How to Properly Destroy a Hard Drive
Data is both more valuable and more open to theft than it has ever been before. While privacy laws and data regulations are trying to keep up with how people use data in the modern world – and how advanced hacking or theft methods have become – a lot of data security still lies in your own hands, and the decisions you make about the hard drives in all your devices.
That means any electronics that have hard drives, like your phone or computer, need to be disposed of properly. Throwing them in the trash doesn’t work: This leaves devices vulnerable to theft and hacking by anyone who wants to pick them up (this is a particularly effective method for thieves scouting out recycling bins). Sometimes there are no good recycling options and hard drives end making it all the way to vendors or eBay with all the old data still accessible.
Additionally, throwing away electronics in the trash can cause environmental problems: E-waste, or electronic waste, is filled with toxic materials that are dangerous for landfills and groundwater.
So what are you supposed to do? The key is finding a reliable way to destroy hard drive data so it can never be accessed by anyone. These four steps will get you there.
1. Back Up Any Important Data
The first step is to prepare your hard drive for destruction. This means backing up any important data you might have stored on that hard drive to another location. Sometimes, this is as simple as running a migration program when switching to a new computer. At other times, you may need an external hard drive to store data, or you may choose to move data to a vendor’s server for safekeeping. Either way, make sure that anything you want on the hard drive is fully copied over to another safe location.
2. Wipe the Hard Drive Properly
The next step to destroy your hard drive is to wipe the data. Here we run into a major issue – simply deleting data isn’t enough. It’s very easy for hackers to use the latest tools to recover data that’s been deleted: Ghosts of it still linger in the hard drive and are simple to retrieve. That’s why a full wipe and factory reset is usually a better idea. It doesn’t fully protect data, but it’s better than just deleting a lot of files.
Businesses and those who have saved sensitive information on a hard drive may want to go one step further and use a cryptographic erase method, which rewrites old data with randomized new data, making it much more difficult to access past information while you work on step three.
3. Shred the Hard Drive
No matter how thorough the wiping method, hard drive data can still be accessed with the right approaches. So, the next necessary step is arranging for the hard drive to be shredded or pulverized – and we don’t use those words lightly! Today’s durable SSDs can’t be effectively destroyed by hitting them apart with a sledgehammer or ax, it doesn’t really do much to make data less accessible if you have the right tools. The reliable option is to use large mechanical shredders that quite literally turn the hard drive into tiny bits so that it can’t be reassembled.
There are a couple of ways to get this done: Individuals can check and see if their local e-waste recycling centers offer shredding for any electronic devices sent in. This is frequently part of the recycling process, but it’s important to make sure. Since recycle bins can be raided for electronics, it’s also a good idea to deliver any hard drives directly to the recycling center rather than waiting for another service to deliver it.
Businesses and organizations with many hard drives to get rid of, or drives with particularly sensitive information, may prefer to use a specialized e-waste recycling service that guarantees complete hard drive shredding and can deal with large amounts of electronics at once.
4. Document the Disposal
Documentation of the destruction is especially important for organizations. Today’s Privacy laws are frequently requiring companies to prove that data on their hard drives have been successfully destroyed. Professional hard drive shredding centers should be able to send an email or certificate with proof that specific hard drives have indeed been destroyed. The organization that then log this update and don’t have to worry about it again.
The Bottom Line About How to Destroy Hard Drive Data
You can’t do it by yourself! Hard drives and data are simply too durable to guarantee that any person or organization can destroy them effectively. Even prying them apart or smashing them isn’t enough for advanced hard drives. That’s why it’s so necessary to send hard drives into a facility that can guarantee full shredding and provide documentation if necessary. No other method is as full-proof as that!
Of course, if organizations regularly update their technology or have a lot of hard drives to deal with, then this process can become time-intensive or expensive. Companies looking to avoid these issues should look into investing more in cloud technologies and hosted servers that allow them to still store and access data in safe ways, but without the need for as many local physical hard drives.
Consider a Reliable Company to Help Destroy Your Hard Drive
Are you thinking about recycling your electronics or destroying hard drives? Consider using a reliable and responsible electronic recycling company. At Stream Recycling, we will help you dispose of your electronics safely and ensure proper hard drive destruction and wiping. Contact us today to get started.