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How to Destroy Old Hard Drives

How to Destroy Old Hard Drives

Unsure on what to do with an old hard drive? Are you wondering what’s the safest way to protect your data? Here’s the correct way to destroy an old hard drive, including why it’s important and what not to do.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about destroying hard drives, including:

  • The best ways to destroy or dispose of an old hard drive
  • Ineffective ways of destroying a hard drive
  • Why you should destroy your old hard drives
  • Sensitive information is protected
  • WEEE environmental policy
  • Compliance with data protection laws
  • Common mistakes made when disposing of old hard drives
  • How individuals and businesses should destroy old hard drives

  • The best ways to destroy or dispose of an old hard drive

    Hard drives should always be treated separately from the rest of the computer because of the large volumes of data present on them. When disposing an old hard drive, there is only one method to securely erase the information, this is by destroying the magnetic disk (also known as a platter) inside.

    Read on to discover the most effective ways you can destroy a hard drive and its platter:

    1. Shredding

    The most effective way to destroy a hard drive is to shred it. Similar to shredding documents and paper, shredding turns a hard drive into a million tiny pieces that can’t be put back together again, therefore destroying and erasing the data forever. Of course not everyone has an industrial shredder at home for destroying hard drives, and they can be dangerous to use.

    That’s why there are professionals with industrial shredders out there to help you, such as Shredall’s secure hard drive destruction services.

    Get a free quote today.

    2. Degaussing

    A degausser is a machine that eliminates magnetic fields stored on a device such as a hard drive or tape. It sends a powerful magnetic pulse through the device that instantly sanitises any data kept on the device. Again, a degausser isn’t something you might simply have lying around at home, and the current best practice is to opt for shredding instead.

    3. Wiping the data

    Eradicating the data that exists on the hard drive through your computer is another way to get the process started. Simply deleting the files won’t prevent any security breaches, however data erasing programmes are useful to ‘shred’ the data on your computer. Data erasing programmes make it impossible for anyone to retrieve information from the hard drive, eliminating the need to physically destroy it.

    Ineffective ways of destroying a hard drive

    There are many articles and videos on the internet that may help you destroy a hard drive, but not all of them are safe or effective. It’s important to remember that if there are sections of the drive that are intact, your data can still be accessed. Here are some ways you might think to dispose of a hard drive, but we definitely wouldn’t recommend.

    1. Using a hammer

    Many people will attempt to bash an old hard drive with a hammer. This can be a dangerous method of destroying an old hard drive as it causes bits of glass or metal to fly everywhere, causing potential damage. Additionally, there are plenty of individuals capable of collecting sensitive information from a partially destroyed hard drive, and therefore this method isn’t reliable.

    2. Using a drill

    You’d think that if a hard drive is littered with holes that the data will be completely destroyed and inaccessible, but this isn’t the case. Although your computer may not be able to read it, all the intact portions of the drive will be retrievable by data thieves.

    3. Using a magnet

    Many years ago using a magnet on a hard drive would’ve likely destroyed all the data with ease, but as technology has progressed hard drives have become more and more resistant to magnets, making them ineffective at destroying the data.

    4. Scratching the platter

    Similar to using a drill, scratching the platter isn’t effective as it potentially leaves intact pieces that can be recovered. Although if you fully scratch every section of the platter, it will be incredibly difficult for sensitive information to be recovered, there are still data recovery services out there that can retrieve confidential information. 

    Why you should destroy your old hard drives

    A hard drive is a high capacity storage device that sits inside your computer, smartphone and many other devices. They contain sensitive information that need to be disposed of effectively to prevent security breaches, but they also contain potentially harmful and toxic materials that can cause a lot of damage. Let’s take a closer look at why these two reasons are important.

    Sensitive information is protected

    A business desktop, home computer or laptop hard drive can contain a variety of sensitive information including:

    • Credit card numbers
    • Customer details
    • Bank account numbers
    • Passwords

    This information can remain on the hard drive even if it’s erased or reformatted by wiping it clean. If it’s not correctly destroyed, sensitive information could still be recovered and used (potentially by data thieves) with detrimental consequences.

    Before getting rid of your computer, you need to remove the data from the hard drive completely. This ensures anything sensitive will be erased forever and untraceable by data thieves. It is important to back anything personal up on a different hard drive before proceeding with the destruction service.

    WEEE environmental policy

    The WEEE environmental policy promotes the re-use, recycling and other forms of recovery of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in order to reduce the number of electronic waste that ends up in landfill. Not only will decaying electronic products leak toxic chemicals into the earth when in landfill, they can also be contaminated with your data.

    Shredall SDS Group is one of few WEEE recycling companies that has a target to recycle 100% of non-contaminated waste, protecting both the Earth and your data.

    Compliance with data protection laws

    If you’re a business, it’s critical that you securely dispose of outdated or unused hard drives to prevent unauthorised access to sensitive information. Failure to adhere to legal requirements, such as GDPR, can result in severe penalties, and damage to your business reputation.  

    Common mistakes made when disposing hard drives

    Destroying a hard drive isn’t an easy task; many companies and individuals aren’t disposing of hard drives correctly, leaking potential sensitive information. Here are some common mistakes you or your business could be making when disposing of old hard drives:

    Placing in a recycling bin

    Although this method has good intentions, simply placing a hard drive in a recycling bin doesn’t stop someone from removing it from the recycling bin. This can lead to information theft and a serious data breach.

    Not backing up the data

    This doesn’t apply in every situation, as sometimes you may wish to permanently remove information from existence. However with personal hard drives that you’re wanting to destroy, it’s important that you know that once the information is gone, it’s gone. Have a look through the hard drive first to see if there isn’t any data you wish to back up before destruction.

    Simply deleting all the data

    When you delete a file from your computer and hard drive, it does not simply disappear, not right away anyway. Even if you immediately empty your recycling bin, until another file or application comes along to make use of that room, the old data will remain. Using this approach will leave you open to severe security breaches, so most often it is best to leave the wiping of information and destruction of hard drives to professionals.

    How businesses and individuals should destroy old hard drives

    When it comes to destroying or disposing of old hard drives, it’s best to outsource the job to a reputable document destruction company that can destroy hard drives beyond repair, giving you the peace of mind that it has been handled correctly.

    Shredall SDS Group specialise in secure data destruction, including destroying hard drives by shredding them into small, unidentifiable pieces. The process we use completely destroys the drive mechanisms, platters and electronic complements, rendering the data unrecoverable.

    Businesses also get a peace of mind with chain of custody, end to end tracking technology to ensure the hard drives are tracked throughout their journey. Our end-to-end tracking system makes use of barcode scanning at every stage as well as tracked vehicles.

    Once the process is complete, you will receive a certificate of destruction showing the weight and details of the collection as proof. All hard drives that are securely shredded are sent to a UK WEEE-approved partner for recycling.

    To learn more, visit our hard drive shredding page, or simply get in touch with one of our team today to get a quote.

    Get a quick quote today

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