Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

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RazzleNugent601
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Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by RazzleNugent601 »

Over the years, through the use of many Macintosh computers, I have collected about a dozen external hard drives. They range in capacity from 100-500 gigabytes, and of various sizes between a paperback book to a hardcover book. Since one can buy a 2 terabyte drive today for $60, those old ones need to be recycled. Several of them have had some personal and financial information, and I know that erasure alone won’t make them secure if I give them to a metal recycler. I did take one apart, wearing safety goggles, and drilled a hole through the platter, but it took about an hour, and the removal of perhaps 20 screws with a variety of screwdrivers.

I have seen 2 inch cube neodymium magnets advertised for around $70. I understand that such a powerful magnet, might be used to completely “fry” these drives, but I probably would still have to take the enclosure off each drive before using the magnet. I also understand that these strong magnetic fields can inadvertently wipe out watches, credit cards, some electronic devices, etc. Also, I know that there are warnings about using such magnets, in terms of fingers getting mashed. Might using such a magnet be safe to render these drives safe to send to a metal recycler? Does anyone have suggestions for safe disposal of these old hard drives?
thewizzer
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by thewizzer »

A hammer.

Seriously though, just smack them a couple times hard enough to dent them significantly so the disc can't spin.

But if you've got a decent drill, don't even take the time to remove 20 screws. Any battery power drill driver will put a hole through a hard drive case.
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Peculiar_Investor
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by Peculiar_Investor »

RazzleNugent601 wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 8:19 am Does anyone have suggestions for safe disposal of these old hard drives?
I have always used and trusted Data Removal: Darik's Boot and Nuke - DBAN and then taken them to the local electronics recycling centre.
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StrawMan
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by StrawMan »

thewizzer wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 8:25 am A hammer.

Seriously though, just smack them a couple times hard enough to dent them significantly so the disc can't spin.

But if you've got a decent drill, don't even take the time to remove 20 screws. Any battery power drill driver will put a hole through a hard drive case.
Drill is what I’ve always used.
crefwatch
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by crefwatch »

I have always relied upon my 16 oz. claw hammer. I can take the bent case to my town's "Electronics disposal container", but I don't feel confident on how "sustainable" or "underdeveloped country-friendly" that process actually is.
gips
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by gips »

i worked at an air force research lab, we used a sledgehammer so i’m thinking a hammer will work just fine.
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fizxman
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by fizxman »

Hammer with a nail setter/punch.
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The Electrician
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by The Electrician »

I am a PC, not a Mac but...
I use CCleaner (free version) from Piriform https://www.ccleaner.com/ (also available for Mac)
It has many functions that you may or may not want to avoid but one of the more useful Tools is "Drive Wiper" which performs overwrites on the free space or entire selected drive. Options of 1, 3, 7 or 35 overwrites are available depending on whether you have minor or extreme secrecy issues. I believe 3 overwrites AND THE HAMMER mentioned above are plenty unless you really think the DOD or NSA is after you. 8-) Multiple overwrites take a r e a l l y long time, btw.
tibbitts
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by tibbitts »

I don't understand what information people have on their computers that they're so concerned about. It seems like there are so many other greater risks to data: nearly everybody you've ever done business with has your social security number, everybody you've ever written a check to has your bank account number, etc. Is this encrypted data that everyone is worrying about? So not only would someone have to be interested enough to go to the trouble to access the drive, but also to decrypt your data? And these drives have been erased? So someone would have to recover the data somehow? Who are these people who are doing this?

Personally I've disposed of maybe two dozen hard drives, and a couple I did damage enough to make them unusable, because I didn't have a compatible controller to use to erase them. As long as I can erase a drive I just take it to be recycled and it's about the farthest thing down the list of things I worry about. And when I say erase I don't do twelve hundred passes like everybody else seems to. I haven't disposed of SSDs yet so I'd have to look into that.

