How To Dispose Of Hard Drives Securely

In today’s digitized world, the vast majority of data is stored on hard drives (HDDs) and servers, otherwise known as the cloud. Some estimates conclude that 2.5 zettabytes of data exist in the world today. That may not sound like much, but one zettabyte is the equivalent of over one billion terabytes (TB). For comparison, today’s higher-end laptops that tout high storage capacity usually come with 1TB.

With so much digital data flowing around us at all times, it’s important to ensure that yours is secure. Unfortunately, as technology develops, so too do ways to exploit it. After all, if someone wants your SSN, banking info, or other personal data, they aren’t breaking into your file cabinets or safe in the dead of night to get it. No, they’d much prefer hacking that info remotely. This is why it’s important to know how to destroy a hard drive properly.

How Common Are Data Breaches?

You may be thinking to yourself, “data breaches only happen to big corporations. I’m a small business. I’m not at risk.” But you’d be wrong. In fact, most cyber criminals decide to target small businesses because of their inadequate cybersecurity infrastructure. We only hear about breaches at larger corporations in the news because of their large scale, but small businesses are often easier targets for criminals.

According to reports from the Identity Theft Resource Center, 2021 set a new record for the total number of data breaches in a year. Unfortunately, this is part of a continuing trend that’s expected to keep rising each year. The cost of data breaches for businesses also continues to increase. The average data breach is estimated to cost businesses $4.35 million in 2022.

How NOT to Destroy a Hard Drive: Common Myths

Clearly, data security is rapidly becoming a serious issue for businesses, governments, and individuals alike. One of the best ways to protect yourself, your business, employees, and customers is by having rigid data retention and hard drive disposal policies. However, as with any new phenomenon, there are some myths surrounding the topic. Here are some commonly held methods of destruction that don’t actually work.

  1. Reformatting: Reformatting your hard drive, in a nutshell, is preparing a drive for everyday use. The process erases all local files and restores your drive to a “blank slate,” so to speak. However, because of how (re)formatting works, the “erased” data is still recoverable on a hard drive after the fact. All that’s needed is the right software and some free time.
  2. Magnets: How do they work? Well, they don’t. Not to fully destroy hard drive data, at least. You’ve probably heard the advice before: keep magnets away from hard drives because they can erase data. This advice may have been accurate in theory, but it never pertained to household magnets. The theory is that a hard drive’s magnetic spinning disk, called a platter, is disrupted and unable to write and record data. However, the strength it would take to erase a hard drive is simply not found in run-of-the-mill fridge magnets; it would take MRI levels of magnet strength. There has been some anecdotal evidence of people using neodymium magnets to these ends. However, they merely render the hard drive unusable and do NOT destroy data, meaning it could still be recoverable by somebody who knows what they’re doing. Plus, solid-state drives are on the rise to replace hard drives, and they don’t even have moving parts to disrupt.
  3. Microwave: DO NOT DO THIS! Microwaving a hard drive is one of the most ineffective ways to destroy data, but it WILL be effective in starting a house fire. It will also cause irreparable harm to the microwave oven. And sure, it may render the hard drive unusable, but so long as the platter is intact (which a microwave will probably not affect), data can still be recovered from it.
  4. Water: Dunking a hard drive underwater is a great way to render it unusable. But generally speaking, hard drives are well sealed and prevent water from entering the main components. Even if water gets in, it will not affect the magnetically stored data on the platter and can eventually be recovered.

How to Destroy a Hard Drive Properly

One of the only surefire ways to destroy a hard drive and all the data contained on it is to have it shredded by professionals. Since a hard drive functions via the platter, a spinning magnetic disk, the most crucial part of decommissioning it is to destroy that platter and ensure the data on it is unrecoverable. As we pointed out above, quite a few rumors are floating around the internet on how to destroy hard drives, from muriatic acid to microwaves and more. But you shouldn’t have to expose yourself to harmful chemicals, and do you really want to undertake a process that requires safety goggles?

If you want peace of mind knowing your data is fully wiped and scrubbed permanently from the face of the earth, then call in the professionals at R4 Services. We are discreet, secure, and professional. We’ll come to you to collect and transport the materials, or you can stop by our facility. We confidentially shred all hard drives under the supervision of insured employees and issue a certificate of destruction upon completion. Our brand-new, state-of-the-art hard drive shredder can handle any number of drives you throw at it and will instantly reduce any drive to unrecognizable metal bits. We’ll work with you to assist your organization in its compliance requirements.

For discreet and proper hard drive destruction, contact R4 Services today.

Have questions? Give us a call today to discuss your needs!