Sunday, July 14, 2013

Getting Rid of a Hard Drive - a HOTR Shop Guide

You know me, safety forced. 
 - Red Green

What do you do if you have a hard drive you want to get rid of.

Sure you can take out all your data, compress and encrypt using a strong encryption and then format the hard disk drive. Even if the bad guys recover the encrypted file, trying to decrypt the recovered file would be a difficult task (think the average politician and a really hard level of Angry Birds).

But you can't just delete a file from the hard drive, it doesn't go away.  When files are erased  (and that's a pretty loose definition of the word) from a hard drive, they're don't really disappear, only the file location information is removed. In other words, the file(s) are invisible to the operating system (like Windows or Linux) but not impossible to recover (especially for geeky folks that have nothing else to do)
So what do you do when you've replaced a hard drive, to make sure someone doesn't get the info off of the old one and you're really not a computer whiz.

I'll offer some HOTR ideas.  Then you all can come up with one of your own. 
There's an assortment of shop tools and stuff out in the garage.
You can bury it. With enough old computers around, you can have your own "Hard Drive Body Farm".
There's blunt force trauma.
You might want to check with your homeowners association first. 
 Ve haf ays of making you talk.
There's heat (but there's that whole harmful volatiles issue).
What's this?  

"Product warranty void if drive experiences shock in excess of 350 G's."
350 G's?! What on earth would have that kind of destructive force?

Sigh.  No, he'll just be begging for them all the time.  Best to find some use for it around the house.

I could use an extra coaster.


  1. Awww, you left out MY personal favorite, TARGET practice!!! :-)

  2. I used blunt force on mine, and bent as many of the connectors as possible.
    Then put them in a dumpster in a barrio neighborhood (my old neighborhood) where no one would suspect such a thing existed or had value.


  3. Thermite's always a fun way to go. I tend to trust in DBAN, though.

  4. Burn barrel.

    Away and down wind from the homestead.


  5. +1 to what Old NFO said. I call that "The Tommy Jordan Method." (Tommy lives about 30 miles from me, BTW, and now has his own shooting school).

  6. You put the hard drive in a cement mixer with a few baseball to softball sized rocks and let it all tumble together for a few minutes.
    Nothing left but small pieces.

  7. Hard disks make good reactive targets. People react to computer equipment in general rather positively at plinking day, though really getting grown-ups from the business world to sing an angry song of CCI Stingers requires an old telephone or answering machine.

    Back when Spring COMDEX was in Atlanta -- back when COMDEX existed -- one of the local ranges did Class 3 rentals and figured out they could do good business if they let people bring in their own plinkables. There was a news video of people cackling maniacally while hosing down computers with burp guns.

    (Actually the best part of the video involved an old self-propelled vacuum cleaner that appeared to be made of the same stuff as the Terminator. If memory serves, they had to empty a couple of Uzis into the thing before it finally expired.)

    Back to hard drives, I'd never noticed before, but I have the same sticker on an old 40-GB Seagate from the desk drawer that I really need to clean out one of these days. (The Western Digital, Maxtors, and old Hitachi/IBM Deathstar drives in there are silent on the subject.) It is a particularly interesting specification considering that yours was a dedicated drive pulled out of a laser printer. The pre-Fiorina-era HP LaserJets (and to some extent their professional lines, still) were very solidly built, but I think 350 g is going to require depot-level maintenance or at the very least a session with a vacuum cleaner and the little can of air to get stray toner off the optics.

    The same drive also has a large yellow sticker, with the usual cracked-wineglass icon, cautioning me that it's "Fragile."

    I'm sure that paradox can be explained in terms of a "non-operating" specification that should be interpreted as what the drive can be expected to survive in transport with the heads automatically parked and the platters not spinning, and in practical terms means that if you drop it on the floor it is worth picking up again. Operating shock tolerance would be lower,,758-2.html

    Hard drives meant for laptops usually incorporate g sensors and a bit of logic to detect freefall and park the heads before impact.

    If you'll indulge me in another digression, this has interesting implications for people who are really conscious about data security when they transfer or excess-out old equipment. Who thinks of a printer as containing a hard disk and therefore, conceivably, confidential data? Well, there one is...

    If reassigning a computer to a new user in my department, I delete user files (unless they are explicitly being transferred -- say, the new user is in the same job and needs the last one's data), then overwrite "slack space" with random ones and zeroes using any of various utilities. If the hard disk is being discarded or the whole computer is going to excess, I wave the drive around a really strong magnet from one of the labs; then, I'm told, Excess Property puts them through one of those tree-chipper-grade technology shredders.
    Not as much fun as blowing them to smithereens with a .45 but that isn't allowed at work...

    It seems like kind of a waste (though some of those drives have had a hard life anyway) but we only want to see our name in the paper for positive things -- not, say, a spill of personally identifiable information (PII) or confidential documents.

  8. Tannerite. About a pound should suffice.

  9. I've disassembled them, taken the actual disks out, and bent them into multiple angles with a couple of pairs of pliers.

    Though I will say I have been meaning to try the target practice method of data recovery prevention as well.

  10. +1 for DBAN, especially when you set it to "Super Nuke".

  11. I use this:

    They have a free version; at work I use the paid one for obvious reasons.