I don't feel comfortable destroying electronics by hammering, drilling, etc. - it just makes me sad. So I wouldn't do that unless necessary.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

I eScrap for a hobby. Almost all laptops use disk drives with glass platters. Open the bottom of the drive (like 5 torx screws....look under labels), put screw driver on platter. Put on glasses. Hammer the screw driver to shatter the platter. Throw pieces in the trash.

For desk top or industrial drives, I remove the aluminum platters (some are also glass). With safety glasses, I put one in a vice and whack it with a hammer. If it's glass......obviously, we're done. If aluminum, I'll fold it in half and break it in half. I'll take a grinder and grind off the magnetic material on the surfaces. Then the aluminum goes into my aluminum bin to sell.

With bigger data drives (500 GB and more), I'll check the drive to see if its usable. You'd be surprised to see what I can find. Completed tax returns with ss numbers, address, names of kids. Applications to government programs. My son has an external drive mount that can be used to run virtually any drive. So the bigger drives get used for storage. Smaller ones might go into a working computer to sell on eBay. He'll wipe the drive, then fill it with movies, then wipe it again and install windows, then it goes in the machine and gets sold.

Oh....I also have a box of neodymium magnets pulled from drives. I throw the platters in there if they're out of random scrap equipment. $70 is silly to pay for these things. Heck, I'd sell a pile of them for cheap of you want some.
Last edited by Jack FFR1846 on Wed Jul 29, 2020 9:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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student
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by student »

Peculiar_Investor wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 8:29 am
RazzleNugent601 wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 8:19 am Does anyone have suggestions for safe disposal of these old hard drives?
I have always used and trusted Data Removal: Darik's Boot and Nuke - DBAN and then taken them to the local electronics recycling centre.
+1. I have used DBAN a number of times. For a mac, one can erase the drive by choosing how many passes of 0's to write on the drive. I think 3-7 is secure enough.
dts_12
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by dts_12 »

I'd look around for a recylcler that will let you do it. I bet there is some place in driving distance that has a degausser and will do it for you and provide a certificate of destruction. We do this all the time at work and I'm sure they'd take yours for a nominal fee.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by Peculiar_Investor »

Normal people… believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features yet. – Scott Adams
retiringwhen
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by retiringwhen »

A .30-06 right in the middle does the job and is a lot more fun than a sledgehammer.
mrmass
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by mrmass »

I just physically break them, hammer or something No time for all that dban stuff.
Chuck107
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by Chuck107 »

.....
Last edited by Chuck107 on Mon Oct 05, 2020 7:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
Alas, I find moderation of this forum too restrictive for my tastes, farewell.
Target2019
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by Target2019 »

I've sanitized many hard drives, and have used different approaches:
1) Remove the platters and drill them. They make very pleasant wind chimes... The case parts go into your electronics recycle bin.
2) Drill through the entire case. Be prepared to lose a few drill bits. Then you toss the drive in your electronics recycle bin.
3) Buy an external SATA case, insert the drive, and use various Linux tools to framus the bits. Put the drive in your electronic recycle bin.

After trying disassembly on a few drives, see what is necessary to bend the platter and force it out, rather than continuing to disassemble all of the parts. I can do this in 5-10 minutes, including putting all the screws back in.
adamthesmythe
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by adamthesmythe »

Secure enough for all but the most paranoid- any ONE of the below:

1. Shatter or scratch up the platters
2. Delete and overwrite software
3. Commercial degausser

The degausser uses a magnetic field large enough and varying in direction in order to erase the platters. Trying to duplicate it by waving a magnet seems uncertain to me.

Just damaging the read/write heads is enough to stymie all but evil actors with a clean room and a laboratory.

I challenge the paranoid to provide an example of fraud perpetrated by anything more advanced than hooking a discarded drive up to a computer.
oldfort
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by oldfort »

Overwrite the drive with zeros. Alternatively, if you have full disk encryption, delete the key. Reformat the drive. Unless you're the CIA, anything more than this is overkill unless playing with high powered magnets is your hobby.
Mr-et-Mrs-R
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by Mr-et-Mrs-R »

I am required to destroy drives from time to time for work.

