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Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Destroy Hard Drives?

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the burn-it-with-fire dept.

Data Storage 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?"

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oven (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562710)

high temperature destroys the magnetic field.

Re:oven (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562910)

This is probably the best suggestion yet; although, I'm unaware of the curie point in a harddrive, the fact that it undergoes what is essentially a phase change destroys all information.

Re:oven (3, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 3 years ago | (#37562940)

The first post is of course always the best suggestion yet, no matter how bad it is.

Thermite? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562712)

How about thermite?

Re:Thermite? (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | about 3 years ago | (#37562926)

This, if you want to destroy something you can move or you don't mind ruining the surroundings of, thermite is the only answer.

Re:Thermite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562994)

How about thermite?

If they can eat through a house surely they can eat through a hard-drive.

Shotgun (1)

bhenson (1231744) | about 3 years ago | (#37562720)

Shotgun or rifle its fun and educational

Re:Shotgun (1)

JimXugle (921609) | about 3 years ago | (#37562748)

Spraypaint them orange first. PULL!

Re:Shotgun (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 3 years ago | (#37562798)

Just drop them off the roof from work. Very cheap

not necessarily the easiest way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562722)

Find the correct torx bits and take the drives apart and do your worst on the platters.

Re:not necessarily the easiest way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562838)

this actually won't prevent them from being recoverable.

Re:not necessarily the easiest way (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 years ago | (#37562896)

The magnetic field patterns are on the surface of the platters. Sand the surface off(recommendation: do not breathe result.) and there is nothing to recover.

Unless you have pretty cool secrets, though, nearly anything that prevents them from Just Working when plugged in is probably enough.

Drill (5, Insightful)

HeLLFiRe1151 (743468) | about 3 years ago | (#37562734)

Drill Baby Drill

Re:Drill (2)

marcushnk (90744) | about 3 years ago | (#37562928)

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.

Thermite. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562736)

Next question.

How I've done it in the past... (2)

omglolbah (731566) | about 3 years ago | (#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*

Re:How I've done it in the past... (5, Informative)

danbuter (2019760) | about 3 years ago | (#37562854)

You can buy muriatic acid in just about any hardware store. It's basically hydrochloric acid.

Re:How I've done it in the past... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562918)

it is Hydrochloric acid

Re:How I've done it in the past... (1)

SquirrelDeth (1972694) | about 3 years ago | (#37562884)

Muriatic acid available at some hardware stores and at your local concrete tool and supply company. It is a weaker form of hydrochloric acid used for washing concrete to make very cool looking concrete. But back to the point it is available right off the shelf about $8 a gallon. It is also used in pools but I am not sure what for.

Thermite (3, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | about 3 years ago | (#37562740)

Exothermic oxidation-reduction makes drives dead.

Cheap... (2)

soda160289 (776461) | about 3 years ago | (#37562742)

Microwave Oven

Drill a hole through it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562744)

Makes it very hard to get it to spin, so nobody can get the speeds high enough to ge

Will it blend? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562750)

Subject says it all.

Buy a drill (1)

dloyer (547728) | about 3 years ago | (#37562752)

Works great. 3-4 holes drilled through the drive will make it impractical to recover.

Make sure you clean up the shavings. A shop vac is fine.

A 20oz framing hammer? (5, Funny)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 3 years ago | (#37562756)

Remember: when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a skull.

Fire (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562758)

Everything that can produce enough heat to melt the drive

Take it apart of break it (3, Informative)

Psychofreak (17440) | about 3 years ago | (#37562762)

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


Covered a long time ago! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562764)

this was covered a long time ago, if its not in the archives then shame on slashdot

Unscrew them, separate components, dispose (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562766)

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

Screwdriver (1)

crucifiction (2330280) | about 3 years ago | (#37562768)

I always take them apart and scratch the plates, ala CD destruction. Mostly it is fun to hard drives apart and marvel at their insides, smashing/scratching them is icing on the cake.

Re:Screwdriver (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562870)

I always take them apart for the free magnets inside.

Hamer and punch (5, Informative)

plover (150551) | about 3 years ago | (#37562770)

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.

Only one way to be sure. (4, Interesting)

WiglyWorm (1139035) | about 3 years ago | (#37562772)

Drive slagging. []

Re:Only one way to be sure. (1)

omglolbah (731566) | about 3 years ago | (#37562804)

I approve.... wholeheartedly!

Sledgehammer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562774)

Sledgehammer and safety glasses...


Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562778)

Microwave oven, if you don't mind buying another one

Use your drill (1)

jtwronski (465067) | about 3 years ago | (#37562780)

1/4" bit, drill 3 or 4 holes through the drive around the platter. Cost: zero. Time: about 1 minute per drive.

Nuke 'em from orbit... (0)

BatGnat (1568391) | about 3 years ago | (#37562782)

...It's the only way to be sure.

Drill Press (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562784)

When I worked as a Data Security Tech we formatted them with 1's and 0's 7 times before crushing them with a drill press. NO ONE could recover that data.

Nuke it from orbit. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562786)

It's the only way to be sure.

take a drill, and have some fun, shatter the disks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562790)

take a drill, and have some fun, shatter the disks!

