Wiping the hard drive before installing the operating system


Many people often think that to have a clean hard drive just repartition the disk and recreate the filesystems. The reality is not so.
For MBR disk partition table, disk partitioning tools like fdisk, cfdisk, parted, and filesystem creation tools like mkfs.ext4 only manipulate the first sector of the disk (sector 0) and sectors beginning from the first partition. We use a USB memory stick to illustrate, the device name is /dev/sdb

This hard disk has one partition starting from sector 63. Thus 62 sectors from sector 1 to sector 62 are not affected by normal disk tools. Even the use of wipefs to wipe all signatures on the disk did not remove the information in these 62 sectors.
This space should have originally been empty. If it does not, we call the disk is not clean to install new operating system.
This happens even if you buy a brand new hard drive, which the manufacturer can code to track equipment or take care of customers. But the risk is that it may be the code of a bootkits root virus.

The solution is to create a file containing all 0 bytes and overwrite that area. The following program creates the file zerodisk.dat containing all bytes 0, which is the size of 62 sectors (1 sector has 512 bytes)

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <strings.h>

int main() {
    FILE *f = fopen("zerodisk.dat", "w");
    char data[512 * 62];
    bzero(data, 512 * 62);
    fwrite(data, 512, 62, f);

    return 0;

Now we use dd to overwrite the file content to the location on the disk, as the root user:

dd if=zerodisk.dat of=/dev/sdb seek=1 conv=notrunc

You now have the necessary empty disk area, feel free to use disk tools and start installing the new operating system. After installing GRUB (bootloader), its image will be safely written to that empty area.

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Don Quinn 3 years, 8 months ago

How to install 6.2 on 4TB gpt drive?

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Tuyen Pham Thanh 3 years, 8 months ago

Mount your target partition as the root partition manually, for example /dev/sda1:
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt
After installation, create fstab:
echo /dev/sda1 / ext4 defaults 1 1 > /mnt/etc/fstab
before restarting.

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