Hard Drive Destruction: Answering the Industry’s Most Asked Questions

By Hellen Lubanga

Being relatively new to the data disposal scene, a considerable number of people are still on the fence when it comes to hard drive destruction as they feel like they do not possess all the information needed to paint a full picture of what the entire process entails. If this sounds anything like you, then worry not because you have come to the right place!

In this article, we shall explore the most frequently asked questions our team has gotten in regards to hard drive destruction, and hopefully, by the end, you will feel more equipped to make informed decisions for you or your company.

The FAQs (frequently asked questions)

1. What is a hard drive and what does it do?

 Simply put, a hard drive is a physical piece of hardware on your desktop or laptop that stores all your information and data. This includes your operating system, your pictures, your music, your applications, your videos, and your audio files, among other things. In summary, your hard drive is your computer’s main storage that holds onto your data even when your device is off.

2. How is data stored on the hard drive?

 Inside every hard drive is a CD-shaped device known as a platter made of either aluminum or glass. Inside the same hard drive, you will also find a tiny piece of metal known as the head. The head records the data onto the hard drive as the platter rotates.

The rest of the hard drive is made up of several other components that help the hard drive function properly.

3. What is the best way to destroy a hard drive?

Technically, you have the physical capability to attempt the destruction process at home. However, unless you possess in-depth knowledge of data destruction, there is no way of knowing whether you were effectively able to destroy the hard drive and its data. Furthermore, hard drive destruction is a dangerous process that tends to result in by-products that can either gravely harm you or those you share your space with.

The most foolproof way of ensuring that the hard drive can never be revived and is disposed of safely, legally, and ethically is to entrust the destruction process to professionals. Certified data destruction companies possess the skills and resources needed to effectively destroy hard drives and data. They also have protective equipment and procedures in place on how to safely handle and dispose of the toxic remnants of the destruction process. Lastly, they can provide you with physical proof of destruction in the form of a destruction certificate that can act as evidence if the need ever arises, such as an inquisition from the authorities.

4. If hard drives are this dangerous to destroy, does this mean they are dangerous to use?

Not at all. Hard drives are perfectly safe to use as long as they are gotten from a trusted source and you do not disassemble the device yourself. Safety becomes an issue during the disposal process due to things such as pieces of metal or glass flying everywhere while crushing, or the fumes produced during burning, etc. It is advisable to let more experienced and prepared companies that specialize in hard drive destruction help you to ensure your safety.

5. But what if I submerge the hard drive in water?

The only thing dipping a hard drive in water will do is damage the hard drive’s electric components. The information would remain intact on the platter, and all one has to do is dry the platter to retrieve all the personal information stored on the hard drive.

6. What if I add extra components to the water, such as detergent, vinegar, bleach, or salt?

Again, this would not do anything other than ruin the electric parts and make the hard drive sticky. All the data still would remain on the hard drive and could be easily retrieved.

In order to destroy a hard drive, the liquid would have to be highly corrosive, such as a strong acid. One should never attempt to work with highly corrosive materials, as you risk chemical burns or death. It is best to just approach the professionals.

7. If one of the ways of destroying a hard drive is by using a magnet. Can’t I just use my magnets at home?

 It is true that hard drives can be destroyed by industrial magnets. This is usually done in a process known as degaussing. The problem is that degaussing uses extremely strong magnets that eliminate the magnetic components of hard drives, thereby permanently destroying the device and clearing out its data. Retail magnets would not do anything to permanently erase the data on the hard drive. At best, magnets used recreationally at home would cause the hard drive to misbehave when used, but nothing more.

8. Can’t I just delete or format the data on my hard drive if I need it gone?

 Deleting or formatting data from your hard drive will not permanently get rid of the data; it will just “archive” it so that your hard drive views the space as free to be used for more data, but the data still exists on the hard drive somewhere. A file recovery program can easily scan a hard drive for these deleted files and restore them. Now, in the hands of somebody who knows what they are doing, this information can easily be retrieved and used for malicious gain.

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