Destroying Hard Drives

bunnspecial

macrumors 604
Original poster
May 3, 2014
6,718
3,271
Kentucky
I have a couple of HDDs that I've pulled from computers that came from school.

Most of them are dead(i.e. won't spin up or click when powered on), but I'm still obligated(as a condition of my taking them) to render them in such a state that the data can't be recovered from them. I hate to do this to Apple OEM hard drives, but at the same time they're not doing me any good and I also need to do my proper duty to ensure that the supply of computers does not dry up just yet.

I'm thinking of using them for target practice(I expect that a well placed 357 magnum should do the job), but beyond that I'm wondering if anyone has any sure-fire, secure ways to destroy a dead hard drive?
 

556fmjoe

macrumors 68000
Apr 19, 2014
1,605
907
Thermite or a cutting torch would be more secure, though I have shot a lot of hard rives and it's always fun.

It really depends on the adversary. Bullet holes will prevent them from spinning, but won't completely destroy the data contained on the platters. Magnetic force microscopes, scanning electron microscopes, and transmission electron microscopes can be used via a variety of methods to view the data patterns on the platter even if it cannot be spun, but these techniques are expensive and difficult, plus they may not work with modern high density drives. Melting the drive down will ensure that these patterns are completely unrecoverable.
 

DeltaMac

macrumors G3
Jul 30, 2003
9,534
2,303
Delaware
A few nice holes drilled through the case will do a lot to make your hard drive harmless, using a hand held drill, or ideally, a drill press (but not everyone has access to a drill press)
I'd likely space out about 6 holes, which would make it difficult to miss the platter with at least 3 or 4 of those.

( I do appreciate the .357, too! It makes the task more interesting…)
 

Altemose

macrumors G3
Mar 26, 2013
9,089
444
Elkton, Maryland
I have a couple of HDDs that I've pulled from computers that came from school.

Most of them are dead(i.e. won't spin up or click when powered on), but I'm still obligated(as a condition of my taking them) to render them in such a state that the data can't be recovered from them. I hate to do this to Apple OEM hard drives, but at the same time they're not doing me any good and I also need to do my proper duty to ensure that the supply of computers does not dry up just yet.

I'm thinking of using them for target practice(I expect that a well placed 357 magnum should do the job), but beyond that I'm wondering if anyone has any sure-fire, secure ways to destroy a dead hard drive?
What machines did you get from school?

I would personally use them as clays with a trusty 12 gauge.
 

MysticCow

macrumors 6502a
May 27, 2013
831
381
1. Sledgehammer

2. Target practice, provided you're not in a "victim zone" where you're forcibly disarmed by the government.

3. Melting it
 

128keaton

macrumors 68020
Jan 13, 2013
2,027
401
Get a knife, remove cover off of HDD. Tape knife where blade is on platter. Apply power to hard drive.
 

bunnspecial

macrumors 604
Original poster
May 3, 2014
6,718
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Kentucky
It really depends on the adversary. Bullet holes will prevent them from spinning, but won't completely destroy the data contained on the platters. Magnetic force microscopes, scanning electron microscopes, and transmission electron microscopes can be used via a variety of methods to view the data patterns on the platter even if it cannot be spun, but these techniques are expensive and difficult, plus they may not work with modern high density drives. Melting the drive down will ensure that these patterns are completely unrecoverable.
That's interesting to know...we have SEM and TEM available in the department(and I think my research groups AFM could probably be adapted to MFM). Instrument time on all of these is in high enough demand that I don't see them being used to look at data from dead HDDs, though.

What machines did you get from school?
So far just a couple of "beige" PMs, but have been promised and hopefully will soon be getting a couple of B&W G3s, a pair of QSs, and an MDD.

As far as destroying them, I'm headed out to the range at the end of this week so think that I'll go with that route as it sounds like the fastest and most fun. I loaded up some "Hard Drive Destroyer" loads in 357 Magnum earlier this evening-a hard cast 158gr lead slug over a healthy dose of Winchester 296 powder.

We'll see how those do on the drive-I'll have a 44 magnum and a couple of center fire rifles along if that's not enough.



 

556fmjoe

macrumors 68000
Apr 19, 2014
1,605
907
That's interesting to know...we have SEM and TEM available in the department(and I think my research groups AFM could probably be adapted to MFM). Instrument time on all of these is in high enough demand that I don't see them being used to look at data from dead HDDs, though.



