Shredding, Hammering & Torching: How To Remove Data from Hard Drives

hard driveHard drive shredders are mechanical devices which destroy hard drives to a point where data can no longer be retrieved from the drive. The first step towards removing data or making it impossible to retrieve data is by separating individual tracks from each platter in the hard drive.

Data is not removed through formatting. Over-writing data into the hard drives is a common solution to making old data irretrievable, however, experts have said that a strong willed person can access and recover data despite it being over-written several times over. You can try to over-write the hard drive numerous times but it is a time consuming procedure to undertake.

Drilling holes into hard drives is also not a good solution as several tracks remain connected to the drive and whole packets of data can be recovered. The most effective method is to physical decimate the hard drive. Hard drives contain toxic materials and it is important to destroy the drive in an environmentally friendly procedure. There are now many firms which offer services to shred and destroy hard drives. They provide clients with pickup and transport services as well. These firms can also be checked to confirm their conformity to environmental regulations and if you’re worried about data theft, this may be the best solution. However, here are a few other ways to get rid of the data in your hard drive (warning: may get violent):

  • You can take a hammer to the drive. All the methods that are present here may seem incredulous and sophomoric, but they do get rid of data. Hammers can damage a hard drive beyond repair. There are now videos available all over the internet which showcase the correct method for hammering a hard drive.
  • Welding torches are pretty effective as well. These torches provide a flame upwards of 2,500 degrees and the flame can reduce hard drives into molten liquid. However, this is not a very environmentally sound idea.
  • Most large scrap yards are equipped with large electromagnets and these provide the perfect solution to removing data. The electromagnet completely nullifies the drive heads and erases data from the hard drives. Another reason to head to the scrap yard is to see the drives fly up to ten feet in the air due to the enormous power of those huge electromagnets.
  • Hard drive platters are usually made from aluminum. Aluminum melts at temperatures slightly upwards of 650 degrees Celsius. The aluminum from hard drive platters can be recycled to make new components or other aluminum based products such as cans. There are not many furnaces around which let you do this, but if you do find one, then you’ll be opting for a method which is environmentally more sound than other methods.

Sure, these methods may not sound very sophisticated but there are other choices you have. Hard drives are meant to withstand a certain amount of abuse in order to make sure that they do not start failing due to your computer falling on the floor.

If you’re not looking to physically destroy your hard drive, there are various types of software available which provide overwriting services. These programs write a lot of nonsensical data on top of your data and bury your data under that mountain of nonsense. Even a professional would find it almost impossible to retrieve data from over-written hard drives but these are not a 100 percent effective.

The best solution, therefore, is to over-write your hard drive and then use the services of various hard drive shredding companies which also recycle the hard drive. It is ignorant to pollute the environment in today’s world and these shredding companies with their recycling techniques and environmental regulations, destroy your hard drive in a green way.


Hal McDermott is a software engineer who now writes for tech magazines and blogs. Hal specializes in data removal and retrieval techniques and has held various seminars detailing the methods of going about removing data or retracting data. Contact Hal for information regarding hard drive shredding companies around St. Louis along with other information regarding hard drives.

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