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Cheap Bulk Eraser for Hard Disks?

Cliff posted about 8 years ago | from the alternatives-to-smashing-platters dept.


cute-boy asks: "Recently I had to replace some hard disk drives from the same batch which had failed, while still under warranty. Because the drives were no longer recognized by the SCSI controller, it was not possible to erase the data on them. In view of the sensitivity of the data contained upon them, and the chance this was still forensically recoverable, our company decided to buy new drives rather than risk the disclosure of their contents by returning then to the supplier. How would you non-destructively (physically) destroy data on a hard disk without access to a bulk eraser? Obviously in this case it's a bit late to be thinking of using encryption."

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Why no physical? (3, Funny)

daeg (828071) | about 8 years ago | (#16073455)

Why are you against physical destruction? Let your IT department have a field trip to an abadoned parking lot with some sledge hammers.

Re:Why no physical? (2, Insightful)

linkedlinked (1001508) | about 8 years ago | (#16073484)

I think the idea was that the poster would like to preserve the drives, and thus still qualify for possible returns (warranty or otherwise). The options are "Physically destroy (or retain ownership of)" and "secure wipe, return for $$$." Clearly, one is a more attractive solution, especially if the volume of disks in question is particularly large.

Re:Why no physical? (5, Informative)

bhmit1 (2270) | about 8 years ago | (#16073557)

A bulk eraser, aka degausser, will destroy not only the data, but also the factory written tracks. The end result is that the drive can never be used again. This may invalidate the warranty if the manufacturer doesn't offer the "send back the face plate" option. Not to mention, most of these degaussers cost 10 times that of a replacement drive according to a quick google search. Considering your line of work, make sure you pick drives from manufacturers that allow replacements without sending back the data.

Re:Why no physical? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 8 years ago | (#16073684)

That's a great idea. I never knew that there existed manufacturers that didn't require you to send back the entire unit in order to obtain a refund. How do they protect against people taking off the faceplates, and replacing them with another sheet of metal, and sending back the original faceplate to basically get a free drive? I guess you'd have to do it in a clean room to stop dust from getting on the disk, but if you already had a cleanroom at your disposal, then what's to stop you.

Re:Why no physical? (1)

GigsVT (208848) | about 8 years ago | (#16073777)

The faceplates are milled, cast, or stamped aluminum. It's not a flat piece of metal, it's custom made for the drive. By the time you buy a block of aluminum and cast or mill it to the right shape, you could have bought a new drive.

Re:Why no physical? (2, Informative)

alienw (585907) | about 8 years ago | (#16073847)

I've never seen cast aluminum used for the cover. Usually, it's a relatively flat piece of stamped metal. It has filters and stuff built in, so you can't just replace it, but it's just a cheap piece of stamped aluminum. Anyway, the reason the manufacturer won't accept faceplates for warranty claims is due to several reasons:
- they can't verify the drive has actually failed
- they can't verify the drive wasn't physically damaged
- they can't refurbish the defective drive
Most drives you send in are actually rebuilt or reformatted. The warranty replacement drive you receive is someone else's failed drive. Because most manufacturers don't perform proper verification, it's not uncommon to get a defective or about-to-fail replacement. I would never use a warranty replacement drive for even a semi-important application, and certainly not in a server.

Re:Why no physical? (2, Interesting)

iq in binary (305246) | about 8 years ago | (#16073920)

Having seen faceplates and knowing what basic function they have to serve, and being a machinist......

You could knock another faceplate out tha would serve the same purpose for less than $5 in material and maybe an hour of your own personal time. Assuming you had the machines and tooling.

Actually a lucrative thing to do, if you have the resources :-P

Re:Why no physical? (1)

D'Eyncourt (237843) | about 8 years ago | (#16074071)

The problem with bulk erasers (at least those using handheld rare-earth magnets as opposed to electromagnets) is that THEY DO NOT WORK. At my workplace we had a couple of these for the express purpose of erasing hard drives, and following the instructions we waved them on the outside of the case and found they did nothing. We even opened the case of one hard drive and placed the magnet directly on the platter, leaving it there overnight. The PC with that hard drive rebooted without any problems.

Now we use a DOS program which overwrites the data several times to make it at least somewhat difficult to read data from them, then send the hard drives out to be destroyed.

Re:Why no physical? (1)

edmudama (155475) | about 8 years ago | (#16074101)

This is true... the drive could be reconditioned in the factory, but most end users won't have the equipment to do so.

I know drive companies have, in some cases, accepted photographs of the drive top stickers and serial numbers for warranty returns. The company signs a contract promising that these drives really are bad, and in exchange the drive vendor sends them a replacement. This works around the rules of many sensitive installations where no non-volatile storage can leave the premises without being completely destroyed.

Obviously the drive company knows the field failure rate of their products, so while you could game this for a few tens of drives, trying to get a few hundred for free wouldn't work unless you're already buying about half-a-million units. At those volumes, it's too much work for too little reward.