Use proper eye protection, gloves.
Use a 1/2 inch drill bit designed for metal (about $20 at HD).

Ensure that the drive to be destroyed is properly secured for drilling.
If you have a disk drive, you'll want to put four holes in North, West, South, East directions. Allow the bit to dig around the platters by moving the drill at an angle.
If you have a solid state drive, you'll want to put about 12 holes in the drive to fully ensure destruction.

Properly dispose of the electronic waste please.

Another method, might be easier, is to use dban's nuke program https://dban.org/.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by oldcomputerguy »

Whenever we used to dispose of old computers in my workplace, I always pulled their hard drives and ran our drill press through them. Once that was done, we'd turn the carcasses over to our local e-cycling contractor for proper disposal.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

adamthesmythe wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:09 am
I challenge the paranoid to provide an example of fraud perpetrated by anything more advanced than hooking a discarded drive up to a computer.
Not fraud, but data recovery. One of the members over on Board Sort talked about receiving a disk drive that had been shot with a .45. He was able to relatively easily recover over 80% of the data for the customer.

This is why I would grind the magnetic material off the platters of my own disks. Nobody's getting data off of dust spread around the trash.
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vitaflo
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by vitaflo »

Honestly all you need to do is encrypt the drive with a randomly long password. No need to destroy it. Nobody's going to get the data off it.
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billthecat
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by billthecat »

The only way to be sure is to melt it down. Anything else is questionable, at best.

A backyard melting furnace is easy enough to build - here's a video tutorial.

If you want to go the extra mile you can separate the resulting metals, but I think that's overkill.
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hudson
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by hudson »

oldcomputerguy wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:28 am Whenever we used to dispose of old computers in my workplace, I always pulled their hard drives and ran our drill press through them. Once that was done, we'd turn the carcasses over to our local e-cycling contractor for proper disposal.
That would work for me. I had several boxes of old hard drives where I worked. The guys in the machine shop cut them in fourths with a commercial grade band saw. Then they went to the recycler who shredded them.
I never trusted any software solutions to destroy the data.

I probably have at least a dozen old personal drives. I just throw them in a drawer or on a shelf. Some day, I'll drill holes in them and toss em.
andypanda
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by andypanda »

An oxy-acetylene cutting torch will make short work of it, if you happen to have one handy.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by dukeblue219 »

If you want to stop a determined attack against your data, that's one thing. If you looking to thwart a random identity thief just wipe it or smash the electronics with a hammer.

Nobody is out there spending the man hours to extract data from destroyed HDDs without a damn good reason. There's much easier ways to steal someone else's personal data that work on your wiped HDD.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by BolderBoy »

vitaflo wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:40 amHonestly all you need to do is encrypt the drive with a randomly long password. No need to destroy it. Nobody's going to get the data off it.
+1. I've been doing it this way for years.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by palanzo »

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Watty
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by Watty »

gips wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 8:34 am i worked at an air force research lab, we used a sledgehammer so i’m thinking a hammer will work just fine.
+1

A cheap sledge hammer from some place like harbor freight will make quick work of them. Be sure to wear eye protection.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by oldfort »

Jack FFR1846 wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:32 am
adamthesmythe wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:09 am
I challenge the paranoid to provide an example of fraud perpetrated by anything more advanced than hooking a discarded drive up to a computer.
Not fraud, but data recovery. One of the members over on Board Sort talked about receiving a disk drive that had been shot with a .45. He was able to relatively easily recover over 80% of the data for the customer.
People make all kinds of claims on the internet. It doesn't mean any of them are true.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by palanzo »

Watty wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 11:37 am
gips wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 8:34 am i worked at an air force research lab, we used a sledgehammer so i’m thinking a hammer will work just fine.
+1

