Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Data Storage Hardware

Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Destroy Hard Drives? 1016

First time accepted submitter THE_WELL_HUNG_OYSTER writes "I have 10-15 old hard drives I want to trash, some IDE and some SATA. Even if I still had IDE hardware, I don't want to wait several weeks to run DBAN on all of them. I could use a degausser, but they are prohibitively expensive. I could send them to a data destruction firm, but can they be trusted? What's the fastest, cheapest DIY solution?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Destroy Hard Drives?

Comments Filter:
  • oven (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 29, 2011 @11:48PM (#37562710)

    high temperature destroys the magnetic field.

    • by bipbop ( 1144919 )
      -1 overrated. Heat works, but your oven doesn't run hot enough. Bad idea, in any case.
      • Re:oven (Score:5, Funny)

        by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Friday September 30, 2011 @02:23AM (#37563738) Journal

        That's why you become a professional mourner. Show up at open-box funerals, ask if the current client is due to be cremated, then slip the HD into the casket!

      • Angle grinder (Score:4, Informative)

        by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Friday September 30, 2011 @06:38AM (#37564920) Journal
        An angle grinder with any metal-cutting bit will slice clean through the platters and circuit boards, making a pretty shower of sparks. It's much more satisfying than just using a drill, and at least as effective as swinging a big hammer on them.
        BTW, remember that destroying hard drives could easily be construed as "willful destruction of evidence" if you're later accused of anything (terrorism, copyright violation, or other heinous crimes). So, whatever method you choose, it might be advisable to destroy them out of the public eye...
        • Just be careful (wear your safety goggles), especially if you've got a drive with glass platters. Glass shards being flung by an angle grinder sound like they could be at least moderately hazardous...
      • You can make a kiln for almost nothing. Bury the drives in a barrel of sawdust, with large holes at the bottom of the barrel, and light it from the bottom. You can fire clay with a primitive kiln like that, it should be hot enough to melt the drives.

        A blacksmith's forge can get hot enough to literally burn steel.

    • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Friday September 30, 2011 @12:31AM (#37563154) Homepage Journal

      high temperature destroys the magnetic field.

      Your oven goes to 1500 degrees? What the hell are you baking in it, ceramics?

      • by Pieroxy ( 222434 ) on Friday September 30, 2011 @01:33AM (#37563540) Homepage

        Actually, mine does and yes, we're baking ceramics paint.

    • by erice ( 13380 ) on Friday September 30, 2011 @12:53AM (#37563314) Homepage

      It's the only way to be sure

    • Much ado about nothing. Remove the circuit boards. There'll be nigh chance in hell anyone will find a matching board for that model ***and that batch*** in order to get at the data. Toss the drives afterwards. And degaussers are rarely reliable.

      • Re:oven (Score:4, Interesting)

        by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <jwsmythe@@@jwsmythe...com> on Friday September 30, 2011 @01:58AM (#37563640) Homepage Journal


            I had a friend who's drive was killed in a lightning strike. A friend of theirs swapped out the control board for another one. It physically fit, but released its magic smoke after just a few seconds. So, I inherited someone elses botched repair. Of course, I was 1,000 miles away, so it's not like I just stopped by to say "hi", and took a look at it. :)

            I did some digging, and found a guy who would send you the appropriate replacement board for something like $40. It would help to have the original board, but he figured out which board was correct for this drive, and it took a whopping 5 minutes to install. Most of that was finding the screws and screw driver. :)

            The only way to assure a drive is completely unrecoverable is physical destruction. Simple as that.

    • Re:oven (Score:4, Informative)

      by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:22AM (#37564024) Journal
      Place HDD on concrete, apply sledgehammer vigorously. Ta-da, unrecoverable HDD.

      Personally, I dismantle them for the magnets, and pull the platters out. If they're ceramic you can shatter them, if they're aluminum you can deface them, bend them, use the magnets to corrupt them, cut them in half with a hacksaw/bandsaw/whatever, be creative.
  • Drill (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HeLLFiRe1151 ( 743468 ) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @11:49PM (#37562734)
    Drill Baby Drill
    • Yeah, Drill and then after you've drilled it power it up and make the platter spin up and scratch the living fuck out of what wasn't drilled.