Re:Why no physical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16074596)

A degausser would work great, except that it won't. I worked at a university surplus store that has to get rid of drives. Physical destruction is the only thing that works. I thought this was bull and a degausser would work, but we tried one out on a drive (for 10 minutes), plugged it back into a PC.. and it spun right up, and booted up no problem. Then, tried moving it around in different ways, in case you had to really move the field around or something (*on* the same drive) and I think at worst it accumulated a few data errors.

Re:Why no physical? (1)

tsa (15680) | about 8 years ago | (#16074490)

I think with the prices of hard drives these days the amount of time you invest in wiping the data off the hard drive costs more than the drive itself. I wouldn't bother myself asking /. and wiping every drive, but use the sledge hammer.

Re:Why no physical? (1, Redundant)

queenb**ch (446380) | about 8 years ago | (#16074445)

Your choices are:

1) $2000 degausser
2) $50 for a really nice sledge hammer from home depot (shock absorbing handle)

Since they were willing to spring for replacment drives rather than risk data disclosure, I'd opt for the sledge hammer. You can buy a lot of hard drives for $1950.00.

Consider it therapy for the geeks...

2 cents,


Re:Why no physical? (2, Insightful)

Wwolmack (731212) | about 8 years ago | (#16074509)

Breaking hard drive platters is not easy, and given a significant level of paranoia, physically snapping the platters in half may not be enough.
Degaussing the drives may not be thorough enough, given various anecdotes about the ability to recover data off almost any drive using fancy super-expensive equipment.

Unless you've got IBM Deathstar 75GXP's (and if you do, well your data is already as good as gone), your platters are probably metal. Even if you have Deathstars, their platters are glass and are susceptible to the method below:

Metal melts. Magnetic metals lose their net magnetism below the melting point [] . So find somebody with a kiln, and turn the platters into inert blobs.

You are stuck with these drives. You can't return them for replacement, and if you keep them and still get a replacement, the data is still on the platters. You could just send them to a data-destruction company, but where's the fun in that?

Re:Why no physical? (1)

NP (31775) | about 8 years ago | (#16074761) [] - It would be a fun field day - it can be adapted to fulfill your need as a bulk eraser!

dd (-1, Flamebait)

mnmn (145599) | about 8 years ago | (#16073459)

I use dd from a knoppix boot disk as a quick solution.

Theres barely anything faster than this beside a dedicated system.

dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda

Needless to day be damn sure its the right disk if there are other disks in the system.

I have a customized USB boot stick with busybox which can boot faster. However it doesnt have all kinds of SCSI drivers you might need, so I keep extra knoppix CDs at each site (rather than carry). Its the single most useful CD I have.

Re:dd (1)

MankyD (567984) | about 8 years ago | (#16073510)

To quote the summary:

Because the drives were no longer recognized by the SCSI controller, it was not possible to erase the data on them.


Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073520)

The post clearly states that the drives aren't recognised by the SCSI controller. No mater what OS you use, you won't be able to write on drives if you can't see them.

Either the parent is incapable of reading or is exibiting flaming fan-boyism. In any case, please mod down!

Re:MOD DOWN (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073591)

Why would a bulk eraser be able to write to the drive, but not linux?


RobertLTux (260313) | about 8 years ago | (#16073673)

the same reason a M1A1 general sherman tank can drive down some roads your car would just wimper at trying
|||| begin bulk eraser mag field


controllers head is this line


end bulk erasers mag field |||

Easy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073469)

Gasoline. . .Fire. . .Fun!

Physically destroy the platters (2, Informative)

GarrettZilla (103173) | about 8 years ago | (#16073473)

Open the hard drive (get some Torx T-7 through T-9 bits first, you'll probably need them), pull the platters, and sand them.

Re:Physically destroy the platters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073932)

Or just take a torch and burn them. The platters are made of aluminum and burn/melt very easily.

Re:Physically destroy the platters (4, Funny)

ryanhos (125502) | about 8 years ago | (#16073989)

Won't that just round the corners off the windows and smooth out the text so it doesn't look so BuMpY?

Re:Physically destroy the platters (2, Insightful)

mrbcs (737902) | about 8 years ago | (#16074481)

And while yer at it, pull out thoses monster magnets inside! They're lots of fun! Especially the ones from those old quantum bigfoots. It's damn near impossible pulling them off a piece of steel. Great for magnetizing screw drivers.

I use old bicycle brake pads. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073479)

But a friend keeps the eraser tips off broken pencils. YMMV.

Physical destruction is your only choice... (0)

rthille (8526) | about 8 years ago | (#16073481)

The poster seems to indicate that the drive has failed and it's impossible to write to it via the normal scsi interface. At that point, the only way to render the data unrecoverable is the physically destroy the platters.

I like taking the drives apart for the magnets, then using heat on the platters...

