• Tales from the trenches

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    LANGALIST By Fred Langa Following my recounting of decommissioning a failing hard drive, readers share their real-world tips on drive destruction. If
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    • #2283361

      Surely the whole point of putting unwanted hard drives through an industrial shredder is to recover the materials contained within the drive, some of which quite expensive (like gold and neodymium).  The common stuff like copper, steel and various plastics also have a value, if fairly small.

      The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) recycling firm we use gets paid an amount for each skip*-full delivered to the industrial shredder firm!

      * dumpster, in some areas of the world


      Plethora means a lot to me.

      • This reply was modified 3 years, 2 months ago by BATcher.
    • #2283365

      But for cases requiring a higher level of security, multiple overwrites with random ones and zeros make the old data much harder to recover, even with lab-quality forensic tools

      On modern hard disks – anything in the last 20 years – a single pass over all sectors with random data makes recovery impossible, forensic tools or no. The disk structures don’t retain previous data – if they did your newly written data would be liable to random corruption from the old data.

      The only time data is potentially recoverable is if the data areas of the disk are not overwritten, which happens when you perform a quick format or remove and recreate partitions.

      If the disk is still working and you want to sanitize it, boot from a DBAN disk and run a single pass with random data. (Don’t bother with the commercial product that pops up when you search for DBAN.)

      If DBAN won’t boot (secure boot) or doesn’t recognise your disk drive, try:
      Hiren’s BootCD. (Use Lazesoft Disk Image and Clone, Wipe Tools, Erases with one-pass random characters)
      EaseUs Partition Master.

      cheers, Paul

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    • #2283369

      Surely the whole point of putting unwanted hard drives through an industrial shredder is to recover the materials contained within the drive

      Silly me… I thought the whole point was to annoy your colleagues, ‘cos only me and the Data Protection supervisor had ear defenders.

      We replaced 8 PC’s in the office of a local council-owned theatre. As they had been connected to credit card terminals the HDDs had to be physically destroyed rather than data-wiped to DOD-level. (The CSO let me know *after* I had DBAN’d them all… something to do with credit card regulations.)

      I was given the job of shredding them, accompanied by a DP supervisor who countersigned the destruction. As the first HDD disappeared up the conveyor into the maws of the shredder a couple of bosses rushed into the maintenance room to beg us to shred the next 7 HDDs out of hours due to the appalling racket. However, we couldn’t do that because there were no Health & Safety/First Aid staff available out of hours.

      After all 8 HDDs were shredded, all subsequent shredding was outsourced and the very expensive inhouse shredder was never used again. I was glad… my ears rang even using ear defenders. 🙂

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    • #2283377

      Last time I had to dispose of a hard drive, I removed the disk and broke it up.  The next time this comes up, I’ll melt it with my acetylene torch.  Didn’t think of that last time.

    • #2283379

      I really have to wonder what is so important on a drive used in a personal computer that simply drilling through the platter(s) would not be sufficient. No one is going to spend thousands of dollars and multiple hours trying to recover data from a platter with hole to recover a Facebook password. Difficult to recover data from a platter that will not spin due to the imbalance. Doing the same destruction a SSD is the same logic. Although SSDs are easy to crumble.

      Critical places, such as healthcare have regulations requiring more thorough destruction. Even then I wonder why anyone would expend any effort to gain access to an MRI of someone they do not even know.

      Government agencies, as in any 3 letter combination would require complete destruction, as in tiny pieces. Many contractors working on government contracts would also have complete destruction requirements.

      For the home user, a simple hole, then out with the garbage is sufficient.

      • This reply was modified 3 years, 2 months ago by RayT.
      • #2283386

        I really have to wonder what is so important on a drive used in a personal computer that simply drilling through the platter(s) would not be sufficient

        There’s money in information.

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    • #2283384

      For the home user, a simple hole, then out with the garbage is sufficient.

      Responsible people dispose of electrical items like this via the local authority disposal/recycling schemes, no matter how one makes the device inoperable/unreadable.
      It just doesn’t go in the garbage.

      No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created IT- AE
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    • #2283390

      I typically use a drill right through the platter which makes recovery of any data impossible. Of course there are plenty of disk utilities that can do a very good job of erasing data. I know of one person who simply encrypts the data on the disk and disposes of it. I know of some who remove the platters and physically shred them.

    • #2283418

      In case anyone is interested, not long ago there was another discussion on disposing of old computer hard disks here:




      Ex-Windows user (Win. 98, XP, 7); since mid-2017 using also macOS. Presently on Monterey 12.15 & sometimes running also Linux (Mint).

