Question: How do I destroy an old hard drive?

To my fellow bloggers and readers…

Please tell me what method(s) you recommend to destroy and old hard drive?  (leave comments below)

Recently a friend consulted with me and was asking for suggestions to destroy an old hard drive (see below)

In my bookcase I found an old Seagate 20 Gigabyte hard drive left from an old computer I had. I don’t want to just toss it in the trash because I think it can still be used by someone to get personal info of mine off of it.  The only way I know of to destroy it is to put it on top a couple of bricks and whack it with a large ball-peen hammer. Another way, I think, is to disassemble it and take the disc out and cut it up. What suggestions do you have?  Appreciate your help.

I applaud my friend for even giving thought to this. I have personally seen people dump their PC’s and hard drives, without giving thought about the data. From my experience, you would not believe the data I personally have come across on secondhand PC’s and hard drives.

My solution to this problem was to destroy the drive, as he had mentioned; and drill holes into the platters to make the drive unusable. Typically degaussing or shredding (with supporting certification) are ultimate solutions; however, cost could be a deterring factor for the everyday home based computer user. There are software solutions, as well, to remove data…

Please let us know your solution to this problem by commenting below.  Thank you !

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18 thoughts on “Question: How do I destroy an old hard drive?

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  1. I use DBaN if you can still hook the drive up to a PC: http://www.dban.org/download

    It randomly writes 1’s and 0’s across the entire drive completely preventing somebody from being able to retrieve information off of the drive.

    Otherwise, we recently got a degausser at work that is pretty nice. It takes about 20 seconds per drive and I went through about 200 drives at one time that normally would have taken at least a week to DBaN. I wrote about that experience here:
    http://404ts.com/a5

    Beyond that, my best recommendation would probably be a drill press. For the ease and completeness, you put enough holes in the drive and nobody will be able to read it.

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      1. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you the price. It was purchased by another unit. The Proton 8000 was definitely in the thousands but the website doesn’t confirm a cost. Like you said, degaussers are cost-prohibitive.

        They do have a “wand” on their site that promises degaussing capability though that should be considerably cheaper.
        http://www.protondata.com/products.htm

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      2. Jason,

        Thank you very much for sharing this information with everyone. I know when I was doing IT, I wished I had a degausser at times. Would have definitely been a timesaver.

        Rick

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  2. If the hard drive is still hooked up, derik’s boot ‘n nuke works nicely.

    If the hard drive is sitting outside the machine, um, well, it is the 4th of July ya know!

    Wrap a good amount of gunpowder and the hard drive in some tinfoil, little trail of gunpowder leading to the subject, light…RUN!!!!!!!!!!

    We used to make some pretty cool bombs back in the day!

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  3. Rick,

    I just completes testing a number of consumer grade wipe utilities, and while these utilities did in fact delete files, in many cases the the folder and file names were recoverable. This could be an issue in some cases.

    Physical destruction it seems to me, is the safest approach. Unless, of course, one has access to a degausser as in Jason’s case.

    Bill

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  4. What a great topic, and I am delighted to see this being discussed. I would like to add that folks should, IMHO, apply this caution to any device that has “memory” — smart phones, for example.

    … a while back I was goofing around on YouTube (gasp!) and searched for “destroy a hard drive”. Some rather .. creative “instructional videos” are there..

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  5. Depends what’s on the drive. Wipe it all you want but there are companies out there that can recover the data. If it’s your old English 101 papers… no big deal. We have have a physical HD shredder that turns the drive into unrecognizable bits of shrapnel. We just shredded 907 drives for a customer yesterday right at their loading dock. There are other companies out there that offer this service. We operate in the Minneapolis area.

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  6. Since the HD is the oldest recording technology as in prox 1950 or 60’s – it’s magnetic platters, which I’m sure most techs know. So, just use a large magnet which scrambles the magnetized data in the drive. A large magnet will most likely make the HD enclosure magnetized as well which will render the drive useless.

    Just don’t later put that drive close to one you intend to use.

    A friend who does minor level pc repair sold a pc to someone who kept returning it because it would not boot and he was tired of repairing it (reloading XP Pro). In questioning him, he finally said the guy had a small magnet on the side of the case to hold notes.

    Magnets are cheap on the internet or just an old high power large speaker magnet left for a few hours.

    Ken

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    1. Kcs3295,

      Hmmm… I have heard of the magnet theory, as you described; however, I have never tested it out to make sure it works. I’m thinking it would have to be some pretty strong magnets.

      Thanks for your solution…

      Rick

      Like

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