If you've got your heart set against the physical (4, Funny)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | about 8 years ago | (#16073487)

...and they can be quite fun... I guess your only option is to open up the new drives, swap the platters, and erase the data that way. Then swap the platters again if you wish so that they're (technically) new again.

Never tried it myself, though everyone on the intrawebs largely agrees that there are legions of the mighty dust army waiting breathlessly for you to crack open the drive so that they can invade it. There is apparently no invention of man capable of withstanding their attack, meaning a high possibility that if you perform this operation and then plug the drive back in, a single dust atom will be all that is needed to whir around frantically in the formerly pristine environment, loosing the veritable fires of Hades on your poor machine until it erupts in a wild, flaming mess, sending shards of platter in all directions to seek the soft flesh of babes and women.

So yeah, they don't recommend doing that.

Re:If you've got your heart set against the physic (1)

Ajehals (947354) | about 8 years ago | (#16073693)


Re:If you've got your heart set against the physic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073747)

Actually, drives aren't hermetically sealed, so that might not do as much as you hope.

Re:If you've got your heart set against the physic (2, Informative)

alienw (585907) | about 8 years ago | (#16073903)

They are not hermetically sealed, but they are sealed against dust, so yeah, opening it will fuck it up pretty fast. But it will run for 20-30 minutes before it craps out.

Re:If you've got your heart set against the physic (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | about 8 years ago | (#16074159)

I guess your only option is to open up the new drives, swap the platters, and erase the data that way. Then swap the platters again if you wish so that they're (technically) new again.
Won't work. At least, not in a drive with more than one platter. Not reliably, anyway. If the platters are not aligned with each other in the exact same position they were in the original drive, it probably won't be able to read the firmware from the drive's track zero, so it won't identify itself to the BIOS properly, or at all.

Besides....this'll void the warranty on the new drives, also, so you'll be potentially doubling the wasted expenditure of if you'd just destroyed the original failed drives in the first place.

Re:If you've got your heart set against the physic (1)

merlin_jim (302773) | about 8 years ago | (#16074501)

On the other hand, I knew an old hardware hacker running a small computer shop in rural NC... customers would bring in failed drives, if he could determine the failure was on the controller, he would find a spare drive with the same model number and swap out the controllers - revived the drive with data intact.

Not sure if it's possible / easy to do that with these particular drives, but it's worth looking into...

Re:If you've got your heart set against the physic (1)

Scoth (879800) | about 8 years ago | (#16074652)

I bought a lot of 10 identical 40 gig laptop drives from an eBay seller for some teeny pittance (I want to say something like $10 shipped) that were explicitly sold as non-working. Of the bunch, most of them didn't do a thing. However, there were 2 that had some broken pins, and a few that read fine but had massive data errors. I had no trouble swapping the controller boards from the ones with broken pins from one of the data error ones and ended up with 2 good 40 gig drives for $10. Wasn't too shabby I thought.

Or maybe try somebody like these folks (3, Informative)

GarrettZilla (103173) | about 8 years ago | (#16073505)

Re:Or maybe try somebody like these folks (1)

yolto (178256) | about 8 years ago | (#16074500)

These guys are a bit extreme. In addition to shredding your drive into tiny little peices, they will also degauss the drive beforehand for an additional fee. I don't think even the most secret levels of DOD classification need this kind of destruction of data. Does anyone think that someone is going to attempt to reassemble the tiny shredded bits of their hard drive platters in order to reconstruct the data on them? I can maybe see someone doing that with shredded paper if they were really desperate to get to your info, but with a hard drive? It's just not feasible.

Special return options... (5, Informative)

Fallen Kell (165468) | about 8 years ago | (#16073513)

Well, most all hardware manufacturers will offer you replacements even without sending back the complete drive. You need to contact them by phone and setup the special RMA. For instance, we can't send back any of our disks if they fail due to the data. We can only send back non-electrical and non-memory containing parts. A lot of times we simply send back the cover plate to the disks. I know for a fact that Seagate and Western Digital will take back disks like this if you explain the situation.

Also depending on who your vendors are, you can usually upgrade your service so that you do not need to send back failed disks. Dell for instance has this as part of one of there higher level support contracts.

Re:Special return options... (0, Flamebait)

MustardMan (52102) | about 8 years ago | (#16074111)

You know what amazes me... there are several people now who've pointed out the fact that you can send the cover plates back. That's not what amazes me. What amazes me is the fact that this relatively simple-to-obtain bit of information somehow eluded the submittor. I wonder why he didnt think to CALL THE FUCKING MANUFACTURER and explain the situation to them.

Top cover? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073516)

I've heard that most HD manufacturers understand this common problem, and will allow you to remove and return only the top cover (with the complete model/serial number sticker still entact) of each failed drive as proof that it was destroyed. You should ask about this when requesting an RMA number for your batch of dead drives.

Big Magnet (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073523)

How about a magnet? Or, failing that, a sledgehammer?

