how to destroy hard disk with personal info

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island
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how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by island » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:09 pm

Have 5 hard disks from non working computers, all have some tax and financial info. Died before anything could be wiped, not that I'd trust that's enough anyway. Other than taking them somewhere to be shredded for $40+ a pop, can I do it myself?

I've found a few threads and Googled for info. Nothing holding them together that could be unscrewed to remove spinning disks to destroy. I've smashed the heck out of them with a hammer, but none opened enough to remove anything, just created a lot of metallic particles.

So with that, the option seems to be drill many holes in them. I think that's a possibility, but is that enough? Some info I've read says no.

And if turning them into swiss cheese is enough, what then, drop off at free electronic waste site rather than trash I assume?
Anyone done the hole drilling option?

Thanks

Blueskies123
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by Blueskies123 » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:13 pm

I drill holes and then soak them in a bucket of water for a week with bleach to accelerate corrosion.
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saltycaper
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by saltycaper » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:17 pm

I take the platters out and smash them. I've never seen a hard drive I could not take apart. Are you sure you looked hard enough for the screws? Usually Torx. Sometimes hidden under labels, stickers, etc.

Laptop drive platters usually shatter into pieces. 3.5-inch platters are sometimes quite strong. If I scratch, dent, and bend them, that's good enough for me. I'm sure there still is a way for someone to recover some of the data, but it's unlikely the entities capable of doing this would be interested in me.
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j9j
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by j9j » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:19 pm

Unless you are a target of a Nation State then physically damaging such as drilling should be a good enough measure.

acanthurus
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by acanthurus » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:25 pm

I've always wanted to see what a 150 grain soft point would do to an HDD. Personally I drilled the platters on my last one and finished the electronics with a sledgehammer, although an old microwave would probably work better.

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TD2626
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by TD2626 » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:30 pm

j9j wrote:Unless you are a target of a Nation State then physically damaging such as drilling should be a good enough measure.
Yes, good one. The sledgehammer/drill/screwdriver method is probably good enough for normal people's financial and tax records.

Spies, on the other hand, need to send it through a real metal shredder.

island
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by island » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:32 pm

saltycaper wrote:I take the platters out and smash them. I've never seen a hard drive I could not take apart. Are you sure you looked hard enough for the screws? Usually Torx. Sometimes hidden under labels, stickers, etc
The fasteners I see look like rivets, well more like a tiny rivet with a smooth round indentation in the middle. Nothing that a regular screwdriver, hex or Philips that I can tell. Never heard of a Torx, will look that up and also check under the labels.
Thanks

killjoy2012
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by killjoy2012 » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:34 pm

Start with hard drive wiping tool like DBAN.
Then put some very strong magnets on the drive for a week.
Then take a drill to it.

strafe
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by strafe » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:36 pm

I usually open the drive case (just remove the Torx screws), remove the platters, and use 2 pairs of pliers to fold them into tacos. You could also use a nail punch to perforate the case and destructively mar the platters, without disassembly.
Last edited by strafe on Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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lthenderson
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by lthenderson » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:37 pm

I've always just taken mine apart and removed the platters. Torx screws are smooth with a star shaped indentation in the middle and are always used in the assembly. Like someone else said, they hide them behind stickers many times. Once I have the platters removed, I smack them lightly with a hammer (doesn't take much to shatter them) and spread the pieces out through several weeks worth of trash pickups.

island
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by island » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:38 pm

TD2626 wrote:
j9j wrote:Unless you are a target of a Nation State then physically damaging such as drilling should be a good enough measure.
Yes, good one. The sledgehammer/drill/screwdriver method is probably good enough for normal people's financial and tax records.

Spies, on the other hand, need to send it through a real metal shredder.
Ha yes, that's what I was thinking. Not the NSA here. :twisted:

Was curious to see what's inside though, but don't think that's going to be possible.

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BTDT
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by BTDT » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:44 pm

I simply drill it. If I was a little paranoid perhaps I might even bury it in the back yard, but given that it does not contain Top Secret material or my passwords, I doubt anyone wants to make the effort to 'break' into my drilled hard drive. :oops:
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curmudgeon
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by curmudgeon » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:50 pm

Knowing the tolerances of those things, I consider drilling (one) hole through the platters to be far more than enough. Running a full software write wipe (not a simple reformat) would also suffice for practical purposes, but the drill doesn't require the system to be running.

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Nicolas
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by Nicolas » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:53 pm

[deleted]
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adamthesmythe
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by adamthesmythe » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:56 pm

The hard disks that I have disassembled (can't stop the curious) had glass platters. So you're not going to drill through those, you either break them or the drill stops.