  • by omglolbah ( 731566 ) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @11:50PM (#37562738)

    * Drill a hole, pour in acid.
    ** Pro: Fast, cheap
    ** Con: Requires you to have access to an acid

    * Drill a hole, pour in resin.
    ** Pro: Fast
    ** Con: Not so cheap due to the cost of the resin.. Unless you swipe it at work :p

    * Explosives
    ** Pro: Fast, extremely effective and damn fun!
    ** Con: Most of the time illegal.... *cough*

  • Thermite (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @11:50PM (#37562740)
    Exothermic oxidation-reduction makes drives dead.
  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @11:51PM (#37562756)
    Remember: when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a skull.
  • by Psychofreak ( 17440 ) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @11:51PM (#37562762) Journal

    nail gun
    hammer, bigger may be better
    screwdriver, there are cool, powerful magnets inside and the aluminum chassis is recyclable for cash
    steel wool on the platter once taken apart (not really important by that time)
    Firearms, play safe


  • by Anonymous Coward

    I did it today to one. Unscrew them, take the plates, throw them in different recycling bins/garbage cans/whatever. If you're concerned about someone snooping in your garbage, drop one off at a different gas station every morning. Plus you get some neat looking polished Al/Ni discs out of it if you don't feel like throwing them away...12 year old drive's guts were shinier than a bathroom mirror today

  • Hamer and punch (Score:5, Informative)

    by plover ( 150551 ) * on Thursday September 29, 2011 @11:52PM (#37562770) Homepage Journal

    If you're looking for fast production-line destruction, take a three pound hammer and punch. A punch driven through the aluminum plate covering the platter section, midway between the center spindle and the edge of the drive, down to the bottom of the case through the platters, will effectively destroy the disks. It will cheaply render the data unreadable to anyone who doesn't want to invest ten thousand dollars investigating the remains of the disks. You can crank through many disks per hour. A 3/8" bit in an electric drill would be similarly effective, and less labor intensive than a hammer, but slower.

    Leaving the aluminum plate covering on the drive has the added advantage of containing the shards if the disk platters are made of glass. Even so, I'd wear leather gloves and use eye protection if I were physically destroying them this way.

    But with 15 drives, it's just not that big of a job. Why make a big mess? Disassemble them. It takes about 10 minutes per drive, and it's both educational and fun. You can probably do it watching TV on the couch.

    A miniature Torx driver set (T6-T9, available from Sears), a flat bladed screwdriver, a #2 Philips screwdriver, and a pocket knife is all I need to take most drives apart down to their components. Recover the voice coil driver magnets, they're always useful. Remove the circuit boards and recycle them as they were probably soldered with lead. Remove the platters from the spindles. To truly be rid of the data, you'll have to basically destroy the platters in a very hot fire. Heating them past their Curie point will completely destroy the data, leaving them totally unrecoverable; but that may require heat as high as 1500 degrees F. You won't get that on a stovetop.

    • Be careful with some of the components if you are letting children have them or play with them.
      Some drive platters are glass instead of aluminum and it is very difficult to know the difference from handling them. My daughter dropped one on the floor and it shattered into very dangerous shards. I was shocked as I believed they were all aluminum. I think most IBM/Hitachi Deskstar drives are glass but there could be others.
      She really loves the rare earth magnets but learned real quick that the can pinch very e

  • by WiglyWorm ( 1139035 ) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @11:52PM (#37562772) Homepage
    Drive slagging. http://eecue.com/c/driveslag [eecue.com]
    • I approve.... wholeheartedly!

    • Drive slagging. http://eecue.com/c/driveslag [eecue.com]

      ^----- this. When all that's left is a pile of melted aluminum there is nothing to recover. Even with a hole in the drive or a shredded drive there's still intact pieces, if you really want to do it right you have to melt it down to just aluminum.

  • 44 Auto Mag (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Just fun.

  • by tekgoblin ( 1675894 ) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @11:54PM (#37562796) Homepage
    Just ask Blendtec, Will it Blend? LOL http://www.youtube.com/user/Blendtec [youtube.com] Love these videos
  • by ub3r n3u7r4l1st ( 1388939 ) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @11:54PM (#37562800)

    Open it up, pull the plates out, and run through each one via a shredder, using the slot for CD-ROM if your shredder has one, otherwise the normal slot for paper is fine. Just make sure you don't put it more than one at a time, and be prepare to endure the noise it generates.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 29, 2011 @11:57PM (#37562830)

    ...delete all other copies.