Why bother erasing when you can destroy. They're useless disks, in any case.

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073531)

Your drive does not work in such a way that you cannot control the head. Therefore, as you well know, you cannot erase it. What the fuck do you want Slashdot to tell you -- that fairy tales are true?

Oh, and your title is very misleading.

I've heard somewhere (2, Informative)

vadim_t (324782) | about 8 years ago | (#16073535)

That some companies have a deal with the hard disk manufacturer that they'll ship only the drive's cover when it fails, and destroy the rest. Not 100% sure if this is possible, but if your reason for wanting to wipe the drives is getting a warranty replacement, you might want to consider that.

Otherwise, use thermite, and lots of it. It's cheap and fun.

Bulk erasure (1)

woolie (187633) | about 8 years ago | (#16073536)

It is hard for me to believe that no one posting has yet understood the question. The issue is that the querent has failed piece of hardware, under warranty, but doesn't want to return it for replacement fear that the data could be recovered by a highly motivated party.

The answer seems clear. Even if you hard a piece of equipment to erase a drive's contents, you would not be able to verify that the erasure has occurred without the drive functioning in the first place. Therefore, there is unlikely to be a satisfactory solution.

Perhaps you would be better served by writing data to the drives in an encrypted form. Thus, after a future failure, under warranty or not, you could be confident that data recovery would be unlikely.

Re:Bulk erasure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073634)

Since, as you mention, the poster can't write any data to the disk, it's a bit fruitless to suggest writing encrypted data to it. Perhaps you are offering wisdom for the future -- but, after having chastised others for not understanding the question, I'm sure you read carefully enough to catch this bit:
Obviously in this case it's a bit late to be thinking of using encryption.

Introduction to slashdot groupthink... (2, Insightful)

IANAAC (692242) | about 8 years ago | (#16073669)

Highly recognizable keyword(s) + question mark = highly qualified answers from first posters who never made it past the first sentence.

Re:Bulk erasure (1)

SpacePunk (17960) | about 8 years ago | (#16074102)

I find it hard to believe that your company has such information that you'd think that people would go out of their way to recover the drives in order to damage it or steal information. I think the corporate ego there is probably running rampant.

Re:Bulk erasure (1)

larry bagina (561269) | about 8 years ago | (#16074146)

Maybe, but then again, if it's something like medical records they potentially liable for big fines and jailtime. Assuming it's a private company. The above disclosure laws don't apply to governmental agencies.

Value of Data (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 8 years ago | (#16074173)

Oh come on now. How much does a SCSI drive cost? $200.00? $500.00? $75.00? If your data is so sensitive that you're worried about it being reconstructed by the RMA people, then just destroy the drive and kiss the warranty replacement goodbye. Seventy five dollars is not that much of a cost to bear to ensure that your data is safe.

Magnet! (1)

diamondmagic (877411) | about 8 years ago | (#16073538)

Magnets! They might bend the heads and scratch the surface, making if that is what you cann 'non-destructive', but it always works. And no refrigerator magnets, obviously.

Re:Magnet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073565)

microwave magnets!!

Re:Magnet! (3, Informative)

Nutria (679911) | about 8 years ago | (#16073887)

Magnets! They might bend the heads and scratch the surface, making if that is what you cann 'non-destructive', but it always works.

The military doesn't think so.

  • Software wiping (MilStd 5220.22-M)
  • Degaussing (MilStd 5200 28-M)
  • Destroying the platters. "destroyed by melting, incineration, crushing, or shredding."
This is more difficult than you think. []
For example, see the March 2004 Network World article "Inside the DoD's crime lab," which recounts how the Department of Defense computer forensics lab has been able to successfully recover hard drives that have been "thrown off of balconies and even shot with AK-47s, as in one recent battlefield case."
So, hitting with a sledghammer doesn't seem very effctive.

A power drill and wire cup brush ( 00/230300/230375/products/lg_33486043.jpg [] ) would definitely work, as would various acids (which have hazards of their own).

Re:Magnet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16074000)

I don't know why the hell people go at old drive platters with grinding wheels, acid, thermite (ok, that one is worth doing for entertainment), etc.

If the drive still spins up, just pop open the top, toss in a few dozed grains of sand or more, close the case, and plug it into a spare old machine. Go do something worthwhile and come back and throw away the drive in an hour. The platters surface will be destroyed, and they will be be scrubbed clean of all data. Much less worth than the grinding wheel, melting, etc, etc.

Re:Magnet! (1)

couch_potato (623264) | about 8 years ago | (#16074442)

The military doesn't think so.

Degaussing (MilStd 5200 28-M)

I thought degaussing was accomplished via exposure to an oscillating magnetic field.