A cheap sledge hammer from some place like harbor freight will make quick work of them. Be sure to wear eye protection.
A simple power drill is much faster and more effective. Drill as many holes as you like.
jarjarM
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by jarjarM »

Used work for a big name hard drive maker. Hammer is fine but heat is the best in disrupting the grain alignment and permanently erase anything on the disk. In all honesty, depending on how the disk is fractured, it's extremely difficult (but not impossible) to recover once the lead sectors are destroyed. So if you have top secret information on the disk, put it under heat (anything over 250F for 2-3 hr or just 400F for much shorter time) will guarantee to work.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by 7eight9 »

Wear eye protection. Drill a few holes in it. Throw it away (or recycle).

Unless a three letter agency has interest in your hard drive this approach should be more than adequate.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by TSR »

I work in criminal defense and am familiar with, shall we say, a number of crimes involving things that are illegal to possess on a computer. The conventional wisdom is that if someone is investigating you (the three-letter agencies referred to in an above post), there are enough ways to recover data from un-allocated space etc. that no amount of hammers, screwdrivers, or other techniques are good enough (the furnace might do it). The experts had a pat saying which was something like, "Take a boat and row out to the deepest part of the deepest lake you know, weigh down the computer, and drop it there." Not very environmentally friendly. For the rest of us --- those with confidential financial information --- it is likely good enough to render the hard drive unusable, either through formatting it or destroying it. Data thieves can get so much more information more easily and will not bother with rebuilding a hard drive.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by tibbitts »

Since nobody has identified data they have that would actually matter if lost and that isn't available to malicious actors through far less difficult means, I'm convinced that Bogleheads are just using this as an excuse to let out some frustration by doing physical violence to defenseless electronics. I guess everybody needs a hobby, and it's more convenient than hunting down a seal pup to beat with a club.
oldfort
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by oldfort »

Half of these responses are crazy. Who has an oxy-acetylene torch laying around? If you use it wrong, you have a serious risk of injury. Unless you live on a farm, you can't take your .30-06 out back for target practice at your drive. Taking an angle grinder to a drive is fine as a hobby, but serves no legitimate security purpose. If your primary concern is the FBI recovering data on your disk, then you might need to reconsider some of the other choices you've made in life.
z91
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by z91 »

I usually unscrew the tops off, pull the platters out and admire them for a few moments, then scratch them up to kingdom come. If anyone can pull the data off of it after that, have at it.

The magnets are a fun bonus.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by otinkyad »

If your hard drive is encrypted, and it should be, and you don’t reuse passwords, and you shouldn’t, then there’s mostly no issues to worry about.

I’ve got minor (non-DoD) disposal requirements at work, so I’ve gotten into the habit of doing slightly more at work and home. I use DBAN on Linux and Windows, Disk Utility secure erase on macOS, and I’ve reencrypted drives to avoid issues with password reuse when those options wouldn’t work.

A local (paper) document management company also offers shredding for all sorts of electronic media (tapes, CDs, floppies, and hard drives). Seeing a hard drive shredder in action is a little frightening. Keep your body parts far away.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by rich126 »

If you go the hammer or other physical destructive paths, wear safety glasses and gloves. Platters have a lot of glass and when they shatter pieces can fly everywhere. I put things inside a paper bag and broke it but I can easily see someone getting hurt doing the destructive method.

(I've done this a few times.)
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by palanzo »

rich126 wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:23 pm If you go the hammer or other physical destructive paths, wear safety glasses and gloves. Platters have a lot of glass and when they shatter pieces can fly everywhere. I put things inside a paper bag and broke it but I can easily see someone getting hurt doing the destructive method.