However- once you break the environmental seal you begin to make it difficult to extract data, even if you have lab equipment. The companies that do recovery disassemble in a clean room if I remember correctly. Even one scratch would multiply the effort involved to extract any remaining data.

A sledge hammer would probably break the disks without the need to open the covers.

> finished the electronics with a sledgehammer

The electronics are not your enemy. They can be easily replaced from a similar disk drive. Data recovery companies mount the disks on a spin stand and extract the data without using your electronics.

> Then put some very strong magnets on the drive for a week.

I'm not sure this would work. There is already an impressively strong magnet inside as part of the voice coil mechanism. Commercial products to destroy data (degaussers) use strong oscillating magnetic fields.

> spread the pieces out through several weeks worth of trash pickups.

Now you are into nation-state territory to recover your data.

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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by adamthesmythe » Sun Jul 09, 2017 4:00 pm

I'm not endorsing this product but this is what the pros use

http://www.datadev.com/datagaussxl.html ... fgod0mUCMA

Budget about $3k for your peace of mind.

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Watty
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by Watty » Sun Jul 09, 2017 4:07 pm

island wrote:Have 5 hard disks from non working computers, all have some tax and financial info. Died before anything could be wiped, not that I'd trust that's enough anyway. Other than taking them somewhere to be shredded for $40+ a pop, can I do it myself?

I've found a few threads and Googled for info. Nothing holding them together that could be unscrewed to remove spinning disks to destroy. I've smashed the heck out of them with a hammer, but none opened enough to remove anything, just created a lot of metallic particles.
Just FYI, if you had not taken a hammer to them then you could have bought an inexpensive case for it and used it as an external USB drive or hooked them up to a different computer to wipe them with software.

If you get the tool free type you only need one case for each size drive that you have since it is easy to swap drives. Some cases will handle multiple sizes of hard drives.

Here is an example of one for less than $10.

https://www.amazon.com/Tool-free-Inatec ... drive+case

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jabberwockOG
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by jabberwockOG » Sun Jul 09, 2017 4:10 pm

Easiest method is take the drive apart (they all come apart with screws sometimes hidden under labels), take disks out and score/scratch them up with a rough file or chisel, then bend in half and throw in the trash. As other have said unless you are target of NSA or FBI forensics unit this should be way more than adequate. In a pinch using a bit made for metal, drill several holes through the drive, this will also destroy the platter(s) for all practical purposes.

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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by Mudpuppy » Sun Jul 09, 2017 4:14 pm

Many e-waste events ship damaged items overseas where they're destroyed physically to remove precious metals. So the likelihood of anyone doing anything other than physically disassembling it to get at the precious metals when the drive is physically damaged is minuscule. Rip off the connector if you're really concerned someone might try to hook it up and read the data, but I think you're overthinking the situation.

Edit: And in the future, use full-drive encryption or only store personal data on an encrypted partition. Then you don't have to worry about it unless the encryption algorithm is broken.

likegarden
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by likegarden » Sun Jul 09, 2017 4:19 pm

I always take them apart as much as possible, then a 10 lb hammer does the rest. Should be good enough. I put it in a bag and drop that in a waste receptacle at a place such as Walmart.

sambb
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by sambb » Sun Jul 09, 2017 4:26 pm

Just did this.
A few whacks with a hammer to let water into the platter and shatter it.
Then soak in a small bucket with salt water for a week.
Corrosion + destruction. It works.

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vitaflo
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by vitaflo » Sun Jul 09, 2017 4:34 pm

Mudpuppy wrote: I think you're overthinking the situation.
I agree. Just zero the drive and encrypt it. Without the key the data is unusable. Not much reason to do any more than that unless you're a gov spy.

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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by RudyS » Sun Jul 09, 2017 4:42 pm

If you don't care what might get into the environment or your lungs, throw it on the barbeque for a while.

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whodidntante
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by whodidntante » Sun Jul 09, 2017 4:44 pm

You cannot completely wipe a drive with software only approaches, but instead you need to command the drive to wipe itself. Modern drives have a "secure wipe" command that can be invoked with various tools. This will wipe the over provisioned area as well as any active sectors. This, followed by physical destruction of the disk, is the approach that would make it most unlikely for anyone to recover data from the disk.

