following data sanitization methods are supported:
- DoD 5220.22-M
- RMCP DSX
In addition to the several methods listed above, you can also create your own wipe method be defining zeros, ones, or some custom text that should be used as the overwriting text. You can also choose a custom number of rewrites for a more thorough clean.
To use the bootable program on a floppy disk, extract the contents of CBL_Data_Shredder-DOS-en.zip and open CBL-Data_Shredder-floppymaker.exe, ensuring that the floppy is inserted. The program will place the CBL-Data_Shredder-dos.exe program on the floppy so it can be used while booting up the computer.
Few if any of you probably have floppy drives anymore, so the CBL Data Shredder DOS CD-R Image ISO file is what you’ll want. See How to Burn an ISO Image File to learn how to properly burn that file to a disc, and then see our How to Boot From a Disc tutorial if you need help loading the program once it’s on the disc.
To use it from a flash drive or other USB device, you’ll need to download the same ISO image that’s used for a disc. However, once downloaded, you need to open the file in the Rufus program.
Your other option for making a bootable flash drive version of this program is to extract the contents of CBL Data Shredder DOS CD-R Image.iso using a file extractor program like 7-Zip. Once extracted, you’ll find an IMG file called Boot-1.44M.img in a folder named [BOOT]. Burn this IMG file to the flash drive using Win32 Disk Imager, and then boot from the device to run the program.
The Windows version is easy to use: launch the program and choose Select Disk to locate the drive that should be wiped. Then just pick an erase method and hit Start.
CBL Data Shredder Pros & Cons
There's little to dislike:
- Erases everything on a hard drive
- Bootable options available
- Able to wipe away any operating system
- Can be used from inside Windows
- Not confusing or difficult to use
- Windows version doesn't make you confirm before deleting a drive
- Must enter your email address to get the download links
Thoughts on CBL Data Shredder
There are multiple reasons we prefer some data destruction programs over others. We like a program to be able to erase everything on a hard drive regardless of the installed OS, for it to be easy to use, and for it to support secure and industry accepted erase methods. CBL Data Shredder hits all of these points.
The bootable program means you can delete absolutely everything on a drive, both the bootable version and the Windows version could hardly be easier to use, and the data sanitization methods CBL Data Shredder can use will certainly ensure that no file recovery program can retrieve your deleted files in the future.
Something we don't like is that you aren't asked twice if you want to erase a hard drive when using the Windows version. This means files will begin to be permanently overwritten the moment you press the Start button. The bootable program, however, makes you confirm, which is great.
Also, the bootable program tells you how large each drive is but that's about all the identifiable information you're given. This means it can be a little tricky to know which drive you really want to destroy and which you want to keep.
Some of the program text in the Windows version might be in German, but because so little of it is, we don't see it as a huge problem. The cancel button, for example, is in German but it's the only button that's clickable while files are being wiped, so it's really not hard to miss.