We have listed the four methods of destroying hard drives for you, along with the pros and cons and why the ‘degausser’ really doesn’t work.
We’re sorry to say that hard drive degaussers don’t work. It sounds really easy: take a gigantic electromagnet, put your hard drive in it, and the job’s done. Such a device is called a degausser. However, hard drive manufacturers protect magnetic disks in a Faraday cage, which completely shields the area where hard drives and the data on them are located from all types of radiation. Although the degausser manufacturer may promise that its particular model is powerful enough and reliable, you can never be sure. Such a device may work better with backup tapes, VHS tapes, and bank cards, although even in these cases you’re never completely sure. We’ve confirmed this with a number of experiments in our data security centre in Uden. A hard drive does immediately become unusable if it even comes close to a degausser, because the magnetic field damages the disk’s electronics on the outside. However, if you simply replace the circuit board, the hard drive will start up like a new one, and all the data will still be there! Conclusion: the degausser doesn’t work.
Burning or melting
This method obviously works perfectly if the temperature is high enough for long enough. It’s impossible to do this on location, so the data carriers are taken to an incinerator in an armoured car surrounded by flashing lights and a major police presence. Due to the extremely high costs and the extremely harmful environmental impact, this isn’t a particularly popular solution. It is secure though!
Wiping data with software
A big advantage of erasing data with software is that the hard drive remains intact, so the computer can be simply used again after the process is complete. It’s also a very safe method if done properly. The only way to really remove information from the hard drive is using software that overwrites the entire disk with random binary code. One example is Blancco.
Much better than a wipe program: hard drive sanitizer
The problem with all wipe software is that the disk is wiped while still in the system. IT-recycling’s research has shown that there are situations where parts of hard drive drives are skipped because the system has organised certain things in a way that makes them inaccessible to the wipe software. We use a hard drive sanitizer, a device into which you click a large number of hard drives. The hard drives are then simultaneously overwritten at root level. It’s much more thorough to use a sanitizer than software to wipe hard drives. The disadvantage of the sanitizer is that it’s extremely expensive, which is why all our colleagues still use software, despite its lower level of security. The photo opposite shows IT-recycling’s hard drive sanitizer at work.
Physical destruction of the hard drive
The big disadvantage here is that the hard drive is destroyed, and the computer loses a lot of value. There are lots of impressive devices online which physically destroy hard drives. Some drill holes, others fold the hard drive in half, and some gadgets even push the motor out of a hard drive. All these amateur devices are more or less transportable, but no matter how creative, they share one thing in common; they give a false sense of security. A damaged hard drive, even if it is bent, has had a hole drilled in it or is missing a motor, can simply be read again. It’s analogous to destroying hardcopy documents; crumpling or tearing up a paper document doesn’t destroy it. To properly destroy data, a hard drive has to be completely shredded into very small pieces. And… we almost forgot about the other well-known device that ingeniously cuts off a small piece of a hard drive. It was very expensive, and its slowness was only equalled by its unreliability. What does work perfectly, however, is a shredder, a kind of giant coffee grinder that cuts hard drives into shreds. A shredder offers absolute security, provided the shreds are fine enough. Normally, a shredder is a massive machine that can’t be transported, so hard drives must be taken to it; not the most secure solution.
A better solution is for the shredder to come to the hard drives; the option provided by IT-recycling’s mobile hard drive shredder.