You can also format the drive which will not securely wipe it, but will serve to blank the file system. And then wipe the unallocated areas of the disk with the Windows command "cipher /w:X:\" Replace X with the actual drive letter. This will miss the over provisioned areas of the disk, and won't touch anything you did not delete from the file system. A small amount of data may still be recoverable by an expert.

whomever
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by whomever » Sun Jul 09, 2017 4:50 pm

Knowing the tolerances of those things, I consider drilling (one) hole through the platters to be far more than enough.
That's my understanding, and what I do. IIUC you can get the data off a dead drive two ways:

1)replace/repair the non-platter parts and read the platter normally, or
2)disassemble the unit and use a ??magnetic force microscope?? to map the magnetic patterns, and reconstruct the data.

Method 2 is nation-state expensive, so normal people only have to worry about method 1, and even a tiny hole wreck the heads when they encounter it (not to mention all the junk now floating around the housing).

I use a an ordinary 3/16 or 1/4 bit in a cheapo drill press, because I have one. It only takes a few seconds. In one side and out the other. I dunno if the platters are breaking or being drilled.

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Crustus
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by Crustus » Sun Jul 09, 2017 4:55 pm

If you have access to a lathe, take out the platters and using the lathe, take a thin layer off each side of the platter. I think reconstructing anything from the resulting dust will be close enough to impossible. :beer
And . . .

smesman
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by smesman » Sun Jul 09, 2017 5:09 pm

Like mudpuppy suggested, I agree that in the future you should be using full disk encryption.

This way, if your computer ever gets stolen they won't be able to access your financial data and you can return broken disks if they still fall within warranty.

statman
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by statman » Sun Jul 09, 2017 5:20 pm

A question for all of you who are physically torturing defunct hard drives: what's wrong with just running DBAN?

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bligh
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by bligh » Sun Jul 09, 2017 5:55 pm

Personally, all my drives now are encrypted.. so if the drive is the old spinning kind and works, I do the 10x secure erase and donate it. If it doesn't work, or if it is an SSD, I do what has been advised above, open up the drive, smash/scratch and drill holes.

If you have stuff on there you absolutely cannot have falling into the hands of others, open up the thing and put it in a vat of acid for a few weeks.

stan1
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by stan1 » Sun Jul 09, 2017 5:58 pm

No one has mentioned target practice yet?

Where I live shredding is $10/drive so I do it just to be on the safe side (and I also use full drive encryption).

whomever
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by whomever » Sun Jul 09, 2017 6:07 pm

A question for all of you who are physically torturing defunct hard drives: what's wrong with just running DBAN?
That's fine if the disk is running. If the disk internal controller is bad, or it's a SATA disk and your only SATA capable computer died, etc, then drilling is easy. It's maybe a 60 second operation, of which 45 seconds is putting the drill in the chuck.

ychuck46
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by ychuck46 » Sun Jul 09, 2017 6:27 pm

Like others I have drilled them, torn them apart, smashed them with hammers or a sledgehammer, and so on. Unless you are under surveillance by some agency, I don't think anyone will care enough to try to resurrect data off hard drives that have been subjected to this kind of abuse.

acanthurus
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by acanthurus » Sun Jul 09, 2017 6:32 pm

adamthesmythe wrote:
> finished the electronics with a sledgehammer

The electronics are not your enemy.
I can think of one instance where you are very, very wrong (and the NSA agrees with me).

mouses
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by mouses » Sun Jul 09, 2017 6:38 pm

I whack the heck out of them with a giant hammer until they bend and pieces start coming out.

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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by palaheel » Sun Jul 09, 2017 7:00 pm

There are some really cool magnets in them. Have a budding engineer kid help unscrew the case and you have, essentially, a classic speaker voice coil just sitting there. Anything stuck to the fridge with the magnets will stay where it's put, whether you want it to or not.
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SleepKing
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by SleepKing » Sun Jul 09, 2017 7:04 pm

Hammer it, drill it, pliers to scratch/bend/break disc, soak in water to start corrosion.

Agree that anyone motivated enough to get data after that...probably can get into your data another way.

finite_difference
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by finite_difference » Sun Jul 09, 2017 7:11 pm

Zero out the drive 3x and then sell it on eBay?

I would like to challenge anyone who could recover data from such a drive.

Seems like a lot of people are letting hardware go to waste for no good reason.
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wrongfunds
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by wrongfunds » Mon Jul 10, 2017 7:11 am

Remove all the visible screws, save the powerful magnets in your magnet stash and separate all the gleaming platters. I keep a platter of two for amusement but put others in the garbage. That seems to be good enough for me.

PS: selling them on ebay? anybody interested in buying my 5MB hard drive from circa 1985? The brand new costs $5K. I am selling it cheap. Make me an offer.

The point being, there NO market for discarded hard disk. Either the disks are dying or dead or they are ancient technology.