Cool links. []

Re:Magnet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16074550)

Yeah but only if you use these kinds of magnets. []

Oh yeah and its a little hard to get the hard drive unstuck from the magnet afterwards :)

Logic boards (1)

spacecadet_tommy (1001514) | about 8 years ago | (#16073540)

Had a similar problem where 1 of 2 hard drives (same model) failed. I switched the logic board out of the good one, used it to replace the dead one, reformatted/overwrote to my heart's content, then switched the logic board back to my good drive.

Disposal: The Cheap way (0, Offtopic)

TexNex (513254) | about 8 years ago | (#16073552)

Make friends with someone who has access to a tire shredder. The shredder will make quick work of the drive and you can then burn the remains for added security or pass them directly to a local recycler (most cities frown upon throwing computer materials in the trash as they usually contain heavy metals). Another option would involve fun with thermite but, that may involve a bit more risk than you are willing to take.

Re:Disposal: The Cheap way (1)

SpacePunk (17960) | about 8 years ago | (#16074108)

to make sure of absolute security you should divide up the left over shreddings and pass them on to multiple recyclers.

My preferred method... (1)

gerbalblaste (882682) | about 8 years ago | (#16073558)

As emphasized in other comments the only way to truly erase a hard drive is to destroy it.

My favorite method involves and magnetic induction burner or hotplate. The benefit of this is it will destroy the data but leave no external trace.

Bulk eraser won't help anyhow... (0)

isaac (2852) | about 8 years ago | (#16073590)

IIRC, the magnetic coercivity of modern hard disk media is sufficiently high that the only sure method of data destruction is physical destruction of the platters.

Sledgehammer in the parking lot on the platters (removed from the drive, if possible) should do nicely for any application short of national security secrets - just be sure to wear safety goggles.


Re:Bulk eraser won't help anyhow... (1)

technotot (899952) | about 8 years ago | (#16073624)

agreed. unless you have access to the NSA building or an electromagnet, id say (unfortinately)[sic] isaac is right. try to have some fun with it. go hang up some signs and offer 5 bucks to the first person to get it open, and the guy who shatters the platters. -Justin

Read the fucking summary (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073598)

I just modded down 4 people in this article, which out of the couple years I've been getting mod points probably doubles the number of posts I've modded down.

THE POSTER ISN'T ASKING FOR METHODS TO DESTROY THE PHYSICAL DISK -- in fact, he specifically says that he does NOT want such methods. What he wants is ways to destroy the DATA without destroying the DISK so that he can return it to the vendor for warranty replacement.

Thus everyone saying "destroy it with thermite", "find someone with a tire shredder", etc. IS OFF TOPIC. (Despite me modding them redundant, off topic would be better.)

Re:Read the fucking summary (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073633)

Eat a dick, pedant. The moderation system works without you explaining your actions: people will talk about what they want and mod along with it.

It's because they don't know the answer (2, Insightful)

Travoltus (110240) | about 8 years ago | (#16073717)

to the pertinent question.

There is probably no such thing as a cheap and effective bulk eraser. We have an agreement with Maxtor (now Seagate) that allows us to send in the chassis for a replacement, minus the platters. The replacement contract is expensive, though, but we need it since we have a LOT of banking data.

Re:Read the fucking summary (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 8 years ago | (#16073718)

i would say at this point asking a forensic grade recovery place to crack the drives is the only way to shred the data or find a high end hacker to do this
either way its big bucks
(the drill is you pop the drives in a room/box that would make an OR look worse than a gas station toilet then you mount the platters in a new drive do the wipe and rinse/ repeat)

Re:Read the fucking summary (1)

Nutria (679911) | about 8 years ago | (#16073906)

i would say at this point asking a forensic grade recovery place to crack the drives is the only way to shred the data or find a high end hacker to do this

Since the idea is to destroy the data, why does it have to happen in a clean room? Why not in the utlity room?

Re:Read the fucking summary (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | about 8 years ago | (#16074347)

I just modded down 4 people in this article

And because you posted in this article, all your moderation is erased like their harddrives will.

Re:Read the fucking poster ID (1)

IANAAC (692242) | about 8 years ago | (#16074405)

And because you posted in this article, all your moderation is erased like their harddrives will.

Yes, of course.

Does nobody pay attention to ANYTHING anymore?

Re:Read the fucking summary (1)

Dachannien (617929) | about 8 years ago | (#16074382)

Most regular Slashdot readers know that the askers in Ask Slashdot articles rarely ask the correct question.

Did you talk to tech support? (4, Informative)

Bombcar (16057) | about 8 years ago | (#16073610)

Maxtor, Western Digital, and Hitachi all replaced drives that we'd sold into sensitive environments with little fuss. Hitachi needed a signed form faxed back, Maxtor & Western Digital needed the top cover of the drive.

