Dead hard drive with sensitive data

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by bankshot, Jul 24, 2006.

  1. bankshot macrumors 65816


    Jan 23, 2003
    Southern California
    My Macbook's 2 month old hard drive is dead. Yesterday it started clicking loudly at bootup, followed by a series of quieter whirr-click sounds, followed by spin down. The computer doesn't recognize it at all, and neither does my Power Mac, which also has SATA.


    I have a full backup from a week ago (more a matter of timing and luck than actually making backups with any regularity). So I should just take it to the Apple Store for a warranty replacement, right? If they're really nice, they might even just swap the drive out with a working one so I won't have to send in the whole machine.

    Unfortunately, I have a bit of a dilemma. There's some sensitive data on the drive, including personal finance (Quicken) data, plus some proprietary data from a side project I've been working on that hopes to make money one day. If this drive is dead, I want it destroyed.

    Of course, if I destroy it myself, I void the warranty. If I let Apple take it, they will send it back intact. If I'm extremely, amazingly unlucky, the drive starts working again and finds its way into a refurbished computer. Or worse, gets sold at a flea market. Not acceptable.

    What would you do? Does anyone think there's any chance that the Apple Store will destroy it in front of me after verifying that it's dead? I seriously doubt it, but this seems perfectly reasonable to me. If the drive is dead, it's useless to them, so they might as well give their customer some peace of mind. Makes too much sense.

    I'll probably call tomorrow to see what the policy is, but I'm not optimistic. I'm guessing I'll have to decide whether to eat the cost or bring it in and take my chances. I think either way I'm not going to be too happy with the result. :( I've certainly learned my lesson!
    1. Make regular backups
    2. Keep sensitive data on an encrypted disk image
    So I did #1 this time, but not #2. That certainly would have made this whole thing a non-issue. Time to start...
  2. eji macrumors 6502


    Jun 8, 2004
    Inland Empire
    I'm sure it varies from store to store and employee to employee. The unlucky guy whose drive ended up at the flea market probably just got a bad employee on a bad day. And even on the best of days, Best Buy is not an Apple Store.

    Is there any way you can insist on standing there as they drill holes in your drive? Seems it should be well within your rights as a consumer, no?
  3. JFreak macrumors 68040


    Jul 11, 2003
    Tampere, Finland
    If you want absolute peace of mind, then, just buy a new drive and stop worrying. I know that some data is so sensitive that it's not worth taking a risk.


    disk drives are cheap, and it would cost Apple a whole lot more to try to make a drive working again, so they'll most likely just trash the old one. In most cases I'd just recommend forgetting about it and trust that broken tech is trash.
  4. ChrisBrightwell macrumors 68020


    Apr 5, 2004
    Huntsville, AL
    Agreed. If it's worth your peace of mind, just buy a drive, drill holes through the old one, and toss it into a campfire.
  5. mpw Guest

    Jun 18, 2004
    It can't hurt to ask at the AppleStore, having explained what you have above, I think your concern is legitimate and I can't see a reason to keep the drive once it's been established it's dead.

    Unless Apple are sending all the dead parts back to suppliers in which case they may not want to tamper with the drive, but I can't believe they all go back.
  6. homerjward macrumors 68030


    May 11, 2004
    fig tree
  7. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    If your goal is not to stop the CIA from reading it, but to avoid embarassment, or to prevent an opportunist from reading the data, taking a screw driver and destroying everything you can reach (cutting of connection cables, scratching the board with electronics) goes a long way. Of course, that is only a solution for things you are dumping.
  8. iGary Guest


    May 26, 2004
    Randy's House
    Take an industrial recovery magnet to it - you can get these at home depot.

    Works a charm.
  9. Macnoviz macrumors 65816


    Jan 10, 2006
    Roeselare, Belgium
    To stop data recovery by every possible method, would it be enough to melt the hard drive? I don`t really trust the strong magnet method.
  10. bankshot thread starter macrumors 65816


    Jan 23, 2003
    Southern California
    You'd think so, but I suspect their policy won't allow it. It's entirely likely that Apple simply sends bad drives back to Seagate for reimbursement, and I'd guess Seagate would require that it's not damaged.