(I've done this a few times.)
Not all platters are made of glass.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by adamthesmythe »

Jack FFR1846 wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:32 am
adamthesmythe wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:09 am
I challenge the paranoid to provide an example of fraud perpetrated by anything more advanced than hooking a discarded drive up to a computer.
Not fraud, but data recovery. One of the members over on Board Sort talked about receiving a disk drive that had been shot with a .45. He was able to relatively easily recover over 80% of the data for the customer.

This is why I would grind the magnetic material off the platters of my own disks. Nobody's getting data off of dust spread around the trash.
Data recovery- sure. Hire a professional data recovery service with laboratory equipment and a clean room. Not something you do in your basement.

I submit that accessing data from a hard drive after software overwrite or a degree of mechanical disruption is beyond the capabilities of virtually all criminals. AND that there are easier ways to steal.

Now if we are talking state secrets or highly illegal activities- that's another matter. Then, as noted, the three-letter agencies might get interested, and they have the resources.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by LittleMaggieMae »

If the drives will be put into the trash (and not recycled) wouldn't letting them have a soothing long soak (say overnight) in a bucket of warm sudsy water do the job? Maybe let them 'dry out' in your garage (someplace dark and cool) for a few days - to get some rust/mold/mildew growing?

That way if someone IS going to try to hack your data - they will have to work a little harder to get it. :)
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by LittleMaggieMae »

rich126 wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:23 pm If you go the hammer or other physical destructive paths, wear safety glasses and gloves. Platters have a lot of glass and when they shatter pieces can fly everywhere. I put things inside a paper bag and broke it but I can easily see someone getting hurt doing the destructive method.

(I've done this a few times.)
I second all of the above. I've taken a hammer and screw driver to quite a few old hard drives, thumb drives and other electronics over the years.

I'd do the smashing outside. You have to hit the stuff pretty gosh darn hard and odds are it will go flying or shatter and send
pieces flying. I would wrap whatever I was whacking in an old towel or t-shirt to help contain the object/parts.

I currently use the "spa day" treatment of devices I will be discarding. I suspect a scrapper or recycle place would take the dried out parts/devices.
Last edited by LittleMaggieMae on Wed Jul 29, 2020 1:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Kagord
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by Kagord »

All these ridiculous suggestions, like a torch, who has one of those. I recommend a shredder, like this model 0305, which you can also do your smartphones with.

https://www.semshred.com/product/model- ... -particle/
palanzo
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by palanzo »

Kagord wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 1:52 pm All these ridiculous suggestions, like a torch, who has one of those. I recommend a shredder, like this model 0305, which you can also do your smartphones with.

https://www.semshred.com/product/model- ... -particle/
That's not secure. You really need to use thermite on an old hard drive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRZFTJe22Tg

Kids: Do not try this at home :mrgreen:
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Gort
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by Gort »

Hammer or drill followed by filling it up that concrete filler/repair stuff that you apply with a caulk gun.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by Normchad »

I don’t want my data getting exposed, but on the other hand it’s not all that super important.

My usual method is to use pliers to break off the external connector to the drive. I.e. make it so it can never be plugged in again. I know this isn’t perfect, but somebody would have to be mighty determined to get anything.

For thumb drives and dvds, I just break them in half.

Physical destruction in a lot of cases is easier than hooking them up and faster than rewriting over them.
chemocean
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by chemocean »

I take them apart. The magnets are amazing. I scratch, bend, smash the actual disks.
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Re: Need to destroy old external Hard Drives

Post by fogalog »

Disclaimer: like an earlier poster in this thread, I too worked in the industry.

I also agree with their point: most of the advice here is overkill. Hook the drives up to your mac, open Disk Utility and wipe the drives securely. That's it. That's all you need to do.

Don't take my word for it - to quote the Apple support site, "Writing over the data three times meets the U.S. Department of Energy standard for securely erasing magnetic media. Writing over the data seven times meets the U.S. Department of Defense 5220-22-M standard."

Personally I take them apart to get the magnets and I have some aluminium platters that I use as coasters.

Good luck!
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