Make a building from their dust (1)

g4n0n (659895) | about 8 years ago | (#16073631)

If you do decide to go down the destructive disposal route you could do what the Aussie department of defence does. 1. Get a big grinding wheel 2. Push harddrives against grinding wheel and collect dust 3. Mix dust with concrete 4. Build a building with said concrete

(no) Disassemble (0, Offtopic)

Midnight Warrior (32619) | about 8 years ago | (#16073655)

The most painful way, but only sure way to accomplish this is to disassemble the drive and melt the platters. If they are really old drives, then waving the disassembled platters under a wand-based degausser usually works. This stuff is all measured in oersteds. The recording head has to overcome the coercivity of the magnetic media in order to record a reliable signal. Coercivity is the strength of magnetic field (measured in, you guessed it, oersteds) required to alter the alignment of the particles on the platter. The heads can write at this strength and so must you if you wish to properly erase the data. That's why the big bulk erasers cost so much. The big one, the TD-1 can do up to about 8000 oersteds, which will do anything up to, but not including the perpendicular recording stuff in the 500+GB drives.

If you're a cheap skate, you and a T-8 wrench are going to be friends (get a bit for about every 20 drives cause they wear out fast if you're in a hurry) and pull the drives completely apart, down to getting the platters off the spindle motor. Some drives take a T-10 or T-6. Then send the platters to be burned. If you don't courier them to the incinerator, then at least play 52 card pickup with them and make it difficult for any but the most determined.

Degausing Table. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073658)

When I wored at a knife factory we had a degausing table.
It was THE COOLEST THING. You would place anything with iron and/or magnets on it, turn it on (don't wear a watch) and all magnetism is gone with in about 2 feet.

What? (1)

remembertomorrow (959064) | about 8 years ago | (#16073691)

What kind of BOFH are you?

Asking for recommendations for a BULK ERASER? Absurd!

This should have been covered in Lusers 101!

Call the manufacturer, (1, Redundant)

loraksus (171574) | about 8 years ago | (#16073731)

And explain your concerns. Some manufacturers have a policy where you only return part of a drive (usually the cover) if you don't want your sensitive data to be transported.

Once you get the replacement drives, take them to the range and fill them with bullet holes. A 2 3/4" 12 gauge slug should take out a quarter of the drive at a time. Or fill with 9mm holes - when hit, the platter around the entry hole gets pulled out.
A .22 from a rifle will work as well, but you'll need to put a dozen rounds through it.
If you hit the drive on the edge dead center with an 8mm, the drive should be able to stop the bullet, which transfers a lot of energy to the case and sends the drive flying 50+ feet down range.

Tons of fun. Much faster and easier than sledge hammers.

Re:Call the manufacturer, (1)

loraksus (171574) | about 8 years ago | (#16073740)

or rather take the *dead* drives to the range ;)

You Can't Get There From Here (1)

value_added (719364) | about 8 years ago | (#16073765)

Well, the statement "it was not possible to erase the data on them" directly contradicts the possibility of an answer the question of how to "non-destructively (physically) destroy data on a hard disk without access to a bulk eraser", unless of course, your current limitations include the magical exception of having access to some really fun electronics equipment.

Then again, I'm still wondering WTF the term "bulk eraser" is supposed to mean.

A useful starting point would be reading Secure Deletion of Data from Magnetic and Solid-State Memory [] . A quick Google search also came up with this tidbit concerning NTFS file systems [] .

You are out of luck (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 8 years ago | (#16073772)

First, I don't think that bulk-erasing counts as non-destructive today. Not all drives can do servo writing without additional equipment.

Second, I don't think you can get bulk erasers that work for modern harddrives. The magnetic fiel strenght may just be too large.

Advice: Do physical destruction and live with the financial loss. Acting first and thinking later has a price. Please pay it.

Re:You are out of luck (1)

rlanctot (310750) | about 8 years ago | (#16073901)

I wonder if a field like that found in an MRI machine would do the trick if you exposed the platters...

Re:You are out of luck (1)

MichaelKaiserProScri (691448) | about 8 years ago | (#16073994)

Since the field in an MRI can pick up one of those big oxygen bottles and fling it across the room, it's probably enough to render the data on the platter unreadable.

Re:You are out of luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073949)

Maybe standard bulk erasers are just the wrong tools for the job. Just give your HD the full battery of medical examinations!

It's pretty hard to imagine any data on your hard drive surviving an MRI, although it may damage the drive itself too.


Throw away (1)

Spazmania (174582) | about 8 years ago | (#16073794)

1. If the drive is no longer recognized by the controller then the circuitry on the board has been damaged. Replace the board from an identical drive and you may be able to access it again.

2. If your data is so sensitive that you can't risk sending it back then that risk is far more than the cost of the drive. Physically destroy it and buy some other brand to replace it.

3. Its doubtful that degaussers (as suggested elsewhere in the responses) would work. The platters are encases in relatively think metal which will block the field and if you've ever opened a dead drive then you know that the platters already resist the relatively powerful magenet used to control the drive heads.

4. Do your drives have enough airflow past them to keep them cool? 90% of cases from name-brand manufacturers do not. Dell, for example, is one of the worst offendors. If the drives are hot to the touch just after you power down the machine then the replacement drive is going to burn out too.