    They should magically become unreadable.

  • 1)A hammer party is probably the cheapest easiest way.
    2) take out the physical disk platers from the enclosure and microwave them.
    3 Shotgun
    4hacksaw (in half)

  • Just zero it (Score:5, Informative)

    by Reason58 ( 775044 ) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @11:57PM (#37562848)
    It is my understanding that there has never been a single proven recovery of a drive that was simply zeroed out. No silly "military grade" wipe software necessary.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, their has been. I used to work for a group that did this. Our clients were BIG corperations and guys in cheep black suits. It really comes down to how much time and money you are willing to put into it, but 60% recovery was possible 3 years ago. Your not going to get that using the hardware on the drive (yes, the platters have to come off), but it is possible to get with the right tools and equipment.

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Nope. That's modern drives, or anything made in the last 5-7ish years. Anything before that you still need to take some precautions in wiping data.

    • There was, but that was in the times that the air was clean and sex was dirty. A large capacity drive was 20MB and comprised of 4 platters in a 5.25" enclosure, double the size of a CD-ROM drive.

      The original question stated no connecting the drives up to a computer was possible, since the owner didn't own anything that still had the required connectors/controllers to do so. Zeroing out isn't an option within the constraints given.
  • one shot from a .30-06 rifle. Punches a nice little hole in the casing, and shatters the platters inside. It's quite fun too!

  • I think I'd definitely trust physical destruction (take apart, rip platters out, smash with hammer, dispose) over multiple write erases

    I seem to remember seeing a hydraulic press/punch being used by someone - - put a nice one inch hole in the hard drive and that was that but it wouldn't take long to take them out and just smash the platters with a sledgehammer...or using the sledgehammer itself on the hd may be fun too


  • by QuasiSteve ( 2042606 ) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @11:59PM (#37562868)

    What - we just had the "omg how do I save my pictures/videos for my great-great-great-grandchildren!?!?" 3-monthly Slashdot story, so now the "aaaargh! I can't let some schmuck discover all the home made porn and paste it all over the interwebs!!!" was overdue?

    Seriously, people... HDD tech hasn't changed enough to make the same answers from 5 years ago any different now.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Aslashdot.org+how+to+dispose+of+hdd [google.com]

  • by AbRASiON ( 589899 ) * on Thursday September 29, 2011 @11:59PM (#37562876) Journal

    I can't stand "security" people in business in general with this impulsive urge to physically destroy hard drives because of the data they stored.
    Go do some googling, a simple ONE PASS of 0's on the disk WILL make the data absoloutely, without question unrecoverable, anyone who tells you otherwise is in to voodoo and black magic or trying to make some profit.

    A huge amount of these "security professionals" insist on trashing perfectly good hardware for no apparent reason, it's a complete was of good resources.
    The amount of perfectly good disks I've seen killed is astounding and not always old clunkers either, some relatively decent sized, high performing disks to boot.

    DBAN doesn't take forever either, hook them up to a spare PC and fire it off, change the disks every couple of hours, infact if I recall DBAN supports multiple drives at the same time.
    Sure if you have a 40gb IDE or something, just drill a hole in it - but if you're trashing anything over 160gb you're starting to ruin perfectly good hardware, for the sake of being pedantic and frankly stupid - stop and just don't do it.
    This goes for anyone else suggesting the same thing, go and do some reading before believing any of this "must be 12pass write" rubbish to a disk.
    FWIW A good 0 write to a disk doesn't normally take more than a few hours.

    • by plover ( 150551 ) *

      Physical destruction is appropriate for used drives because they're really bad resources. Spinning disk drives are machines that wear out over time. They get a few thousand hours on them, and then they die.

      I've measured the actual MTTF of drives that had published specs promising 300,000 hours MTTF. Of a population of 24 drives, I had 30% mortality within 60,000 hours (with somewhere near 25,000 being the mean.) That means we saw quite a bit less than the 300,000 promised hours. And these were the all-

    • I was about to post this myself, but DBAN will do the trick. There's practically no way anyone will recover anything but a few random strings of plain text out of that, and that's only if they have the analog tools in a forensics lab. Even the chance of reconstructing a usable credit card account out of that is in the same probability range as guesswork.