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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by nisiprius » Mon Jul 10, 2017 7:22 am

I would make some realistic assessment of the risk.

If you do nothing at all to a hard drive in a working computer and you bring it into a repair shop, obviously if they have free time and are curious obviously there is a chance they might peek to see if you have anything entertaining on the drive.

If you have a team of NSA and FBI experts who think you are doing something wrong and stalking you, then who knows what would really be sufficient? On Planet Money they mentioned that the Mutilated Currency Division at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving has been willing to reassemble accidentally shredded money, well enough to determine its value, just because someone ask them to do so politely, so if someone is really stalking you and has the motivation...

I would guess that any kind of physical damage to the disks within the drive, or touching a couple of powerful magnets to the surface a few times, is more than good enough, if it's just personal information.

The full database of some corporation's customer data containing a million credit card numbers is worth some time and expense. ONE credit card number isn't.
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takeshi
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by takeshi » Mon Jul 10, 2017 7:35 am

island wrote:I've found a few threads and Googled for info. Nothing holding them together that could be unscrewed to remove spinning disks to destroy.
FWIW I've never run across one I couldn't disassemble to get to the platters. Check under labels and other covers. As other have stated, they're usually Torx screws holding them together.
statman wrote:A question for all of you who are physically torturing defunct hard drives: what's wrong with just running DBAN?
Choosing one option over the other doesn't necessarily mean that there's something wrong with the other option. I generally don't bother with wiping because it's time consuming or I don't have a desktop system or I don't want to bother with setting up a drive with an external enclosure. Do whatever it is that works for you.

tibbitts
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by tibbitts » Mon Jul 10, 2017 7:44 am

If the drives had valuable data on them it probably would have been encrypted in the first place so maybe just take them to recycling as-is, especially since you're saying someone would have to repair the disks to read the data anyway.

Mike Scott
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by Mike Scott » Mon Jul 10, 2017 7:52 am

There is something very satisfying about laying a hard drive on an anvil and smacking it with an 8lb sledge. It's effective as well as being cheap entertainment.

SimonJester
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by SimonJester » Mon Jul 10, 2017 8:20 am

adamthesmythe wrote: However- once you break the environmental seal you begin to make it difficult to extract data, even if you have lab equipment. The companies that do recovery disassemble in a clean room if I remember correctly. Even one scratch would multiply the effort involved to extract any remaining data.
A relative of mine successfully repairs multiple hard drives for various clients by opening the drives up, transplanting the platters into new working hard drives (of identical make / model) in his basement. He was able to then recover all the critical data on the clients drives. He and I were very surprised on how effective the technique was without any sort of clean room...

Personally I remove platters, sand down the surfaces with 150 grit paper, then fold / bend the platter into a small puck and throw it away...
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by David Jay » Mon Jul 10, 2017 8:23 am

Wow, so much violence from mild-mannered BH types...
:?
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corner559
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by corner559 » Mon Jul 10, 2017 8:27 am

I submerge mine in bleach and then salt water for a week. Everything corrodes quite nicely. :happy

johnnyc321
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by johnnyc321 » Mon Jul 10, 2017 8:44 am

nisiprius wrote:I would make some realistic assessment of the risk.

If you do nothing at all to a hard drive in a working computer and you bring it into a repair shop, obviously if they have free time and are curious obviously there is a chance they might peek to see if you have anything entertaining on the drive.

It is common knowledge that the FBI has contracted with the Geek Squad to search hard drives for criminal activity.

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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by michaeljc70 » Mon Jul 10, 2017 10:10 am

I've beaten them with a hammer and soaked in water. If it is at all possible to recover anything from them, no one would waste their time. They go for low hanging fruit in identity theft.

likegarden
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by likegarden » Mon Jul 10, 2017 10:33 am

nisiprius, this actually has happened. The owner of a computer did not know that a hacker had copied illegal files onto his computer, and his wife had to spend a lot of $$ hiring experts to prove his innocence to get him out of jail. In my state computer repairers have to report any illegal files to the police.

foamypirate
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by foamypirate » Mon Jul 10, 2017 11:00 am

I personally torch mine with a MAPP gas torch. It's hot enough to melt the housing and either melt or seriously deform the platters (depending on the material they are constructed from). Nobody is recovering data from a puddle of metal.

Angelus359
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Re: how to destroy hard disk with personal info

Post by Angelus359 » Mon Jul 10, 2017 11:06 am

All of these physical destruction methods are inferior to a simple wipe, and then secure erase

If you 0 out every bit on the drive, there is nothing to read

Also, you could simply encrypt the drive, and then lose the encryption key
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