Hard disks may have several partitions. Windows Vista and above use a small boot partition. This page will show you how to clean a disk to like new. This way it can be used fresh for a clean install of Windows or as a data disk.
Open the command prompt as an administrator then run diskpart and enumerate the disks, the clean command makes it quick. Once you are done, you can use the disk like a new one. The internal front panel dock we use has 2 headers that are connected to port 5 and port 6 on a desktop motherboard. The dock we use in mounted in the front of the chassis of a desktop, which provides easy to use slots. The dock also makes scanning disks for malicious software easier. SSD speeds of over 500 MB/s are possible with SATA 600 which cannot be achieved with USB 2.0.
Microsoft DiskPart version 6.3.9600
Copyright (C) 1999-2013 Microsoft Corporation.
On computer: M5A99FX
DISKPART> list disk
Disk ### Status Size Free Dyn Gpt
——– ————- ——- ——- — —
Disk 0 Online 1863 GB 1024 KB
Disk 1 Online 2794 GB 0 B * *
Disk 2 Online 698 GB 0 B
Disk 3 Online 1863 GB 1024 KB
Disk 4 Online 149 GB 149 GB
DISKPART> select disk 4
Disk 4 is now the selected disk.
DiskPart succeeded in cleaning the disk.
This is the actual output so its easy to see how this tool can quickly wipe a disk to as new condition. When installed as a data disk, Windows will prompt that the disk in not initialized. The menu will offer MBR or GPT. Unless the disk is bigger than 2TB, there is no need for GPT.
Using a second disk for backups makes sense. USB disks are inexpensive, and NAS boxes are very popular.
Malware from a secret Equation Group at the NSA has managed to install Stuxnet class malware into the firmware of the hard disk. The malware hides in the reserved area of the disk and its loaded by the disk controller so wiping the disk does not remove this threat. All makes and models are hard disk are vulnerable including SSD products.
Kaspersky said it found personal computers in 30 countries infected with one or more of the spying programs, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria. The targets included government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists.
In practical terms, disks are not easily attacked. Still there is no way to identify if a given disk has been tampered with. Pay more attention to less exciting, but more probable, risks like being hacked because of bad passwords or an outdated antivirus.
See the security page for free tools to counter these threats.