Top 5 Hard Drive Destruction Methods That Work
Imagine the damage you will have to clean up if some of your old hard drives are stolen by cybercriminals. Apart from your clients withdrawing their trust in your organization, it would cost you thousands to millions of dollars to fix such a situation. This is why you have to invest in proper hard drive destruction methods like hard drive shredding.
In September 2017, Coca-Cola spent a substantial amount (including a potential $1 million each fraud reimbursement) when a bad actor stole old hard drives containing the data of 8000 employees. This could be you too if you don’t get rid of your old hard drives properly. Luckily for you, there are several ways to do this and we’ve highlighted them below:
If you no longer use your hard drives, you can degauss them. This involves using a powerful device known as a degausser. The device uses a strong magnetic force to scramble the hard drive platter. This way, it cannot be used or read by anyone. Since data is stored using magnetic principles, degaussing simply alters the magnetic direction of the drive. While this is one of the most efficient hard drive destruction methods, it has two major downsides:
- You can’t easily use a degausser on your own without the necessary expertise or supervision.
- Unless you plan to destroy hard drives regularly, you may find it difficult to justify the expense involved with buying a degausser.
Since the degausser uses magnetic forces to destroy the hard drive, it is easy to assume that an ordinary magnet might do the same thing. This, however, is not the case. The reason why the degausser is necessary is that it generates a large amount of magnetic energy required to affect the hard drive. You cannot generate the same energy with a magnet from your fridge, or something similar.
Hard drive shredding is one of the most effective ways to destroy a hard drive. It involves running the drive through a machine known as a shredder, which cuts it into tiny bits. Since hard drives store data on a platter, cutting it into small pieces renders the drive and any data on it useless. Some shredders also compress the shredded material into compact forms for disposal. Unfortunately, shredding a hard drive yourself isn’t advisable for various reasons:
- Hard drive shredders and compactors are expensive.
- The Shredding process releases environmental contaminants.
Similar to shredding, mangling and crushing could be other options. What happens with this method is the hard drive is put through a machine that is subject to a blow strong enough that it breaks through the chamber that encases the physical hard drive. This method could be enticing for the simple fact that the machinery used is less costly than most shredders. That being said, shredders can be more effective.
Organizations looking to destroy highly classified information, usually choose disintegration as one of their preferred hard drive destruction methods. The process is carried out using a disintegrator– a machine with a conveyor system and knife that slices hard drives into smaller particles. Malicious actors will not be able to access the drives or data on them because the disintegrated pieces can’t be reassembled. Just like any other method, disintegration has a few drawbacks:
- Disintegrators are heavy and have special electrical requirements (3-phase 220 volts).
- The machines also require heavy ventilation and are not suitable for the office environment. If implemented, it would most likely have to be approved by federal and state authorities.
Melting hard drives involves dipping them in acid to destroy their platters and housing. Although this is one of the most effective hard drive destruction methods, it is also one of the most dangerous. This is because the process involves using hydrochloric and nitric acids. Both acids are dangerous to the environment and almost any compound. This includes human skin, so you must handle them with the appropriate protective gear. Generally, this process is not advisable.
Putting holes in a hard drive destroys its platter and ensures that nobody can use the data on it. It is also one of the best ways to go about the hard drive destruction process because you don’t need to use any complex machines. So how do you drill the platter?
There are two ways to do it:
- By using a hand drill.
- By using a hammer or nail gun to drive a nail through.
Things to Keep in Mind When Destroying Hard Drives
Selecting a method of data destruction is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Depending on the business, certain ways of destroying data may be preferable due to effectiveness, cost, and other factors. It is also important to be mindful of the following considerations:
Data Security is a Huge Concern for the Government
Cybercrime is a concern for any business. You can imagine, however, how compounded that concern is for government agencies that hold a reservoir of sensitive information. The NSA has issued a mandate that all computers must be degaussed after use. Not adhering to these guidelines can even be considered a crime in some cases. It is becoming the norm that any business that deals with the government will have zero tolerance for leaving data exposed.
