Keep your Old Hard Drives
Why do we recommend keeping your hard drives? Take a look at this video by CNA Insider, as they explain how your data is still available on your drive. Unless you really trust the company you entrust your old drives to, we do not recommend taking anyone’s word that they will erase the data for you. By keeping your drive, you can guarantee the security of that drive.
Deleting a file on a disk is simply telling the disk it is ok to reuse the space where that file resides, it does not actually “erase” or “remove” the physical data (in most cases). Often times when we are asked to recover damaged drives, we are able to restore many items that were deleted from several years ago and customers are always a little surprised. Even if you use special software/eraser tools it is not guaranteed to remove all of the data. We will always recommend that you keep your hard drives until you can properly destroy them.
How do you destroy a hard drive? (The HIPAA compliant method)
1) You can normally perform a standard DoD wipe which involves using software to write over top of the data at least 7-times with 1s and 0s. Essentially, that process reuses all the space on the drive 7-times which is the same as taking a magic marker to a bank statement and writing 1s and 0s across the entire page and repeating the process 7-times. It would be very difficult to read that statement after that but maybe not impossible.
(For the next step… SAFETY FIRST: Wear eye protection and take any additional precautions just in case since we will be smashing things with hammers, we also HIGHLY recommend removing the drive from the computer before performing this step, yes, you have to remove the drive!)
2) After the drive is DoD wiped, we recommend turning the hard drive on its side and hitting it smartly with a hammer. You should hear what sounds like glass breaking on the inside of the drive. If you shake the drive you should hear the pieces of the data platters jingling around inside the drive. Check out this video on what you should hear: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AebpSXIMyRI
(NOTE: If your drive is a Solid State Drive (SSD), USB/Thumb Drive, or some kind of Hybrid you may need to take a more aggressive approach since all the data is may not be contained on a platter. Such as disassembly or sending it through a grinder.) So here is an awesome video of a drive being shredded!!!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ip0BZMg2f1A
3) If you are super paranoid or just want be thorough, disassemble the entire drive, further grind the platters and any other pieces you can into the smallest pieces you can make and dispose of pieces randomly over time or in separate garbage/recycle bins. You may want to keep the magnets you find on the inside for your fridge or workshop. (CAREFUL!: The powerful magnets inside of a drive can pinch you quickly if you put them together, they are also difficult to peel apart from each other.)
They do make machines that degauss the drive with even more powerful magnets then grind the drive into very tiny pieces but these machines typically go for thousands of dollars. So, unless you run a large company that often needs to destroy drives, this option might not be the best financial decision made…. then again, it just might be the best financial decision you ever made.