      MacBook Pro circa mid-2015, 15" display, with 16GB 1600 GHz DDR3 RAM, 1 TB SSD, a Haswell architecture Intel CPU with 4 Cores and 8 Threads model i7-4870HQ @ 2.50GHz.
      Intel Iris Pro GPU with Built-in Bus, VRAM 1.5 GB, Display 2880 x 1800 Retina, 24-Bit color.
      macOS Monterey; browsers: Waterfox "Current", Vivaldi and (now and then) Chrome; security apps. Intego AV

    • #2283541

      Maybe I just enjoy taking things apart, but the last time I had drives to destroy, I disassembled them recovered the very fine strong magnets, and then took a propane torch to the platters. When they’re almost molten, it’s safe to say the data is gone! plus, they turned all kinds of pretty colors, and I had fun doing it!

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    • #2283624

      You missed dropping drives into a high temperature gas fired retort furnace. Melt down an HD into molten slag in seconds. Skim off the debris and pour into molds for easy recycling. Better if you dissemble the drives first and you only need to melt down the cases and platters.

    • #2283673

      The likeliness is nothing you have is so important you need to worry about doing more than just wiping it properly and overwriting it once. AND if your data is important enough to be searched for, you already know every imaginable method under the sun of how to destroy it completely, and don’t need advice in doing it. If you are the latter, you are like me, reading this to read the funny stuff people do. WHAT I have been doing, since everything I do is complete secrets that the Illuminati are trying to get their hands on, is I take a rocket to the outer edges of the universe, and I toss my old hard drives into a black hole. I have found 100% success with this method.

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    • #2283754

      Destroying old hard drives.

      I had several old hard drives which I finally got around to destroying but I did it slightly different.

      I always like to get the most from things.

      1. Dismantle the old hard drive and remove the rare earth magnets.  They are excellent for use in many projects.
      2. Remove the platters and use them for drink coasters.  They are easy to clean, look great (conversation piece) and last a long time.
      3. Less goes into the garbage.

      Norman Charbonneau

    • #2283792

      About destroying old hard drives, I take them apart. They have strong magnets in them and I can always use more magnets. Then I either scratch or cut the individual disks to make data recovery harder. Usually I have already done some kind of data erase first. Taking apart a hard drive is fun and interesting for me.

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      • #2283874

        Been there..unscrewed pentalobe casing screws in IDE drives, nice shiny platters used as cup coasters for my desk once dissasembled. Even kept the controller PCB’s should replacements be required for like-for-like drives in an emergency. As it turned out no, the PCB’s were thrown out much later on a clearout, still have the magnets!
        These platters were in a vacuum but the controller PCB’s were usually outwith this area of the HDD that made them useful as replacements. Connor (early days)/ Quantum/ Maxtor/ seagate/ Western Digital

        No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created IT- AE
    • #2283865

      Many years ago I was an IT Manager for a charity here in the UK. Inevitably we had to be more careful than most with the pennies. One of my staff was ex army & as we were located in a semi rural location he was into huntin’, shootin’ & fishin’. If we had drives to dispose of he would bring a couple of rifles in & use them for target practice a very effective disk hole punch!

      • This reply was modified 3 years, 2 months ago by WSbrush-head.
    • #2287512

      Ummm…missed this one.

      But belatedly: A friend of mine who lives in the country uses a 10-guage shotgun, puts down a tarp, yells “Pull!”, fires with dead aim, which then reduces it to very small parts, then rolls up the tarp and bags the smithereens, which go into the town’s annual Electronics Recycling Event.

      Must be satisfying… 🙂

      Win7 Pro SP1 64-bit, Dell Latitude E6330, Intel CORE i5 "Ivy Bridge", 12GB RAM, Group "0Patch", Multiple Air-Gapped backup drives in different locations. Linux Mint Greenhorn
      "Nine out of 10 doctors say Acid Reflux is mainly caused by computers."

    • #2288513

      Recently I got a tear sheet for a commercial hard drive crusher.

      • NSA evaluated and listed with durability rating of 204 drives per hour
      • 8-second crushing cycle
      • 115V/60Hz standard power (international voltage available)
      • Compact, portable, and quiet
      • Destroys enterprise drives with rails still attached
      • Made in the USA

      See https://www.semshred.com/0101-free-anvil/

      For somebody with a lot of drives seems like a solid machine.  Not sure how they integrate a hydraulic press with a drill but that what it look like.

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