    I'm about to call the main support number to see what they say. Even if they say no, I may still take it in to the store and see if I can persuade the tech at the genius bar. Unfortunately I'm not the most persuasive person in the world... :eek:

    You're absolutely right. Only problem is, it would probably bug me that Apple should be responsible for a replacement because they gave me a warranty and I did nothing to void it. If they absolutely refuse to destroy the drive for me, it would be like they only warrant the drive for "unimportant" data. I know, I should just let it go... :rolleyes:

    Should have used encryption, doh! :eek:
  11. dornoforpyros macrumors 68040


    Oct 19, 2004
    Calgary, AB
    ditto, this is the most simple solution available. plus when you take the drive in it won't appear to have been vandalized.
  12. SC68Cal macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    Can't you explain that it has sensitive data on it and you'd like to have them return the hard disk to you, or somehow get a guarantee out of them that they will destroy it?
  13. jtown macrumors 6502

    Jul 3, 2003
    You're talking about a hundred dollar part. Drive a few nails through the dead drive and go buy a new one. It's not worth 5 seconds' thought if the data is really that sensitive. :rolleyes:
  14. bankshot thread starter macrumors 65816


    Jan 23, 2003
    Southern California
    Sure, it's not an expensive part, but that's beside the point. I bought a machine with a warranty, and it was worth some time (to me) to make sure that warranty wasn't effectively invalidated because of a technicality.

    Anyway, this story has a happy ending. I first called AppleCare and the guy was very sympathetic to my concerns. He went and talked to a tech/repair specialist who told him that they just discard bad hard drives that they get back. He suggested that he could add a note to the file to have them return the bad drive along with the new one when I sent it in. No guarantees that it would happen, though.

    I decided to go to an Apple Store and try my luck there. Monday evening, I talked to a "genius" who told me there was nothing they could do as far as destroying the drive right there in front of me. I tried to convince him that it made perfect sense because the drive was already confirmed bad, but he said it would still void the warranty ("but I'll have already returned it to you, and you, Apple would destroy it"). I went home with the same dead drive.

    Last night I tried a different Apple Store. This time I suggested that he allow me to hook up power to the drive, start it spinning, and slightly squeeze the casing so that the head would firmly crash into the platter. This genius thought it was a good idea, and after checking with his manager, went ahead and set it up. We connected it to an external enclosure with the cover off, applied power, squeezed the drive, and let the head grind away against the platter. Perfect. Nobody's going to bother trying to recover data from that now.

    The genius started to write up the forms for me to send in the machine, when I asked if they might be able to swap it out in the store. He said they hadn't done that before, but he'd check the back to see if they had any drives. He came back with a box and did the swap right there. He was pretty excited about how easy it was and the fact that they'd be able to do this for other Macbook customers in the future. I got to come home with a a brand new drive, exactly what I was hoping for.

    So it seems that it really does depend on who you talk to. If you have multiple Apple Stores near you (I now count 19 here in southern California within about 2 hours of me!), it may be worth it to try another one if you have issues like this. Although if you start driving around to a bunch of different stores and using lots of gas, the price of the part does come into play... you might not want to spend $60+ in gas to replace a $100 part! ;)
  15. Super Macho Man macrumors 6502a

    Super Macho Man

    Jul 24, 2006
    Hollywood, CA
    I think you just hit the nail on the head... if you read the actual warranty statement, I'm pretty sure it will say explicitly that any data on the drive is not covered by the warranty and that Apple won't be liable if any data is lost due to a warranty replacement. Your data is your responsibility. But I feel for you. :(

    Edit: oops didn't read all the way down. Glad to hear about the happy ending. :)
  16. HarrySlone macrumors newbie

    Mar 6, 2006
    Try knoppix

    When i had this happen on my windows machine i used knoppix.

    Its a opperating system that loads from the cd, and when you load it it will let you look at the data on the hard drive. If the drive isnt bad in the place that has the data, it usually will read it. Then all you need to do is put all the files on a usb thumb drive, or email then to your self. Of course you will need to get to a computer that can download
    it and burn a iso.

    What i dont know is if its usable on the intel macs, but i think with a little resurch you can find that out. In any case its a free download, you can try it out.

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