The scenario: At work I have to shred data on old PCs (not my main responsibility). What I do is I boot from the Live-CD, choose Try Ubuntu, open the terminal and sudo shred -v -n10 /dev/sda. This way the whole thing takes about five minutes and then I let it run until my shift ends.

Sometimes I have over 20 PC's a day so I would like to skip the CD burning/changing. Also some of the DVD drives don't work. USB's aren't really a solution, I cannot request 25 USB sticks.

Is there a way to boot (not install, same thing like TRY UBUNTU WITHOUT INSTALLING) from network a.k.a. PXE? My vision is to setup a PXE server, connect it to a 24 port switch and attach the clients to the switch.

I managed to setup a PXE server to install Windows or Ubuntu, but what I really need is to be able to just boot the try-ubuntu-method over the network. Full install takes too long and is unnecessary.

Any ideas?


So, I just tried my yesterdays setup with the PLOPLINUX guide to PXE boot. Everything is working how I wanted to. I just PXE-booted a PC into the CLI of PLOTLINUX, hit sudo shred -vf" and the shreding started wohooo...

The guide on their page is pretty good, it's clear, no unnecessery info and I think if I just change the ISO(but leave the name) from whitch it is booting, it might also boot other linux dists.


I'm sure you've figured out by now how to install a PXE system. I want to suggest you use DamnSmallLinux instead of Ubuntu, because it is a really tiny distro, and should take less time to set up on your server.

Also, why not use a command-line only linux distro on the server? That should take even less time to boot, and you could probably set it up so that it boots, then performs the shred automatically.


Do you just need to shred the data and then dispose of the computers or are the hard drives needed after shredding?

If so, you could take the HDDs out of the case and buy some USB to SCSI/SATA connectors, a USB hub and then delete the data on the HDDs. After this, you can dispose of the HDDs the normal way (junkyard) or build them into the case again.

As far as I know it would be very time-consuming to boot Ubuntu via Network. So I would try to take a normal PC, install Ubuntu on it, connect all HDDs to the PC (via above mentioned method), erase the data and then do whatever you want with the HDDs.

Hope this was a helpful answer for you.

PS: Here, here and there you can find some other guides.

  • 1
    Thanks for the tip. We were doing it this way before the company started to borrow equipment instead of buying. This means after shreding the data, the PCs are sent back to another company, so it needs to be put together again. And that of course takes more time than doing it with the CDs like I do now. – Mark Jul 14 '12 at 14:15
  • Those are all guides to setup a PXE server. I've already done it. And all of them talk about the (full) installation of Ubuntu. That takes too long comparing to the option TRY UBUNTU WITHOUT INSTALLING. And thats my point, I just need to boot Ubuntu once (like from the LiveCD --> TRY UB...), shred the data and turn off the PC. – Mark Jul 14 '12 at 14:44

Have a look at DBAN (www.dban.org). It's a bootable iso, and trivial to adapt for PXE. Just don't mess up the dhcp hostlist or you end up shredding the whole LAN :D

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