44 Auto Mag (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562792)

Just fun.

magnet and hammer (1)

rimian (2148932) | about 3 years ago | (#37562794)

If you place them in a magnetic field and bang them with a hammer it should jolt the molecules into alignment with the magnetic field. I'm not sure how well however.

Re:magnet and hammer (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 years ago | (#37562932)

HDD platter coercivity is usually pretty high.

All bets are off if you happen to have a pet MRI apparatus, or go finger-painting all over the platters with a nice rare-earth; but a crummy little degausser made for nuking VHS tapes won't necessarily do the job.

Paper Shredder (2)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

power drill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562802)

Power drill a couple of holes straight through the drive should do the trick.

Takes very little time, and unless you are a person of extreme interest to some three letter acronym somewhere, it should be good enough.

Should be a reality show (1)

byronne (47527) | about 3 years ago | (#37562806)

...similar to 'Punkin Chunkin'.

The claw side of a hammer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562810)

Just hit the drive a few times and bust up the connector. Not perfect but hard to undo.

50BMG (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562812)

750 grains moving at over 3000fps, adding up for over 13,000 ft/lb of muzzle energy, there will be nothing usable left.

dban (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562818)

why would dban take several weeks? I think you're doing it wrong. DBAN can wipe multiple drives in parallel, and should only need 12 hours at absolute most for full paranoia mode.

Grinding wheel (1)

treymd (757333) | about 3 years ago | (#37562826)

Remove the plates, use an inexpensive grinding wheel to remove the thin chemical layer from each plate. Shotgun=recoverable sectors.

Move all your important data into them... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562830)

...delete all other copies.

They should magically become unreadable.

Freeze Them! Good and Solid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562834)

Best Cheapest way to destroy the HDD are to submerse them in a tub of water and whack them in the freezer...this will destroy the electronics, while physically destroying the platters. Making the surface completely unusable.

Tired subject? (1)

spineboy (22918) | about 3 years ago | (#37562836)

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)

kill disk & hammer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562840)

I use the free version of killdisk for a quick once over, then smash with my sledge hammer... good enough for my data which isn't very sensitive.

Donate them to Charity? (1)

kodabmx (2473710) | about 3 years ago | (#37562842)

Chances are a Charity would be elated to have 15 extra drives and surely would go to the expense of recovering old data... just saying :)

check local listings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562844)

We have several local destruction companies that will do one off deals and small contracts with the public. They even let you walk your drive up to the conveyor to the shredder so you can be certain your drives are destroyed.

I think we ended up paying something cheap like $1.50 per drive when we last used them ( though we were destroying ~ 200 drives )

Just zero it (4, Informative)

Reason58 (775044) | about 3 years ago | (#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:Just zero it (1)

locopuyo (1433631) | about 3 years ago | (#37562878)

goatse.jpg it

At least... (1)

coldmist (154493) | about 3 years ago | (#37562852)

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!

Get an old-school bulk tape degausser (1)

kimvette (919543) | about 3 years ago | (#37562858)

3rd party destruction (1)

mrsnort (2473708) | about 3 years ago | (#37562860)

I've taken heaps to 3rd party secure destruction places in the past and they allow me to sit with ear muffs and safety glasses and watch them get destroyed and turn into metal garden mulch,just find a place with competitive prices and your good to go

target practice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562862)

Really -- target practice. Get a simple .22 LR rifle, take the hard drives out the country, lean them against a log, step back, and have some fun. Total destruction.

physical destruction (1)

ruebarb (114845) | about 3 years ago | (#37562866)

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


Data Backup / Data Destruction (3, Informative)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | about 3 years ago | (#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. []

This attitude makes me sick and I'm tired of it. (3, Insightful)

AbRASiON (589899) | about 3 years ago | (#37562876)

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.

Re:This attitude makes me sick and I'm tired of it (1, Troll)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 3 years ago | (#37562916)

few hours fucking around with hard drives, or five minutes smashing old hard drives that are too small to be worth someone's time reusing (really who needs a 20 gig hard drive)

Re:This attitude makes me sick and I'm tired of it (2)

Reason58 (775044) | about 3 years ago | (#37562974)

You actually do not have to sit there turning a crank to power the computer. Simply start the process and then let it run. Less than a half hour of your time in total, and you have irrecoverable data.

Re:This attitude makes me sick and I'm tired of it (1)

SCVirus (774240) | about 3 years ago | (#37562992)

>anyone who tells you otherwise is in to voodoo and black magic or trying to make some profit. Not true. Give me a budget of 30 million USD, and I can recover at least 10 sequential bits with 80% certainty.

Open them up and salvage the magnets (4, Informative)

SensitiveMale (155605) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

Breathe and Squeeze (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562882)

54 Cal round ball from a Hawken black powder rifle at 75 yards... Its how the mountain men of the West got rid of their hard drives.

I've used a hammer and a nail (1)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | about 3 years ago | (#37562886)

Just nail through the case and through the platters.


A tap from a Hammer (1)

Vecanti (2384840) | about 3 years ago | (#37562890)

Take a hammer a give them a whack.

