Yes I have used HDDErase which is the application that calls the internal wipe command of the firmware.
There is no direct route to this command other than using hdderase, and I think a very small (like one other) number of applications that can access this command.
There are some caveates to using it, and yes, you can render a drive useless. Which I have done a couple times. But, if everything goes well, you can be assured that (again, to the best of my knowledge, from the research that I did a couple years ago) all data, including bad sectors are wiped clean.
I have not used it in a long time, but I am pretty sure this Internal Wipe Command is still on every drive sold today. How to REALLY erase a hard drive - Update | Storage Bits | ZDNet.com
What is Secure Erase?
Secure Erase is built into all ATA-compliant disks drives since 2001. This functionality is recognized by the US Government’s National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST) as equivalent to magnetically wiping a drive (degaussing) or physically destroying it. NIST also rates the secure erase commands as more secure than external host-based drive wiping utilities such as Boot and Nuke. Secure Erase complies with HIPAA, Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), and California Senate Bill 1386 for data destruction.
Doing a Zero Fill can be used and is good for the average joe that doesn't really care about wether or not data can be retrieved,but just wants to be secure in the knowledge that most people can't recover the data. Someone getting a hold of a drive that knows what they are doing could still get pieces of data from the drive. Trust me I have researched this.
There are articals out there that talk about even being able to recover data from a shredded drive. Meaning they put the drive through a shredder and grind it down. This is a bit over kill but it has been done according to articles I have read. Or at least theorized. It has been a while since I read anything on this. I did research cause a company I was working for was looking into HIPAA re-certification of HDD's used in the medical field. So they could either resell them or reuse them in other areas of the company. Trust me it is a bigger deal than you think in the medical field for HIPAA among other areas that control sensitive data.
You get hacker eddie that knows how to recover data and a zero wiped drive can give up juicy data.
It all depends on how concerned you are about the data on your drive.
i just put the Internal Wipe command info out here as just that, knowledge, to be taken and researched on further by those interested.