How To: Erase Your Hard Drive

If, for some reason, you have a hard drive that you really, really, want to erase today is your lucky day. bbum has posted some tips for erasing a drive, and reminds you that even broken drives should be “erased.”

The best way to really “erase” a drive is to take it apart and destroy it:

Me? I take dead drives apart. They have amazingly powerful magnets inside, along with all kinds of very useful screws, washers, nuts, coils, and other fiddly bits.

The platters, obviously, contain the data and they should be destroyed. I run one of the magnets over them upon removal and then keep a stack of the platters around as they have proven to be incredibly useful! The platters have been used for everything as clamp pads for gluing stuff to spacers to level a table or work surface to being used by my son as part of a bug house.

Or you could drop a pinball on your drive and take a picture with a high speed camera…—MEGHANN MARCO

Erase that hard drive! [bbum’s weblog-o-mat via Hackzine]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Falconfire says:

    Just to point out from TFA, the dropping a pinball and taking a picture of it shattering only works with the glass/plastic based HD platters. Metal ones dont shatter.

  2. nweaver says:

    Nah. Here’s how to destroy any media you want, to full government standards for top secret information:

    They include links to free disk cleaning tools.

  3. jeblis says:

    Be careful, as Falconfire pointed out, many modern platters are glass.

  4. JohnMc says:

    Gosh if I have the time, sure gutting for components is lots of fun. But what if I don’t but want to make sure it can be used? My standard approach — 3/8ths” drill bit, a Craftsman electric drill and a pair of protective glasses. Just bore two holes all the way thru the case. Target it to go thru the platters.

    Then just chuck it. :)

  5. Falconfire says:

    Also on the mac side, if you REALLY need to securely erase a disk, using Disk Utility you can zero out, 7 pass or even 35 pass your files. You will have to boot from a Install disk though if its you only hard drive and are clearing it up before giving the machine to someone else.

    If its your boot volume and you simply want to make sure your deleted files are well deleted, you can secure delete then use Disk Utility to run any of those erase procedures on just the deleted files.

  6. OnceWasCool says:

    Keep in mind that the FBI can read fragments of a drive. If you really want to get rid of it, use the terminator 2 method. A hot cauldron of liquid metal. :)

  7. SpyMaster says:

    If you have stuff that’s so necessary to keep from prying eyes, you shouldn’t have it on your computer in the first place. Other than total physical destruction of your hard drive platter, nothing will keep a determined person or agency from reading your secrets. Take the thing apart, smash it up as well as you can, and then (on some moonless night) take it to a deserted area and bury it in the ground. Deep. And don’t forget to replace your divots.

  8. @Falconfire: I’d add that these methods (7 and 35-pass zero-writing) are pretty much the end-all be-all of deleting your data.

    Plus, you get to, like, keep the hard drive and stuff.

  9. mac-phisto says:

    i go destructo on drives that we cycle out at work. it’s my favorite job duty when we replace a machine. remove drive, disassemble, shatter the piss out of the media & then i split the chunks in two & throw half away at work & half at home.

    ok, now that i actually read that, i think maybe i need to see a shrink about my OCD.

  10. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    Look online for a program from Gateway called GWSCAN.EXE.
    It will write most drives to zeros.
    It also is located in the DOS folder on most Gateway restore disks.
    If you need the password to use it, it’s: GW2K

  11. Hexum2600 says:

    I prefer the shattering of the platters into an almost powder like form and then consuming it with something like applesauce. Not only is your data secure, but it makes one heck of a spicy applesauce. Really rips you apart going down.

  12. wesrubix says:

    disassembling the hard disk to the point you remove individual platters renders the platters unreadable anyway. data is written vertically down the cylinder that the platters make, so as soon as they are misaligned, virtually all files are no longer readable, unless you have a file that does not span a platter, which is unlikely, or extremely small.

    This reasoning also doesn’t even account for having the platters exposed to a non-clean-room-environment! How many PPM is your living room?

    Just don’t clean your hard disk this way.

  13. Plaid Rabbit says:

    @SpyMaster: Dude, WTF are you keeping on your drive, yo?

    Destroying the platters on any drive, save a busted one you can’t zero out, is a bit overzellous – to put it lightly.

    Seriously – unless you’re the NSA or a druglord (or just a bored geek), physically destroying the drive is total overkill. If you actually think that someone is after your old Babalyon 5 episodes and just *your* SSN (or, hell, even the SSNs of your entire extended family) to go to the trouble to try and re-create a 7-pass zero’d drive…you need to take a reality check.

  14. datruesurfer says:

    Keep in mind that zeroing a drive is rather invasive. I tried it on an old 80GB drive that I sold and it took a good 45 min to complete. Since I got my Mac, I just encrypt all of my sensitive data manually. OS X has a great terminal based encryption utility called openssl, and its capable of encrypting just about any file you throw at it using just about any algorithm. Just use 128 or 256 bit AES encryption and decryption is impossible without the passphrase.

  15. mathew says:

    Want to destroy the contents of your hard drive? Just lend it to the Alaska Department of Revenue and tell them their tax data is on it.

  16. Falconfire says:

    @wesrubix: Thats not exactly true. The FBI crime lab has routinely gotten back “destroyed” data that someone though they cleared out by destroying the platers, or by taking apart the drive.

    the only safe way is to zero out, THEN destroy the platers, but then at that point your pretty much gotten on the destruction of evidence if there was a criminal reason for why you where destroying them.

  17. OnceWasCool says:

    Just stop downloading those movies with the girl and the dog. Then, you don’t have to destroy and old hard drive to get rid of it. :)

  18. Snakeophelia says:

    My husband once took a sledgehammer to his hard drive, but he also demolished the rest of his computer. Not only was it obsolete and a total lemon, but despite his best efforts it was totally infested with viruses and whatnot. The sledgehammer was the restrained route – what he REALLY wanted to do was chuck the whole thing out our back window onto the alley.

    Then he upgraded to a Sony Viao and all was right with the world.

  19. CumaeanSibyl says:

    My dad’s got a couple of neodymium magnets about the size of your thumb, stuck on his fridge. Worked great when I had to finish off a dying hard drive. :)

    Most of the IT professionals I know use a ball-peen hammer, for some reason. Maybe it’s the only one they have in the shop.

  20. Jesse in Japan says:

    Just get one of those heavy-duty blenders from those “Will it Blend?” infomercials. Nothing destroys data like having the hard drive platters reduced to powder.

  21. AcidReign says:

    …..I think running dBan will pretty much foil even the FBI. It takes almost 24 hours on a 300 gig SATA drive. It won’t get rid of a boot-sector virus, though. You need testdisk to overwrite that…

    …..I’ve kept every drive I’ve ever had, stacked up on a shelf in the basement. If nothing else, I know where to go if I need a jumper!

  22. redot123 says:

    ever think of a little hydrochloric acid? even a little uric acid helps crunch up a good plate. Steam rollers have proven to be pretty effective too

  23. NydiaLaomedon says:

    You can erase your data by formatting your hard drive it. But simple formatting doesn’t erase data permanently. To wipe your data use stellar drive wipe software which wipe data beyond recovery