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How to Dispose of a Hard Drive (the Right Way)

By Amy Sloan May 31, 2019

Contrary to popular belief, simply deleting files from a hard drive doesn't actually fully dispose of them. Even when formatting a hard drive, files are still able to be recovered with recovery software. This is because when files are stored on a hard drive they get saved as the file and as binary data. When a hard drive gets “erased” by either deleting files or formatting it, files that would show up get erased but the binary data of those files stay present within the magnetic and rotating platters of the hard drive. This is why hard drives need to be wiped. We will go over a few different ways of how to actually wipe data from a hard drive so its no longer able to be recovered.

hammer

The Hammer method: The hammer method of wiping a hard drive is literally just like it sounds. This involves removing and opening the hard drive then physically hitting the platter with a hammer until it’s destroyed. This method like many trending DIY methods has both pros and cons.


Pro’s

  • This is the fastest, most direct way of destroying the platter of a hard drive.
  • Fairly simple to do and can be performed at home without the use of professional services.
  • The hard drive becomes physically destroyed into pieces.

Con’s

  • There is no guarantee that the information from the drive is 100% irretrievable.
  • Physically destroying a hard drive with a hammer is messy and can be dangerous if not done properly.
  • Time consuming.
drill

The Drill method: Much like the hammer method, the drill method is also just like it sounds. This is where a drill is used to drill holes in the hard drives disk platter. This method can be effective if multiple holes are properly drilled all the way through the platter or platters depending on hard drive.




Pro’s

  • Drilling multiple holes in the platter will make it very hard for anyone to retrieve data from it.
  • This method can be fun and oddly satisfying.
  • This method can be performed fairly quickly with the right equipment and skills.

Con’s

  • There is no guarantee that the information from the drive is 100% irretrievable.
  • Using an electric drill to drill holes in a hard drive can be very dangerous if not done properly.
  • A powerful electric drill is needed.
degausser

The Degauss method: The degaussing method uses either a high powered degausser machine or degausser wand to demagnetize the drive, essentially wiping it of all information and data. This method demagnetizes the drives platter and removes the magnetic properties that store the binary data. This high tech form of wiping a hard drive is very effective.

Degaussing wand

Pro’s

  • One of the most efficient ways to wipe a drive of all of its files and binary data.
  • Degaussers permanently remove magnetic properties that store information on the drive.
  • Degaussing a hard drive makes it unusable.

Con’s


  • Degaussers are expensive.
  • If purchasing a degausser is out of the picture, it takes time to find out where to get a hard drive degaussed.

The Crush/Shred method: This method involves placing a hard drive into a heavy duty industrial hard drive shredder where it is shredded into many pieces. This method is also very effective.




Pro’s

  • This is the most effective way to physically destroy and disassemble all parts of a hard drive.
  • All platters of a hard drive get severed.
  • It’s virtually impossible to get information from the shredded pieces of a hard drive.

Con’s

  • Hard drive shredders and crushers are industrial grade products that are expensive.
  • It will take some time to find out where a hard drive can be shredded and when it can be done.


While some of the DIY methods we described such as the hammer method and the drill method may seem like the easiest and most affordable option, they aren't the most efficient methods. If you are worried about sensitive and private personal information being stolen or restored from a hard drive, you are going to want to invest in having that drive either degaussed or shredded. The degaussing method and the shredding method are hands down the most effective ways of wiping a hard drive. The combination of degaussing and then shredding a hard drive is by far the most effective and secure way of making sure your hard drive is wiped and destroyed. Degaussing and shredding will make it impossible for anyone to access the files, information, and binary data stored on any hard drive. If you or your business is looking for degaussing or shredding equipment check out our website at https://www.whitakerbrothers.com/


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