Can You Physically Destroy a Hard Drive Yourself?

Hammer on a hard drive and Sadoff logo 13

You have seen images and videos of people taking their hard drive destruction into their own hands. They bring out powerful magnets, use power tools, and often even resort to a hammer. Can you physically destroy a hard drive yourself? Probably, but can you destroy all the data contained therein? You may never know for certain. Let’s explore this topic some more!

What is the Effectiveness of Manual Hard Drive Destruction Methods?

Let’s take care of the elephant in the room first as we have talked about it at length before. Hard drive formatting is not a reliable way to destroy data. In fact, in most cases it doesn’t destroy data at all, just makes the data re-writable. It’s like painting a white coating over a painting so you can start again. Anyone skilled with paints will be able to get through that white layer and see all the data underneath.

Outside of formatting, there are a few methods that people try to use but it typically boils down to either using magnets or some physical method. We will go into each of those scenarios below.

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Can You Use Magents to Destroy Hard Drive Data?

Magnet resting on a hard disk driveThis method actually mirrors a method that is used in the data destruction industry known as degaussing. The idea is simple. On HDDs, the data is actually stored magnetically so applying a strong enough magnetic force will effectively destroy that data.

Contrary to movies and TV shows, the magnetic force needed is huge. To even have a shot with most magnets you would have to take the HDD apart and apply the magnet to individual platters. Even then, without the proper equipment and tools you may have no way of knowing if the data has actually been destroyed.

You may have also noticed that we only mentioned HDDs, and that’s because this method only works on devices that store data magnetically. Newer SSDs do not store data magnetically. You still may be able to damage such a drive with magnets but much of the data will likely survive.

At the end of the day, you should only trust professional grade degaussing techniques like those that we employ at Sadoff. We 100% contractually own liability. With us on the job, you can be sure that your data is completely destroyed.

Read More: Risks of Not Having a Data Destruction Policy

Physical Hard Drive Destruction Methods

If you are into so-called DIY solutions, then we understand your desire to take a big hammer, fine-tipped drill, or a powerful saw and let that do the data destruction for you. We would like to caution you against that.

First, let’s talk about safety. This is our weakest argument against this method of data destruction so if you are more of a safety third kind of person, don’t just skip ahead. Inside of a hard drive are a lot of metal components, even more so if you have an older HDD-style drive. When you start ripping at a drive with tools, sharp shards of metal become a significant concern. Less workplace hazards is always a goal to strive for.

Moreover, there is no way to know for sure if your data has been destroyed. Even with an HDD platter in pieces or an SSD left unrecognizable by your brute tool force may still have data accessible to those with the right know-how and equipment. Unfortunately for you, there will be no way to know for sure that your data is safe.

At Sadoff, we employ a drive shredder that is built for this purpose. If we could do hard drive destruction with those DIY methods don’t you think we would have saved ourselves 10s of thousands of dollars? We want to ensure that your data is thoroughly destroyed and this is the only way to physically ensure that happens.

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