Is there any way to write less than the entire drive but still remove any partition, FAT, or RAID volume information?

Yes, but there could definitely be bad consequences of doing so…

First, you would have to know where the FAT or partition information resides on the drive.

Usually one copy of the FAT or partition information is written at the first part of the drive. So if for example you ran a Sequential Write test on the first 1MB of the drive (2,000,000 blocks) you would probably overwrite the first copy of the FAT or partition information. But be aware that most if not all OSs keep multiple copies of FAT/partition information, spread over the full area of the drive. In order to be able to recover if the base FAT is damaged.

So, if you overwrote the first MB of drive, then connected the drive back to the original system it was on, there is a very strong possibility that the OS will still be able to recover the FAT and make the drive mountable again.

But, even if the OS can’t recover the FAT or partition information, just overwriting the FAT does NOT remove the actual user data that the FAT pointed to.This would be the exact same result you would get if you were to use Windows to delete all files on the drive. Yes, the FAT will be empty, but the user data is still resident and is recoverable.

In summary – There are problems with the concept of deleting just FAT, partition, or RAID volume information:

  1. Each OS that creates a FAT or partition may create these structures in different places on the drive. You would need to experiment or be very familiar with each OS that you are trying to work with. It is not as simple as just overwriting one section of the drive.
  2. Most OSs create more than one copy of the FAT or partition info, spread all over the drive. To completely clean the drive of all copies of the FAT information might require 10’s or even hundreds of copies of the FAT to be found on the drive and overwritten.
  3. Removing just the FAT or partition information does not remove the actual user data.

Saving time by trying to just remove FAT or partition information could lead to shipping refurbished drives that still contain original user data. In our opinion this is not an acceptable practice!