It is also important to remember, however, that you don’t need to be a government agency to have sensitive information. Most businesses, at the very minimum, keep track of routing numbers and bank information to pay their employees. That’s not even counting social security numbers, passwords, and other pieces of info that a common business would be expected to know. Therefore, big or small, your business should seriously consider destroying their data after their computers are done being used.
Do-It-Yourself Methods are Dangerous
When looking at the ways to destroy data, some of which can be expensive, it may be enticing to simply take matters into your own hands. It is also true that there is nothing that is keeping you from taking the hard drives out to your backyard, grabbing a sledgehammer, and smashing them to bits yourself. This, however, is extremely dangerous, as well as other self-done methods.
First of all, shards from broken hard drives can cause serious injury. Secondly, some businesses utilize a large number of computers. The effort would take to smash an office’s worth of hard drives might be unreasonable.
Also, other do it yourself methods are not advised either. The chances of you having a magnet lying around in the house with enough power to immobilize the average hard drive is quite low. It isn’t recommended to go find the nearest acid tub and dispose of the hard drives that way. Many people often underestimate the dangers that are present when demolishing hard drives through their means.
Deleting Files Do Not Solve the Issue
Another thing that people sometimes can take for granted is how proficient current hackers are becoming. Their methods are becoming much more advanced, and they can gain access to secure files with little time and effort.
As this is the case, deleting files off of your computer is not an acceptable solution. Any skilled hacker can still find your data after you have “deleted” it, which still leaves it on the hard drive anyway. Data destruction is the only finite way to ensure the security of your sensitive files.
Using Software to Erase Data
As an alternative to destruction, there are also computer programs that can scrub your hard drive. Programs like Secure Erase will render the data on a hard drive in an unrecognizable form that hackers could not decipher.
This can be an effective solution, as well as being less costly. Erasing the data also doesn’t come with dangerous byproducts that come with things like degaussing. It is, however, not 100% foolproof like data destruction is. At the end of the day, any data that is scrambled through a program leaves the hard drive intact. While most programs are thorough, there is a possibility that not all of the data will be scrambled. Some businesses have their data already encrypted when it is being utilized. This would make it more difficult for an average program to access the data to scramble it. Destroying the hard drive simply can give an employee the peace of mind that their information is completely secure.
Using Multiple Methods
Since the concern for the security of data is so prevalent, some businesses are even going so far as to use two methods to destroy data to seriously keep anyone from gaining access to that information. For instance, some businesses might have their data erased before sending it away to get shredded.
While this may seem extreme at first glance, using two methods might not even be an overreaction. Overwriting the data before having it shredded ensures that, throughout all steps of the process, there is no opportunity for an ambitious hacker to get that information. This is, of course, only applicable assuming your company’s computers aren’t already encrypted.
If the analysis of the data destruction industry tells us anything, it is that businesses are not playing around with information security. They often have no issue with dishing out a substantial amount of capital to get rid of their data. This is still, however, a trend we typically see with larger businesses. Smaller businesses have yet to catch on to the importance of destroying their data. With more information available, that might change in the coming years.
The Best Way To Carry Out These Hard Drive Destruction Methods Safely
None of the methods discussed above should be carried out without supervision because they are hazardous and subject to regulation in some cases. The easiest way to destroy a hard drive safely is by using the services of a certified data destruction company. That’s where we come in.
Here at Data Destruction inc., we handle everything from data erasure to secure destruction of hard drives, equipment disposal, and even paper shredding. We ensure secure data handling most conveniently for our clients. It’s time for you to stop worrying about a potential hard drive breach. Contact us to discuss the best data destruction package for your organization and we’ll take it from there. Have you recently tried any of these hard drive destruction methods? Leave a comment below and we will respond. Don’t forget to share this with anyone who would like to learn about the secure destruction of hard drives.
Hard Drive Destruction Frequently Asked Questions
Hard drive destruction methods get a lot of attention because when not done right, it can lead to a lot of problems. To help you wade through what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to hard drive destruction, here are a few of the most frequently asked questions.
What does a hard drive do?
Hard drives are hardware on your computer or laptop that stores all of your digital content. Any programs, applications, operating systems, pictures, documents, videos, and music that you save to your computer are stored there.
