General Computing
ssd nvme secure-erase
Updated Sat, 24 Sep 2022 03:30:42 GMT

How to securely erase an NVMe SSD that won't boot?

I purchased a Crucial NVMe PCIe m.2 SSD and cloned my old hard drive to it. All of the data is accessible in file explorer, but the SSD has issues (overheats and won't boot) and I need to return it.

I'd like to securely erase my data from it before returning, but I am uncertain how, given that I can only access the SSD via a USB enclosure, and can't actually boot to the device. Here are the approaches I know, and why they won't work:

  1. Use the manufactuer's tool to secure erase or sanitize. Crucial does have software to perform these tasks, but the SSD needs to be installed on the computer (it won't recognize it over USB). Since I can't boot to the SSD, I can't run this tool. I do not think there is a bootable version of Crucial's storage executive software.

  2. Use nvme-cli command line utility and send sanitize commands. Since it's only connected via a USB enclosure, nvme-cli doesn't see it as an nvme device - Q: can I still get this to work somehow?

Any advice is appreciated. I don't care if what I do shortens the life of the device btw - it won't be being resold anyway. I just want all my data gone (and I need it in tact to return, so I can't take a hammer to it...)


  • Install the SSD, then boot Linux with nvme-cli from USB.

  • Since all NVMe SSDs are really PCI Express devices, desktop PCs can have multiple SSDs installed by using simple M.2-to-PCIe adapters, so you can access one SSD while booting from another.

  • With a USB enclosure, using sg3-utils' "sanitize" tool may or may not work, but probably not. (USB storage devices speak SCSI, with the enclosure doing all translation from SCSI to ATA or NVMe, so it depends on whether the enclosure's smart enough to translate the less used commands.) In theory there could be "raw NVMe command passthrough" which nvme-cli could use over USB (like there is for ATA commands over USB), but I haven't heard of such a thing yet.