LiteOn iHAS 324 DVD burner review

This LiteOn DVD wants to protect your data discs with its 'Smart-erase' function. We see if it works and it its worth it.

LiteOn iHAS 324
Price
£20

Government agencies have a nasty habit of losing discs containing sensitive data. Even if you're not tasked with taking care of state secrets, you'll probably want to limit the distribution of your files so they don't fall into the wrong hands. Whether it's customer data that you're legally obliged to keep private under data protection legislation or confidential information about your own commercial interests, there's doubtless lots of sensitive data you'll want to share with colleagues but no-one else.

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LiteOn's latest DVD writer, the iHAS 324, can not only burn files to disc but also erase those discs once you're finished with them. This SmartErase features relies on the drive's special laser that can alter the surface of a CD-R or a single or two-layer DVD, erasing the contents so they're unrecoverable. It can erase any write-once CD or DVD burnt by any DVD writer, but not commercially produced discs or rewritable CDs or DVDs, which can already be erased using any DVD writer.

To erase discs, you need to install and run the SmartErase program. Annoyingly, to install it you also have to install the included copy of Nero Essentials, even if you already have a disc burning program. Once installed, the SmartErase program has two options quick erase and full erase. The quick erase option merely erases the disc's table of contents, which tells Windows where the files are located on the disc, but not the actual contents of the disc itself. Although this could deter casual snoopers and only takes a minute or two to complete, it's not very secure since data could still be recovered using a file recovery program.

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The full erase option completely erases the disc. Using this option, we were unable to recover any files from an erased disc using GetData's Recover My Files data recovery program. Erased discs appear blank to Windows, but obviously can't be reused.

Unfortunately, completely erasing discs can take a very long time which is especially tedious if you want to erase a lot of discs. Bizarrely, erasing a DVD-R or -R DL disc takes much longer than erasing a DVD+R or +R DL disc, although all times were still quite lengthy. It took 24 minutes to erase a DVD-R and a staggering one hour and 14 minutes to wipe a DVD-R DL. In comparison, erasing a DVD+R disc took only six minutes, while a DVD+R DL disc was wiped in 36 minutes and 10 seconds.

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