Normally when I need to erase a hard drive, I use dban. Recently however, I’ve run into issues with dban not detecting disks (I’m guessing it doesn’t support the I/O controller/drivers). While it isn’t as secure, a decent and easy way is to just zero out the hard drive using a Linux LiveCD (besides, if you really want it done securely, physically destroy the drive). Ubuntu is my usual distro of choice but there are tons out there that will work.
dd if=/dev/ of=/dev/sda bs=4096
To get an update on it’s progress, you can signal it from another terminal using
pkill -USR1 ^dd