Ask LH: What’s The Best Way To Destroy A Hard Drive?

Dear Lifehacker, What’s the best way to dispose of a used hard drive? I’ve knocked a hole through using a crowbar and hammer near the spindle and through the circuit board. Is that sufficient to prevent any data recovery? Is there an easier way to destroy the hard drive? Thanks, Kade

Dear Kade,

Erasing hard drives is markedly easier when you’re not planning to reuse or donate them as you can add physical destruction to the mix. With that said, it’s still a good idea to wipe or repeatedly overwrite your sensitive data first, just to be on the safe side.

Your best bet is to open the hard drive casing with a screw driver and severely fragment the platters. These are thin, circular components made of glass or alloy that store your data. Forget the spindle and circuit board — the platters should be the main thing on your kill list.

As we’ve said in the past, the only limit to how inoperable your disk will become is the amount of time you want to invest in destroying it: you can nuke the platters with a power drill and/or blow torch or just go to town with a hammer and scissors. Alternatively, toss the platters into a fire and watch ’em melt. (Note: be sure to do this outdoors to avoid dangerous fumes.)

If you follow the above tips, it will be next to impossible for anyone to recover your data. But for extra peace of mind, you might want to dispose of the pieces separately — better safe than sorry.

TL;DR version: securely delete your files via a total disk wipe, then go “Hulk smash” on the physical platters. You can find more detailed instructions here, here, here and here.

If any readers have a favourite method of disposing of unwanted HDDs that’s not mentioned above, let Kade know in the comments!


Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.

At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


23 responses to “Ask LH: What’s The Best Way To Destroy A Hard Drive?”