Protecting Your Data: Destroying Old Hard Drives And Other Media Devices

4 February 2015
 Categories: Industrial & Manufacturing, Blog

What do you do with your old PCs, tablets, and flash drives when it's time to get new ones? Leaving them to moulder in an electronic graveyard in the back of a storage room is a bad idea. Old hard drives can contain a lot of current information that is useful to data thieves. You need to destroy that old information for good, but do you know the best way to do it? Here's what you should know.

Reformatting And Restoring Factory Settings

A lot of people think that reformatting a hard drive is enough to clean off old information. It's not. reformatting can still leave personal files retrievable with the right software and very little effort. Restoring electronics to factory settings and reinstalling operating systems are also ineffective.

Wiping Out The Drives

There are a lot of commercial software programs that allow you to "overwrite" the drive. Often these are called "disk wiping" or data erasing programs, but what they actually do is replace stored data with layers upon layers of meaningless code. 

The problem with this method is that the original information on the disks is still there, and can be retrieved if someone is patient enough. In addition, the process is time consuming, especially if there are numerous large hard drives involved. It's also hard to guess how well the hard drives are really "wiped" without experimentation, because programs vary so much in quality.

Still, the method can be useful if you need to preserve the electronic devices whole for some reason. 

Degaussing The Magnetic Field

You may have heard that information on hard drives can be destroyed with heavy duty magnets. It's a little more complicated than that, but degaussing erases data from hard drives and renders them unusable, using either powerful magnets or electromechanical pulses.

Degaussing machines are effective and fast when they have the right strength to overcome the magnetic barrier of the device that's being erased. The problem is that you can't guarantee that a degaussing machine is going to be strong enough for every electronic device you have, especially with the thicker shielding used by modern hard drives to prevent accidental magnetic erasure.

Shredding The Hard Drives

Shredding the hard drives literally destroys them. Machines that are capable of handling many different types of devices, from smartphones to hard drives, function much in the way that a paper shredder does. Hard drives are reduced to small pieces and permanently destroyed. The machines can also process large quantities of material quickly, making them highly efficient.

Shredding the hard drives doesn't destroy the information contained on the hard drives, but it does destroy the medium carrying that data, keeping information secure. In addition, mobile services provide on-site hard drive shredding, which means that you don't have to worry about devices going missing in transit to a disposal facility.

Some companies combine methods of data control, wiping drives and then consigning them to the shredder, creating an additional layer of security. Whatever you do, it's important that you take steps today to prevent sensitive information from falling into someone else's hands. For more information, contact a local electronic disposal company, like STS Electronic Recycling.