How to Destroy a Hard Drive

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17-09-2019, 16:00
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Updated: September 16, 2019 Do you have an inaccessible or otherwise worthless hard drive filled with sensitive data? Do you want to be sure that data never sees the light of day? Once you’ve wiped your hard drive, consider one of these options to further protect your data. This wikiHow shows you how to wipe data from your hard drive and destroy it to prevent any salvaging of data from it.

Wiping the Data

  1. Back up your data. It’s easy to forget about all of those MP3s you ripped in the 90s and beloved family pictures when all you can focus on is destroying the cause of your shame and avoiding federal prison. You will, however, want to make sure to back up all of your important and legal data, however, since the whole point of the resulting exercise is that those things will be... you know... gone.
  2. Erase all of the data on the hard drive with software. While the more exciting methods of destruction will do a pretty good job of rendering data irretrievable, they can’t be 100% guaranteed (especially if you have reason to believe the government is willing to spend several months and millions of dollars to find your dirty, dirty secrets). You can do this on your Windows or macOS without having to download or purchase any extra software. Wiping your data and blowing up your drive, however? Yeah, nobody’s getting that back.
    • See How to Wipe a Computer to learn how to get started.
    • A complete wipe of your computer will probably do the trick. Only someone with very serious forensics equipment could recover your data after a wipe.
  3. Open the computer case and remove the hard drive. The hard drive can be located in different spots in each type of case, sometimes within a metal box. You can look up where the hard drive is located online if you’re struggling to find it.
  4. Remove the casing from the drive. To remove the casing, you'll likely need to loosen a variety of screws, depending on your hard drive's make and model. Possibly cutting some tape. Be warned that there are often screws hidden underneath labels, so you might have to go poking around.
  5. Remove the magnets. You will need to remove the arm and magnet structure in order to reach the platter underneath (your real goal). There are screws involved. It’s pretty straightforward. Remove the magnets carefully because they are seriously very strong and you can really hurt yourself with them.
    • Seriously, you will struggle to get them off a fridge. You can break fingers with these things. And for the love of whatever you pray to, don’t eat them and don’t let your pets eat them (pets, in this case, includes kids).
  6. Remove and dispose of the platter(s). This is the thing that looks like it would make a nice mirror. You’ll probably need to unscrew the circular piece at the center which holds in down. This is the thing that stores (the majority at least) of your data, so you'll need to destroy it. Sometimes there is more than one platter, so pay attention to that.

Destroying a Hard Drive Physically

  1. Incinerate the hard drive. Burning the hard drive guarantees that your data will be completely destroyed within minutes. It's best not to start a fire for the sole purpose of destroying your hard drive. To safely burn the drive, contact a reputable data destruction service that performs safe, on-site incineration services.
  2. Smash the drive with a hammer. Before doing this, insert the drive into a cloth bag so the pieces don't go flying everywhere. Get a hammer (either one lying around your house or at a hardware store) and smash your drive with it until the drive's broken into thousands of tiny pieces. Once done, divide the remnants up into multiple bags and dispose of each separately so they cannot be pieced back together.
  3. Puncture the drive. If you have a sharp knife or any metal pins, you could push them through both sides of the drive itself in order to put holes in it and render it unusable.

Warnings

  • It’s impossible to guarantee that any method for permanently erasing your data is 100% effective. Proceed with caution when using any of these steps.
  • Make sure to use best safety practices when destroying your hard drive to prevent serious injury.
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