The platters inside will shatter. It doesn't take much ( you don't have to beat them to death or anything) and you be able to easily hear all the glass/ceramic inside.

This doesn't work with all hard drives. Some platters are aluminum, but it's worth a quick test before you go through the trouble of doing anything else. Use to do this in the shop I worked in. Interestingly all the 2.5" drives I have ever run across have all been glass/ceramic.

They make great decorations (1)

GiovanniZero (1006365) | about 3 years ago | (#37562892)

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. (4, Informative)

rollingcalf (605357) | about 3 years ago | (#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 [] ).

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

sandblasting ftw (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562900)

Remove the platters and sandblast the surface film off. Take about 30 seconds per platter with a decent sandblaster.

What is the data? (1)

jamesh (87723) | about 3 years ago | (#37562902)

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.

Take them apart (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | about 3 years ago | (#37562904)

I simply got a set of torx drivers, and take my drives apart. Then I bend/scratch the disks and the control board; running the reader arm magnets over the disks is if I feel extra paranoid.

Office Space (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562906)

I'd go all Office Space on those drives for a starter.

have fun!! (1)

ufpdom (556704) | about 3 years ago | (#37562908)

I take them apart and use the spindles for fun and they have awesome incredible magnets in them.. Costs NOTHING!!!!

disk (1)

persicom (136940) | about 3 years ago | (#37562920)

@Platters = Drive.Remove()
Pieces = map {crack in two} map {apply orbital sander} @Platters;
ForEach( Piece, Pieces)
        If( Today + 1 == garbageDay() )
                push @garbage, pop @pieces
      sleep 1 day

I leave garbage collection as a separate function...

Freeze Them! Good and Solid (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562922)

This is the among the best and cheapest ways to destroy your HDD.

Submerge your drives in a tub of water, whack them in your freezer, done!

Water will destroy the electronics, while the freezing process will physically destroy the platters, rendering the disc completely useless.

Install Windows on Them (3, Informative)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 3 years ago | (#37562924)

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

If it can spin, it can be read. (3, Informative)

Jimbob The Mighty (1282418) | about 3 years ago | (#37562936)

Thermite, or any other method to melt the platters.

umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562938)

rent a roofing nailgun. 4 spikes per disk, unless the NSA is after you its all good. If the NSA /is/ after you, they know you're on /. anyways so why ask??

The classics are best (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | about 3 years ago | (#37562942)

A very large hammer

SImple (1)

koan (80826) | about 3 years ago | (#37562946)

Hydrofluoric acid bath.

5-Tesla magnetic field looks pretty good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562948)

Also, google.

Safer than thermite or shooting with a .30-06 is: (1)

exabrial (818005) | about 3 years ago | (#37562950)

If you have access to metal working equipment, I'd just use an oxy-acetylene cutting torch. The thin metal case and platters melt away in a second or two... This is by far the most effective method i've discovered, you can do 20 hard drives in 20 mins.

Nobody wanbts your old crap (1)

Moof123 (1292134) | about 3 years ago | (#37562952)

Unless you are worried about the feds recovering your kiddie porn collection, just wipe the files. If you are worried about your kiddie porn collection, then just have a hammer party. Once they are warped and scratch NOBODY will get the crap off their without NSA levels of resources.

Stupid geek paranoia.

Remington 476 (1)

dickens (31040) | about 3 years ago | (#37562960)

This [] is inexpensive and very effective. You can even do two at once with a 3" nail!

Fun way: microwave it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562962)

Just opening the drives is fun. The magnets are quite hefty, and can be used as excellent fridge magnets for large amounts of paperwork :)

Once you opened all the drives, and removed all the plates, seriously, it's already really hard to retrieve any data from it, even law enforcement would not be happy to retrieve data from these drives, even worse if they are all shuffled together.

So you can have a little bit more fun, and put individual plates in microwave on top of a water glass for a few seconds each. More than enough to cook off any residual information you might have, and enjoy a little microwave experiment :) Reminder: Don't breathe the fumes, if any :) It's much less impressive than DVD microwaving but it does the trick.

Then, wash the plates, and use them as coasters for your beer. If you want better protection, glue in felt on one side.

Dremel & Scrap Metal (1)

Nuitari The Wiz (1123889) | about 3 years ago | (#37562964)

I usually open up the cover, power it the drive up so it spins (so a platter is exposed), use a dremel with a grinder attachment to damage the first layer. This will already make it unrecoverable.

After that I take the bunch of platters and bring it to a scrap metal dealer so it can be recycled / smelted.

What the heck do you have on these drives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562966)

I mean seriously. Just get an IDE external enclosure and wipe them one by one, it shouldn't take more than a few hours and most of that time you can be off doing something else.

Nice magnets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562970)

It takes access to the right tools and takes time but those drives come with strong magnets. Not really all that useful but fun...

the quick, cheap and sure fire way is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562976)

use Thermite.

thermite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562978)

I agree with the ones who said thermite. It will melt the entire hard drive, save for the frame (aluminum, if I remember correctly). Nothing is more secure than this. If it can spin, data can be recovered. So make sure it can't spin unless you duct tape it to a car wheel.

Eat them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562990)

Eat them.

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