Erasing A Dead Hard Drive

Dear readers. Am I being paranoid? The hard drive in my iMac died a couple of weeks ago. After getting it replaced, I asked for the old drive to be returned to me so that I could ensure that there was no data I couldn't get from it and to be certain that no one else accessed any of data.

Once I got the dead drive home, I popped it into an enclosure to ensure that it was truly dead. The drive didn't appear with any of the recovery tools I have handy so I'm reasonably assured that it is an ex-hard drive. So how do I now dispose of it?

I attended a presentation by some data recovery guys a couple of years ago. These guys said that they were able to recover over 90 per cent of the data on a drive that had been erased and over-written several times AND had some holes drilled into it.

My dead drive seems to have a damaged controller but I suspect that my data is sitting on the platters. Not that I think that there's anything too valuable on the drive but I suppose some enterprising geek could extract the platters or rig up a different controller and get some data.

Reading around, it seems that the advice is to physically destroy the drive using power tools. That sounds like fun.

What do you recommend?


    Melt it somehow? Blowtorch?

    My usual approach is a rifle and 200 yards...

    Failing that, power tools, axes, and large drops will work.

      I fling them at Jehovah's

        +1 lol

    Disassemble the drive and be sure to melt all the screws into a small ball of metal.
    Take all the parts of the drive and disperse them around the globe encased in a block of cement and buried 2 metres below sea level.

    Once complete place the metal ball on top of mount Everest and be assured that no one will go to as much trouble as you have to see the data.

    Actually...power tool.

      Silly billy, that's for horcruxes not harddrives.

        Ok Harry.

    As a wise man once said: "Throw that sh*t out the window."

    Seriously though, smash up the drive into many (many, many) smaller drives, and leave them in a tub (glass) of water for a while. Or keep it under the bed forever, clearly marked "to destroy when the appropriate technology has been invented".

    Snap the platter in half several times, then hit the resulting pile with a sledgehammer.

    I took my last drive apart and use the platters as drinks coasters... Within a couple of weeks there should be enough scratches to make them unreadable...

    anything you do to break or otherwise physically disfigure the platters would work. I'd go with a sledgehammer or pick rather than a power tool.

    Thermite would do it.

    It may also take out a chunk of whatever is under it, but your data would be gone.

    But seriously, Take the drive apart, take out the platters and cut them as small as possible.

    If there isn't anything both important and secret on the drive, no one will go to the effort of re-assembling all the pieces just to recover pictures of cats.

    Drop it into the heart of the Sun.

    Maybe carve some celtic design into the platters with a router (the drill kind, not the Cisco sort), and use them as coasters.

    Who the hell is going to crack open the platters and reassemble just to check out what porn you downloaded

    What SkinHead said.

    Risk assessment definitely comes into this.

    I find one or two good hits with a hammer and you hear the platter shatter. In the one I bothered to pull apart there was only lots of small pieces left. Think half way between confetti and glitter.

    I just remove the platters from the drives and bin the lot. I usually mix it in with food waste so it goes nice and mould quickly.
    I doubt people are going to go to the effort of recovering data from HDD's in a household bin.

    Take off your tinfoil hat and stop being so paranoid. Yeah sure it might be possible for "them" to recover information off your dear hard drive, but why? What have you got on there that's so important to you that no-one else should know/see? Then think about if it's worth this imaginary persons effort to actually go about getting it. Getting data off a hard drive that has been dissembled, erased and drilled MAY be possible, but it certainly is not easy and not a task that would be undertaken for a random hard drive found at the dump.

    If you are worried about people stealing you identity, I'm sorry to report it isn't worth that much. So you should only need to take a couple of precautions to safely dispose of a hard drive. Easiest way would simply be disassembling the hard drive and smashing/destroying the platters. If you're not mechanically inclined enough for that, go back to school. Otherwise drilling a few holes will stop all but the most determined of military organisations.

    For real, just drill the plate. One hole will do.

      Read the article, they claim to have recovered data from drives with holes

        Who is "they", and why do they want data of some random guys hard drive so badly? And I'm talking REALLY F'ing badly here, this is some top of the line expensive recovery going on.

    Chuck it into a fire, there will be nothing left after two or three minutes.

    Good luck recovering data from ash.

    Won't that void the warranty?

    (yes.. I'm kidding)

    We dispose of the hard drives that store critical data by removing the platters manually and using pliers to bend/fold/disfigure the disk, making sure every mm of surface area is damaged/unreadable.

    After speaking with a recovery expert we stopped using the 7 pass disk erasing method (military standard) and simply damaged the platter.

    I can't attest that it works perfectly every time, and there may be "bits" left over, but I have sufficiently "befuddled" a few HDD's using a home made electro-magnet. (Just a couple of coils really). To test this you could get a perfectly good hdd that you know has lots of good accessible data on it, and sit it on top of a strong magnet for an hour or two. Then try to read it!

    Heat it above 622 degrees Celcius. It's not an option I thought of before this wekkend when I was using an old hard drive magnet to hold something in place whilst I welded it. The magnet dropped to the ground when it got above the Curie temperature and became just another block of rare earth elements.

      I'm very surprised that it took so long for someone to suggest a magnet. Common sense really...

    21 pass DOD standard erase on the drive, then user an industrial hard drive eraser that uses high powered magnets, then smash it to bits,

    That was what we used to do at my old work (we were a computer disposal) for any thing that was deemed as "Top Secret" nothing that secret just paranoid customers.

    I recommend The fires from whence it came

    Drop it into the heart of Mount Doom

    do what I have always done, take a trusty hammer (maybe a nail too), head outside, and let your frustration out. after a few hard hits you will hear the platters have shattered. so generally that means your good to throw it away.

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