Re:Throw away (1)

whit3 (318913) | about 8 years ago | (#16074620)

>1. If the drive is no longer recognized by the controller then the circuitry on the board has been damaged. Replace the board from an identical drive ...

It may be that a board swap from a similar drive will restore the disk to usability (enough
to use Norton Wipe Disk or other security-style erase program). Then you
put the dead board back on the drive and get your warranty replacement.

I've done it.

But there's a good possibility that the problem is noisy read/write (either the heads
or the amplifiers), and then it won't pass its little power-on-self-test. I've seen a lot
of dead drives that seemed to spin, but couldn't control speed or find tracks, both of
which are functions mediated by reading the magnetizations on the drive,
and they always went into NOT READY state. Detailed disk status could

Lotsa disks with good motors and write heads don't let you try to erase, no matter
what circuit board swaps you have available.

The only solution.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073816)

The only solution is Kompressor Krushing your disks.

Erasing Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073884)

I am working for a company with a similar problem. All our really high security clients request to have the data destroyed with no chance of recovery (incineration). for the clients who wish to recover the drives and reuse or sell them our warehouse uses some apps that write random data over the disks about 30 or so times to make sure that the data is fully erased. Can't think of the software they use (Im an onsite tech and they only use the software in the disposal warehouse) but a quick google search would come up with something.

The secure delete is the only non-destructive method I have heard of but I think that some feel that the data is not totally gone (just very very very hard to recover).

planning (1)

n9hmg (548792) | about 8 years ago | (#16073918)

If your vendor is reputable, your data will be destroyed from the disks you send back... either wholesale drive destruction, platter destruction, or platter degaussing. I don't know what happens with other vendors besides IBM, Sun and HP, and hope to never have to find out.

Re:planning (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | about 8 years ago | (#16074489)

If your vendor is reputable, your data will be destroyed from the disks you send back...

Quick question - how does the vendor reliably receive the hard drives? Here's a list of possibilities (which may or may not be implemented):

- UPS, Fedex, DHL or other freight companies
- Postal mail (regular service)
- Postal mail, registered.
- Hand delivery by customer or personal pickup by vendor.

In the first two options, there are chances of freight issues where the packages get lost or stolen. In the third option, the package is tagged as requiring special attention, and thus may convince some people that there may be valuable data on the drives heading to Maxtor or the likes. This is an issue common to all companies, no matter how much of a good reputation they may have.

The fourth option is generally a bit expensive, and usually defeats the purpose of returning the product for warrenty.

Seriously, if you are worried about the vendor not erasing data for you, you're better off just slagging [] the drive and forgetting about the warrenty. It's much easier than trying to find a similar circuit board and swapping it with the dead board (which still isn't guarenteed to work).

MRI (Medical) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073922)

Next time you go to the doctor, ask for an MRI, bill it to insurance, and take the drive in with you. :-) Profit!

Die abschließende Lösung, zum der Antrie (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 8 years ago | (#16073934)

Actually Martha Stewart had a household hint for wiping drives,say with sensitive stock info,for instance.
          1.dismantle drives,remove and seperate disks.
 disks on no slip padding and use a finishing sander with a variety of metalgrade sandpapers to wipe the data gently from the disks.
          3.Sip sherry till youre silly and do speedballs off the butlers apparatus.

another solution (1)

belmolis (702863) | about 8 years ago | (#16074005)

If you're a big enough customer, or the vendor is understanding, perhaps you can arrange for them to inspect the drives under your supervision and confirm that they are no good. Then take them, accompanied by the vendor's representative if they want to be sure you destroy them, and drop them into the vat at your local steel mill, or whatever less dramatic method of physical destruction works for you.

Re:another solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16074607)

Yeah, except you know what? It's cheaper to just buy a new drive than going through all that.

SCSI controller or on-board electronics problem? (2, Informative)

AJWM (19027) | about 8 years ago | (#16074047)

the drives were no longer recognized by the SCSI controller,

A problem with the SCSI controller, or with the drive's on-board electronics?

If the former, just replace the controller. Check this by moving the drives to a box with a working controller.

If the problem is the on-board drive electronics, then using a working drive of the exact same make and model, carefully undo the 3 or 4 screws holding the circuit board to the drive and swap the board from the good drive with the board from the bad drive. If this was the problem you should now be able to access the data on the old drive.

I've done this with a Seagate Barracuda that had its electronics fried because of a catastrophic power supply failure (detonated one of the chips and vaporized a couple of circuit traces). Swapping the board from an identical drive (I had a bunch around) let me recover the data. Not knowing the condition of any circuitry within the drive itself, I retired the drive after copying off the data. I would have erased it too but I was planning on disassembling it anyway.

