Destroying data by destroying old hard drives

When I read this article I asked myself, “Is it worth it? Am I really willing to go to this length to destroy my old hard drives?” Of course not. Don’t get me wrong, identity theft is always in the back of my mind. I shred old credit card bills and any junk mail with my name and address on it, but when it comes to hard drives, I don’t think I’m willing to take a hammer to it. It got me thinking of ways to render a drive useless without going to that length. Here are a few ideas I came up with.

Drop the drive while it’s powered on. Do this a few times and it should do the trick. Do the physical damage without the trouble of a hammer or drill.

Remove the PCB. Now a trained data recovery engineer could still recover data, assuming the drive is an older model. With the proper equipment and know how you could reprogram the firmware on a matching pcb, configure it to work with your drive, and use some software to extract the data. However I’m guessing that most run-of-the-mill thieves are this technically capable. Most modern drives come programmed from the factory to work uniquely with each batch of hard drives. In order to do a straight swap and get it working the thief would have to have a hard drive from the same batch, same model, and of course the knowledge.

Format it … and do other stuff. A quick format, chkdsk, defrag might do the trick. As well a low level format or even software that zeroes out the data. Depending on the size of the drive it might take a while. Delete the partition, create a new partition with a different size, copy junk data to the drive, format it again. This just complicates a software recovery and even corrupts some of the data by overwriting portions of old data.

Do a system restore. This is just another way to over write data. You can play around with installing other operating systems as well. Linux, Ubuntu, OSX, Windows 98, go nuts.

Open the drive and scratch up the platters. Most modern drives will require a special torx (or star) tool to remove the screws. Essentially you can do the same by physically dropping the drive while it’s power on. The heads will come in contact with the platters while spinning at 5400 rpm (or 7200).


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