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Secure erasing of hard disk drives

12/04/12

Secure erasing of hard disk drives

Permalink 06:30:26 pm by Eugene Gardner, Categories: General, Articles

How to irreversibly and permanently destroy any personal data that is held on clients' old hard disk drives ? Any data recovery laboratory or cyber-criminal will tell you that simply deleting files then emptying the recycle bin leaves data easy to recover and potentially use for nefarious purposes such as identity theft. Other techniques such as smashing the disk with a sledge hammer, baking in an oven or dunking in liquid are equally futile at permanently destroying personal data such as bank details, passwords, photographs and letters. It is telling that I have heard how used disk drives sell for more than new ones in some places where disposed of old computers are sent for recycling.

The only ways to destroy data thoroughly are to use an industrial macerator which acts as an office shredder does for paper, melt the internal platters of the disk such as may be done with a welders blow torch or use magnetism to wipe the data.

If the disk drive is still good enough to be mounted in a computer, there are programs that can (magnetically) destroy data by overwriting the entire disk several times with meaningless patterns, but these take several hours for each disk. Not only do I not have time to do that for every disk I dispose of for clients of 1ComputerCare, but most disks are electronically damaged precluding this method of secure data removal.

Instead, I wipe the disk clean of data by rubbing an N52 grade Ultra High Performance Neodymium Magnet over it. I have tried to recover test data from disks after this treatment but it is quite impossible. To get this guaranteed data erasure the magnet has to be rather strong ? the one I use cost almost ?100 and has a 118 KG pull (one and a half times my own weight) and so would deliver a nasty crush injury if a finger got trapped between the magnet and a disk drive.

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