  12. DBAN is the tool to totally wipe the drive of any usable data.

    i do the follow if any drive fails/replaced for any reason and it has had any data on it i dont want reconstructed.

    1>Dban on DOD wipe for at least 10 complete cycles.
    2> physically tear apart the drive and dispose of everything but the platters in one location.
    3> take the platters and use a wire brush to destroy the surface layers.
    4> use now scuffed platters as targets.
    5> dispose of now wiped, scuffed, dented, and holed platters in nearest trash can.

  13. The magnets from inside hard drives are usually quite strong and therefore useful.

  14. Heh. They do make fairly good targets. And 7.62mm leaves a larger hole than 5.56, BTW, especially if the round tumbles.

  15. Mechanical drives are an awesome source of magnets. The older the drive the better. The rest is for targets.

    Fogo. When one simply must be in a meat coma for three days.

  16. You gotta get the magnet out! Powerful magnets are so much fun. And useful. Sanding disc on the disc surfaces.


  17. heheh. Ok, has anyone enlarged the photo of the copy machine and read the all official looking "instructions"?

  18. We had a drive get infected once with an evil cross-platforming virus from the Russian Steppes to Hell...although DH tells me it was suitably destroyed, ans since the "Nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure" option was unavailable to me, I really wanted to do the Terminator-thing to it and smelt it down!

  19. I like the idea of using it for target practice. You can pretend the hard drive is, well never mind, just use it for target practice. If it is a work computer, our IT guys take care of it.

  20. I did. (re: the copier)


  21. Thermite. The only way to be REALLY sure. I line up about 3-4 drives vertically on a workmate, thermite on top and light a candle for the Freedom of Information Act.

    From MI:3 "We've talked to the Tech-Department, and they doubt they can reconstitute the drives. "Crispy", I believe that's what they called them, worthless."

    Although, some .45 penetration tests might be in order. You know how many stacked up will stop 185 or 230 FMJs, etc. Might have to put them in front of my hard plates!

  22. I've always found that 7.62x54R at 100 yards, applied repeatedly, makes it darn near impossible to retrieve data off the platters, and then you get to easily take the drive apart to get those extra-powerful magnets out for other fun and profitable endeavors.

    I've also found that if you can manage to get the drive apart without shooting it, the platters make excellent windchimes.

  23. Huh, so I guess dropping the tower off at the Goodwill isn't cool?
    Who knew ;).

  24. Target practice! That was my first thought.

  25. reel to reel bulk tape eraser.
    [yeah, I remember the passing of the dinosaurs too, seeing that I'm almost 3 1/2 days younger than dirt]

    PS - it also kills the electronics as well as the platters magnetic surfaces.

    Rich in NC

  26. "Shooter ready?"


    It worked for me.

  27. Target practice. Definitely target practice. Multiple hits of various calibers.

  28. You've the admonition to figure out what you love and figure out a way to get paid for it. WellI started a business, Holey Hard Drives. Send $10 & your condemned hard drive. Mr. Wesson & I would ensure the drive is unreadable then recycle the remains.

    One word of caution; leave this to the professionals. Hard drives can be amazingly bullet resistant. I found a 125 grain full metal jacket bullet over a stiff .357 Magnum load worked well.

  29. Be careful breaking the platters on some older laptop drives. I had one shatter down in the shop when I was salvaging the magnets and shards went everywhere.

  30. a few whacks with a 10 pound sledge to both sides does the trick and they make fine targets.

  31. The HP component looks like a standard 2.5 inch drive connected to a fancy piece of interface hardware. I'll admit that if I came across it, I would have been curious and fired up Caine to take a look.

    My gut tells me that HP is doing a lot more than storing font caches and diagnostic information on that drive.

  32. Our S6 prefers the claw hammer approach.
    Releases tension and maintains OPSEC.
    I would add soaking in a 50/50 brine of road salt for a week after getting to your happy place.

  33. Someone did voice commands for a toaster the other day.

    Straight claw hammer and pickling in a salt brine after.
    Rust never sleeps.

  34. These comments were like Mythbusters Meets Red Green. Loved it!

    And indeed, Hotel1, Rust never sleeps!

    Short night here, but thank you for a big smile the last couple of days.

  35. Do not use shop machinery on hard discs. As there are loose moving parts, spinning sharp blades will send bits flying off. To destroy mechanically, take off the cover, force required due to super glued screws. Use a hammer to dent the plates. Use wire cutters to remove the heads. Remove the external PCBA. Dispose all parts separately. There is a powerful magnet inside each hard disk to move the heads. It is tochic. Do not reuse for children.

    BTW I have not seen large capacitors on hard discs in a great many yesrs

  36. I have to echo the physical intrusion of a projectile into said platters. I covered this a while ago, and it was neat to observe the results first-hand.

    That's Neural Misfires, not "Misfiles" per your blog link, but the latter does evoke some humor...

  37. Al - the saw was a joke, but yes, that's a good reminder, not everyone reading will get my sense of humor. There were certainly a lot of good suggestions here and all better than my "coaster" idea :-)

    Thanks for stopping!

  38. One shot with engineer's hammer to a nail set thru the platters, and a 2nd thru the electronics. Laptop drives appear to have glass platters, I got a nice tinkling noise after the first hole. The data is still there but I can't imagine a bad guy paying to reassemble the platters for data recovery.


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