How to destroy a hard drive and protect your data

Condotel Education

Destroy Hard Drive

Do you have unused hard drives lying around and thinking of destroying them to protect your data forever? You have come to the right place!

In this post, we’ll learn everything you need to know about destroying a hard drive, but first, let’s discuss whether destroying your old drives is the only viable solution.

Is destroying your hard drive the best option?

Your concern is legitimate: you have an unused hard drive and you don’t want its contents to fall into the wrong hands.

However, keep in mind that destroying the hard drive is not the only viable solution. Before you decide to destroy a hard drive, consider these two options:

Reuse your hard drives

After all, the volume and value of your data continues to increase year after year, and you’ll only need more storage space, not less.

How can you reuse your old hard drives? The most basic approach is to turn them into external hard drives.

Converting an old hard drive to an external hard drive is pretty simple:

You’ll need an external drive enclosure (or case/caddy) to convert your internal hard drive to an external one, while also protecting the drive when used externally. There are several external drive enclosure products available on the market, and in general, there are three main considerations that you need to keep in mind:

  • Please make sure the interface of the external box/enclosure matches the interface of your hard drive. The most common interface is SATA, but there are also other types like M.2 (for SSDs)
  • Make sure you choose the correct size. For HDDs, there are two main sizes: 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch.
  • The enclosure system usually has an upper limit for the attached hard drive, right now it is between 4TB and 8TB. Make sure your old hard drive does not exceed the maximum size.
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However, keep in mind that the average lifespan of a hard drive is between 3 and 5 years. More than that, and you may not want to reuse the drive as an external hard drive.

sell old hard drives

Another option is to sell your hard drives for extra money, but the main concern is data security: is it really safe to sell your hard drives?

The answer is yes, and there are actually companies that specialize in bulk buying IT equipment that will securely erase your data for you.

However, you can actually erase your old hard drives on your own with quite affordable and even free tools. If your old hard drive is HDD (not SSD), you can follow the steps below:

On Windows:

  1. Run Windows Disk Management. Click Start->Run, then type diskmgmt.msc in the box
  2. Select the drive to format
  3. Uncheck the “perform a quick format” checkbox and select NTFS

On Mac operating system

  1. Go to the Utilities folder and run Disk Utility (you can open the Utilities folder by pressing Apple+Shift+U together)
  2. Select the drive to format and click erase

Typically, you need to wipe the drive three times to ensure that the data is 100% unrecoverable.

However, for SSDs, it is more difficult to securely erase data due to how the SSD works. The best approach is to use the disk management software/application provided by the SSD manufacturer. For example, if you use a Seagate SSD, then you can use Seagate Disk Wizard for this purpose.

However, if you cannot find the manufacturer’s tool and/or if you do not know who the manufacturer of your SSD is, you will need to opt for third-party solutions or services.

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The best ways to destroy used units

So after weighing the other options, do you still decide to sell your old units?

There are few options here.

Using a hard drive destruction service

There are specialized companies that offer the service to securely erase and/or destroy your hard drives, and there may also be local stores near you that offer this service. In most cases, doing a simple Google search will allow you to find these hard drive destruction services.

If you are concerned about being green, there are also specialized companies that will recycle your old hard drive, although the cost may be more expensive in the end.

Destroy your units on your own

Another viable option is to physically destroy the hard drive yourself.

If your drive is an HDD (with a spinning motorized drive inside it), there are three ways to physically destroy it:

  • Carefully destroy the disk platters.

This method involves disassembling the hard drive and removing the disk platters. You can then place the platters of the drive between neodymium magnets (you can easily get these on online marketplaces) to “destroy” the data on them.

Another option is to grind/sand the disk platters with sandpaper to destroy their magnetic surfaces.

Hammer the nails directly into the disk platters and it’s usually enough to destroy the data. You may want to puncture the decks in multiple areas to ensure complete data removal.

The simplest method, you can simply use your hammer to completely smash the hard drive. It will require a bit of effort as you will need to be thorough, but this is also a very reliable method.

However, if your drive is an SSD, you may not need to destroy it, as most SSDs are fairly new and you can most likely reuse or sell them. As mentioned above, you can use your SSD manufacturer’s SSD management tool or third-party solutions to securely erase your data.

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However, if you still want to physically destroy the SSD, please note that due to the physical structure of the SSD, you will need to completely destroy it with a hammer to ensure that all memory chips inside the SSD are pulverized. The use of nails and/or magnets may not be enough.

final thoughts

Proper destruction of your hard drives is not only important to protect your confidential information, but it can also help your business comply with PCI DSS and other regulations.

Previously, we’ve shared some tips on how to safely destroy your hard drive, as well as some other options if you decide to repurpose your drives as external drives or sell your old drives for extra money.

Also, when you physically destroy a hard drive on your own, be sure to wear the proper equipment, such as protective goggles and gloves. Protecting your data is important, but not at the expense of getting hurt.

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