      But I will say that your estimate of 200GB is pretty low for what's worth re-using unless you're broke. Any drive that's been in use for 3-5 years is well p

    • What I find funny is the contradiction. When you want to make data unrecoverable, you have to do some serious abuse. Drilling a hole might not be enough! But when a hard drive begins to fail, somehow that same data is so delicate that any mistake, or no mistake, will lose it all, no recovery possible.

  • by SensitiveMale ( 155605 ) on Friday September 30, 2011 @12:00AM (#37562880)

    Very powerful magnets in the drives. Open them up, take out the magnets, and throw away the drives. If you are really paranoid, pop the discs out. But definitely salvage the magnets. They come in handy.

  • Just nail through the case and through the platters.


  • I always just take the platters out, run a magnet over them and hang them on my wall. I play with the platters fairly often as well so there's not a whole lot of chance for any data recovery. Plus they look cool!
  • DBAN is unnecessary. (Score:5, Informative)

    by rollingcalf ( 605357 ) on Friday September 30, 2011 @12:02AM (#37562894)

    One pass with zeroes or random data over the whole drive is sufficient, unless you expect that a large government agency is going to open up the hard drives and spend millions of dollars to attempt to recover the data (and even they might be unable to get at the overwritten data. See http://www.nber.org/sys-admin/overwritten-data-guttman.html [nber.org]).

    With dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb you can wipe all the hard drives in a weekend.

  • How likely is it that someone is ever even going to try and get the data off the disks? Obviously it's not national security data or you wouldn't be asking here. Put it another way, how much is your data worth to others? Would someone want to invest $10, $100, $1000, or $1000000 of effort in trying to recover it?

    For something different - open the lid of the drive, put some sand in there, close the lid, give it a vigorous shake, then power it up. It should be destroyed in no time.

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Friday September 30, 2011 @12:04AM (#37562924) Homepage Journal

    After installing Windows on a hard drive, it becomes worthless. And after a while the actual bits will become corrupted into random values.

  • by Jimbob The Mighty ( 1282418 ) on Friday September 30, 2011 @12:05AM (#37562936)
    Thermite, or any other method to melt the platters.
  • by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Friday September 30, 2011 @12:28AM (#37563122) Journal

    I'll clear them off for ya, sheesh, i'll rewrite data over 9000 times if it makes ya happy, but let me have the drives.

    I'm poor and destroying useful hardware hurts me.

  • My advice... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Literaphile ( 927079 ) on Friday September 30, 2011 @12:46AM (#37563264)
    ... get over yourself. Your data is not that important. Nobody cares.
  • Bankers! (Score:3, Funny)

    by BagOCrap ( 980854 ) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:07AM (#37563952) Homepage

    I just give my old hdd's to Icelandic bankers. You wouldn't believe how adept at destroying all kinds of evidence they've become.

  • by RichiH ( 749257 ) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:33AM (#37564078) Homepage

    I am going to be boring and tell you what I learned from the founder of a data recovery company.

    1) One single pass of zeros is enough. urandom if you want to be paranoid.
    2) If you want, or need (auditing, etc), to physically destroy the drives: Bend the platters. As soon as the platters are bent, you can not spin them for data extraction, any more. Keeping in mind the distance between head and platters, even the slightest bend becomes irreparable. And as soon as you can't spin them, you are looking at scanning the whole platter without any fancy off-the-shelf controller logic.

    According to him, those are the only two cases when they tell the customer over the phone that they don't even have to bother sending the disks in.

  • by Peet42 ( 904274 ) <Peet42@N[ ]cape.net ['ets' in gap]> on Friday September 30, 2011 @04:54AM (#37564512)
    ...the best way to guarantee that a drive will immediately become permanently unreadable and unrecoverable is to put the only copy of some really important data on to it, and let nature do the rest. (What? Doesn't nature hate you too?)
  • Don't destroy them! (Score:4, Informative)

    by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@NoSpam.gmail.com> on Friday September 30, 2011 @08:41AM (#37565660) Journal

    Unless these disks are inoperative (and you say using DBAN is an option so I guess they aren't), don't physically destroy them! One overwrite with any data - ones, zeroes or random - is enough to make the data unrecoverable on a hard drive made in roughly the last 20 years, according to US NIST (just be sure to use a tool that overwrites bad sectors as well). You can do two if you're super-paranoid. If you want to do more than that, seek professional help - psychiatric help, not IT help.

    Then give the wiped disks to someone who could use them.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears