How to destroy a computer hard drive

When you get rid of a computer hard drive, it’s important to get rid of it properly. Your hard drive probably contains a lot of sensitive information on it, like tax returns or loan applications. Here’s how to destroy a computer hard drive when you need to.

Let’s set some expectations here. Making the data impossible to recover isn’t something you can do without a drive shredder. But you can make it so difficult and expensive to recover that nobody will bother. That’s good enough. If it costs $10,000 to recover the data from your drive, a thief isn’t going to do it, due to the risk that you don’t have $10,000 to steal.

If the drive still works, it’s enough just to run a tool like Darik’s Boot and Nuke or Privazer on the drive and overwrite it a few times. I’ve covered Privazer before. Darik’s Boot and Nuke is more thorough. I’ve covered it before too. You’ll have to boot it up and follow a menu. Privazer is probably easier if you’re more familiar with Windows.

If the drive doesn’t work anymore, you still need to break it enough that it can’t be repaired and recovered.

One trick many people do is to simply drill holes through the drive. You can’t recover what isn’t there, and when there are big holes in the platter, it’s hard to recover what’s left, too.

If you want to be more thorough, or you don’t have a drill press, open up the drive. Spray degreaser onto the disk platters. Then soak the whole drive in some vinegar overnight. Disk platters store their data on metal oxides, and vinegar eats through metal oxides.

Then, when you recycle the drive, take the printed circuit board off the drive. Dispose of the board and the drive separately. Then if someone gets the drive, they have to guess the revision of board that was on it. Any old board from the same type of drive may work, but it’s not a guarantee. You make it harder for them.

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One thought on “How to destroy a computer hard drive

  • December 1, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Take it apart, remove the platters, and toss them in your fireplace or charcoal grill. That should heat the platters to their Curie point, demagnetizing them. Poof, data gone.

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