So far just a couple of "beige" PMs, but have been promised and hopefully will soon be getting a couple of B&W G3s, a pair of QSs, and an MDD.

As far as destroying them, I'm headed out to the range at the end of this week so think that I'll go with that route as it sounds like the fastest and most fun. I loaded up some "Hard Drive Destroyer" loads in 357 Magnum earlier this evening-a hard cast 158gr lead slug over a healthy dose of Winchester 296 powder.

We'll see how those do on the drive-I'll have a 44 magnum and a couple of center fire rifles along if that's not enough.

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It takes more than just a TEM or SEM too. It's pretty interesting how it works. They will fire an electron beam at a platter and use a SEM or TEM to record the deflections from the magnetic field. The pattern of the deflections can be used to map the data. They used to coat the platter in ferro fluid and use a SEM to map the patterns in the fluid caused by the magnetic field vectors, but that doesn't work well with modern hard disks. The MFM method involves measuring movements of a very fine point covered in ferromagnetic material with an MFM to map the data.

As far as I know, it's next to impossible to find data recovery firms that can do this kind of thing, and incredibly expensive if you do find one.
 

harrymatic

macrumors 6502
Dec 30, 2013
331
20
United Kingdom
I've always just run a program called DBAN which overwrites every sector with data so that the orginal contents are gone. I then just dispose of the drives at my electronics recycler.

Nobody is ever going to spend the vast amount of money it would take to recover data from some random drive they found, on the offchance that there's something useful to them on it.
 

bunnspecial

macrumors 604
Original poster
May 3, 2014
6,718
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Kentucky
I've always just run a program called DBAN which overwrites every sector with data so that the orginal contents are gone. I then just dispose of the drives at my electronics recycler.
Unfortunately, as far as I know this won't work if the drive won't spin up.

And, I have to actually destroy the drives even if they're "dead" due to concerns over intellectual property, FERPA, and whatever other federal alphabet regulations you want to tack on.

As I said, shooting them is looking like the most likely option at this point.
 

reco2011

macrumors 6502a
May 25, 2014
531
0
Grab a hammer and give each one a good whack. No one is going to expend the effort to recover data from these drives once they're physically damaged.
 

judgej

macrumors newbie
Jul 26, 2014
1
0
So ... just putting this here

So, I'm in research ...

In the late 1990s, I visited Los Alamos Labs for tech transfer purposes. I.e., moving technology out of the lab, to industry.

We had a way to read hard drive platters -- down to following the trace the electrons left on the media. The goal was to ultimately create smaller and smaller silicon (chips, etc.). I.e., only have the material the electrical path TAKES vs all that we laid down.

But -- using such a thing, you could read hard drives: after erasing multiple times (4-6 I believe). So, we could pull the bit patters out, & reconstruct the drive sectors.

It took fire + those multiple erases, before we were comfortable that *we* could not read the hard drive data.

Lord knows whats possible now ;-)
 

bunnspecial

macrumors 604
Original poster
May 3, 2014
6,718
3,271
Kentucky
Ah, this is a fun one. Get some Tannerite and strap the drives to it (only do so in a safe and legal environment and I do not take responsibility for any shrapnel/explosion-related injuries)
Unfortunately, I don't know of the top of my head where I could do this.

Generally, I go to Knob Creek Range when I want to shoot non-traditional targets and they're fine with them(provided one cleans up) but do not allow Tannerite or its like. I find this somewhat ironic, considering that they blow up cars, boats, and anything else imaginable at their machine gun shoot twice a year, but exploding targets are off limits any other time. None of the other public outdoor ranges around here that I know of allow exploding targets.

The private property I shoot on sometimes doesn't allow for enough range to do something like this safely.

It's a great idea, though.
 

drnebulous

macrumors regular
Apr 27, 2014
181
0
Salford, UK
Been downloading Mi5 sensitive information have you?

Undo the hard drive and take the platters out, then get a neodymium magnet - a very big strong one and leave it on each platter for 2 hours. Then get a lump hammer and smash the platters into tiny pieces. Mix the tiny pieces into 5th's, then get in your car and drop one 5th out of the window every 10 miles. Make sure to drop two of the 5ths into moving rivers heading towards the ocean, and put one 5th on a train.