(NB - even the same make an model number doesn't guarantee interchangable parts -- I had a similar problem with a Western Digital 80GB drive that I didn't happen to have a duplicate of, although that model was still on the market. Alas there's another 4-character code after the model number (ie, the "real" model number, except you need to see the faceplate to find it out) and in the year or so since buying the first one, there were enough minor changes that the circuit boards weren't interchangeable.)

there's lots of ways... (1)

Desolator144 (999643) | about 8 years ago | (#16074059)

Wrap 200 feet of wire around them one at a time and connect it to a car battery for a couple seconds. Or just buy some super powered, non-electric magnets like those natural earth magnet thingies from mythbusters. Eh, a stack of walmart ones would probably do it if you stuck them all over drive. I bet if you just plain touched two live wires to the drives, they'd never spin again. Speaking of that, just open them and take the read/write head out. You can also bring them all to the local doctor and blast them with an X-ray machine, I heard that works. If you dipped them in warm lemon juice and they weren't air tight (don't think they are) they'd oxidize all the metals on the inside and make it unreadable but I think they might suspect that's what broke them. Oh and also, MRI scans will probably work too if the X-ray machine is busy. Your local custruction company or junk yard should have one of those magnetic lifter cranes that lifts scrap metal and they might let you stick the drives on there. Hehehe they're using one on a show on TV right now...anyway, one of them should work, have fun.

Whole disk encryption (1)

42forty-two42 (532340) | about 8 years ago | (#16074175)

This won't help so much this time, but if the disks were encrypted with a strong password - you only have to enter it when the system is booted, and for a server this shouldn't be too often - then you could send back the disc without the manufacturer being able to read the data.

Impossible (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 8 years ago | (#16074273)

Unfortunately, it is not possible to bulk erase modern hard disk platters. You would need a degauser that is so powerful, that it will physically destroy the platters anyway - bend them - and you will end up with one heck of a electricity bill. Therefore, you can just as well do away with the magnetics and destroy them physically with a big hammer.

Wipe the drives and restore them to service (1)

littlewink (996298) | about 8 years ago | (#16074434)

No need to physically destroy the drives; wipe them instead. There are utilities in Windows (e.g., BCWipe, Eraser, WipeDisk, DBAN) and Unix/Linux (dd, DBAN, EBAN ) to do that.

Paranoid nutballs claim that data can somehow be miraculously recovered after multiple overwrites by random data, but even Jesus, the CIA, NSA and George Bush together couldn't do that.

AR-15 (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | about 8 years ago | (#16074437)

One magazine load (10 rounds) about $2. One destroyed disk drive, priceless.

Fun too. They bounce around pretty nicely.

Of course, if you want to send it for warranty exchange, the manufacturer probably wouldn't appreciate yoru marksmanship. But if the alternative is to keep them forever so no one else can try to recover the data, I'd say go for the AR-15.

Or M-1 Garand. Or any other reasonable facsimile.

just buy a large (1)

log0n (18224) | about 8 years ago | (#16074472)

50-100oz magnet and sit it on top of the hard disk. Like the kind you find on the back of PA woofers. It's worked for me :)

Well, low level format software? (1)

BeeBeard (999187) | about 8 years ago | (#16074536)

There might be a better way of doing this, but the *old* way was to just use low level format software. The typical procedure is you

1. go to the hard drive manufacturer's website
2. download their "utilities" package
3. prepare a DOS-bootable floppy with the utilities on it
4. invoke the low-level format software (IMPORTANT: You want a LOW LEVEL format. Just typing "format" or something in DOS will not do the trick.)

This will work 100%. What it does is overwrite every byte on every sector to a blank ("00" I believe...). There's no file system footprint, no echo or memory of what was once on the drive. There is nothing to recover, because *everything* has been overwritten with a null value.

The downside? It takes a long time, especially if you're drive is well over the 100 gig variety. But it will get the job done. Cheers!

Go to the local park (0, Offtopic)

La Camiseta (59684) | about 8 years ago | (#16074691)

Go to the local park one day when they're trimming the trees. Just take all of the HDDs and throw them into the big chipper/shreader thing that they have there. Voila, no more HDDs to worry about.

What am I missing? (1)

TheQuantumShift (175338) | about 8 years ago | (#16074733)

"Recently I had to replace some hard disk drives from the same batch which had failed, while still under warranty. Because the drives were no longer recognized by the SCSI controller, it was not possible to erase the data on them. In view of the sensitivity of the data contained upon them, and the chance this was still forensically recoverable, our company decided to buy new drives rather than risk the disclosure of their contents by returning then to the supplier. How would you non-destructively (physically) destroy data on a hard disk without access to a bulk eraser? Obviously in this case it's a bit late to be thinking of using encryption."

So these were working drives, got pulled due to a recall, but somehow can't be accessed? And if you aren't RMAing, why not physically destroy? Or at least get a car battery electromagnet, a couple temps (you just flush 'em when you're done) and a weekend? Or would that still be "forensically recoverable"? If so, then just bury them. (In whichever largest body of water is closest...)

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