The hard drive on your computer is where a lot of personal, identifying data is stored. Whether your hard drive is used for work or personal business, it’s always a good idea to employ the services of a professional hard drive destruction operation to safely and destroy your hard drive.
How does hard drive work?
The hard drive in your computer acts a bit like a record player. Data is stored on a platter, often made of glass or aluminum, that looks a lot like a CD. The platter is centered over a spindle that controls the rotation of it and an electronic head reads and writes data as it spins. Other electronic components control the operation of the entire hard drive.
Can hard drives be destroyed by placing them in the water?
While it might seem as if it’s a good way to ruin electronic equipment, you cannot destroy the information on a hard drive and deem it unusable if you submerge it in water.
Why is that? Well, the water will short circuit the electrical components of the hard drive, but the data will remain. You can easily wipe the water off the hard drive and access the information still contained on it. The only way to ensure your information is protected is to use one of the methods we’ve outlined above.
What about saltwater? Can it destroy a hard drive?
Unfortunately, saltwater is the same as regular water – it will not wipe the information from your hard drive. You’re better off using approved disposal techniques to protect your data.
Can a magnet destroy a hard drive?
You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t place magnets anywhere near hard drives. While it is true that a hard drive can be destroyed by a magnet, the magnets from your refrigerator will not do the trick and erase the data contained on a hard drive.
The magnets used to destroy hard drives (and CDs and DVDs) are very powerful. So powerful that it’s not advised you use one if you’re not a professional. So depending on a household magnet to wipe your information off of a hard drive simply isn’t going to work.
Can bleach destroy a hard drive?
The simple answer to this question is no. While bleach can damage the hard drive just as any other type of liquid would, it will not harm the data on the disc itself. Bleach also doesn’t wipe away magnetic patterns and does not affect the glass or metal of the hard drive. It’s dangerous and not an effective method, so save the bleach for your laundry.
Can you simply reformat your hard drive to erase everything?
You’re better off reformatting a hard drive than simply erasing the files, but formatting will not erase the data contained on the hard drive, it simply erases the address tables. While this can make it much more difficult to recover files on a hard drive, it doesn’t make it impossible – especially if it were to fall into the hands of someone who knew what they were doing.
Don’t take chances with reformatting, have your hard drive destroyed to protect your information.
What is the best way to destroy a hard drive?
No doubt you can read about a lot of hard drive destruction methods online, but not all of them work. Your best bet is to have your hard drive destroyed by a professional.
However, if you want to make sure a hard drive is unrecoverable, then the platters of the hard drive must be unspinnable. You should never burn a hard drive (it has a lot of toxic chemicals) or use chemicals on it that can release toxic fumes. The best bet for DIY hard drive destruction is to drill through the platters, perhaps pounding in some nails to help make sure it’s good and destroyed.
Are hard drives toxic?
No. Hard drives that you crack open to get to the platters aren’t toxic (unless you burn them!) but you do need to be careful of the magnets from the hard discs. If you were to pinch your hand or finger in between them, they could cut or pinch you.
What ways should a hard drive never be destroyed?
There are a few ways that are very dangerous to try and do yourself. This is yet another reason you should leave hard drive destruction to the pros!
For your safety, you should never attempt hard drive destruction by:
- Hitting it with a hammer – Some platters are made of glass, glass that can fly every direction as well as bits of metal
- Blow torch – We’ve already mentioned avoiding setting it on fire because of toxic fumes, but it bears repeating. You should never take a blow torch or any type of fire to a hard drive.
- Throwing it into a lake – Not only will this not cause hard drive destruction, but it’s also bad for the environment. Don’t litter and take your hard drives to the professionals.
- Stockpile – Don’t leave unused computers and hard drives simply laying around. Any type of information like this remains vulnerable to people who may want to steal it.
If you have any questions about the best way to ensure your hard drives are destroyed completely and safely, don’t hesitate to ask the experts at Data Destruction, Inc. We’re here to help you dispose of your data correctly and effectively, protecting you and your business for years to come!