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What to do with an old HDD

     
5:37 pm on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I was clearing up and found some old HDDs (some failed, some just too small to be usable).

I'm not bothered about data recovery for myself, but I would be concerned about sending the drive for recycling with all that data stored on the drive.

I used to destroy the drives so that the data was impossible to recover, however, a couple of them are sealed units.

I guess a sledge hammer might be the only solution.

Any other suggestions?

5:46 pm on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Will it blend?

[youtube.com...]

5:48 pm on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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If you take them apart the platters make interesting IT related coasters. You can pretty much guarantee the data would be irrecoverable unless it's all in 1 place!

Also you can get the workings of a clock and make a nice shiney HDD clock for your office!

(possibly ideas for cheapskate xmas pressies!)

[edited by: Dabrowski at 5:51 pm (utc) on Dec. 5, 2008]

5:49 pm on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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You could try renting a degausser [veritysystems.com]. But a sledgehammer is much more fun. Equally fun is going to a machine shop and asking to borrow the use of a hydraulic press.

You're right to lack faith in the E-Recycling industry. I used to work in the industry, and what companies claim about data destruction, and what actually happens inside the shop, are two very different things.

5:52 pm on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Two words: thermite grenade [video.google.com]

[edited by: LifeinAsia at 5:52 pm (utc) on Dec. 5, 2008]

6:18 pm on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I like some of those ideas, thanks. Not all practical, but some are real fun!

I was thinking of using acid, but that's not very environmentally friendly.

7:01 pm on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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How about putting them through the dishwasher with some Clorox bleach added along with the dishwashing soap?
7:40 pm on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Equally fun is going to a machine shop and asking to borrow the use of a hydraulic press.

I have a client here in town who runs a machine shop and I've watched him use this method on sealed drives more than once; each time we upgrade to a new machine. It definitely renders the data unreadable because it scratches the heck out of the platters in the process of squashing them. Plus it's tons of fun!
7:52 pm on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Timely thread. I just took the hard drives out of 7 old machines before taking the machines to the recycling center.

Now I/m pondering waht to do with the drives.

Maybe take to the demo derby and get the drivers to duct tape the drives to their bumpers?

11:47 pm on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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A drill press is probably better than a sledgie, if you can get your hands on one.
I know someone who has a geologist's hammer for just this purpose. :)
12:29 am on Dec 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Pretty much anything that makes a hole through the platters will do. With read heads hovering only thousandths of an inch above the surface of the media, the distorted area around a mechanically-created hole will look like an oncoming side-on volcano to the read head...

Nails, ice-picks, geologists' hammers, bullets -- Any of these will do.

If you want the full effect, drop some sand through the hole, shake thoroughly, and then spin up the drive... :)

Jim

3:43 am on Dec 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Take em a part, the magnets can hold a years worth of kid's school art on the fridge at one time ;~)

Lovejoy

5:32 am on Dec 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Speaking of magnets, get a strong magnet from a hardware store and just rub it over the platters. That should do it, I'd think. Used to be how we'd erase tape carts (except that was an electromagnet)
3:23 pm on Dec 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Won't a big fat magnet set on top of it for a day or two do the job?

The sledge hammer approach is only acceptable if you have a video camera in proximity.

3:48 pm on Dec 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Search YouTube for HDD sledgehammer and you'll find some really funny videos. ;)
4:28 pm on Dec 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

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In order to erase data, the platters must be subjected to a changing magnetic field. Bulk tape erasers subject magnetic media to a field that reverses 100 or 120 times per second, depending on your AC power line frequency. So a fixed magnet is not really very effective, as it's fairly impossible to reach anything like that rate of change manually. Also, the cover of the drive acts as an electromagnetic shield, so waving a magnet around on the outside of a sealed drive isn't likely to affect the stored data.

So, if the drive still works, then use one of the hard drive eraser programs that makes multiple passes and writes wildly-different data to each sector many times. If not, use a proper magnetic media eraser applied to the 'naked' platters, or physically damage the platters so that they cannot be read without damaging the equipment used to attempt to read them.

Man, the 'retirement plan' for old hard drives is tough... They really deserve better treatment after serving us for so long... ;)

Jim

11:33 pm on Dec 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

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In order to erase data, the platters must be subjected to a changing magnetic field. Bulk tape erasers subject magnetic media to a field that reverses 100 or 120 times per second, depending on your AC power line frequency. So a fixed magnet is not really very effective

Thanks much for that correction, Jim! So that's how those things worked. They did "buzz" pretty loudly. About those "disk wipe" programs.....I've read that it's possible to recover data even after what they call a "DoD" (as in Department of Defense) wipe, which if I remember is seven passes.

Tim

12:13 am on Dec 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I doubt it, because otherwise the DOD wouldn't approve it. But if you're worried, run it several times at several levels, and then fill the disk with MP3 files... :)

Jim

8:41 am on Dec 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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HHDs have really strong magnets and its fun playing with them, they are strong enough to hold each other on other sides of your palm. I always salvage Those Magnets + Motors , All electronics to go trash bin Though
8:59 am on Dec 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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A sledge hammer will do the job

. . . or drop it in the atlantic ocean, and blog about it. 100 years from now people will be interested in recovering it, and Mr. engine becomes an iconic tourist attraction in a museum.

9:16 am on Dec 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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hehehehe


. . . or drop it in the atlantic ocean, and blog about it. 100 years from now people will be interested in recovering it, and Mr. engine becomes an iconic tourist attraction in a museum.

Boy o Boy that was Nice!

9:54 am on Dec 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Take a look at the guidelines for HDD erasure at the NSA level: sand blasting the magnetic material from the platters.

Distortion (ie, sledge hammer) will NOT prevent reading should the attempt be made.

The real question is: Is the data on the drives, "wildly written over but still can be read by spooks" a problem?

If so, and a sand blaster is not handy, open the drive, separate the platters, and use a dull wood chisel on every surface in a vigorous manner.

10:01 pm on Dec 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Distortion (ie, sledge hammer) will NOT prevent reading should the attempt be made.
Perhaps not if a government agency was interested in my hard drive, but anybody who might find my drives is not likely to consider it worth their while to do *that* kind of data-recovery.

I normally use a combination approach - sledge hammer to start with, then drills, screwdrivers, axes, vices, etc., once the platters are exposed and broken apart.

3:18 am on Dec 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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and what companies claim about data destruction, and what actually happens inside the shop, are two very different things.

Human nature what it is - it is just too cool to 'liberate' a drive here and there. Not necessarily for malevolent intent, but because it is just too funny what can be found. Maybe a 'voyeur' kind of thing for some. Most drives contain files people would rather never see the light of day. Always destroy your own. Very few computers are worth selling, donating, et cetera. An old computer is simply a hunk of junk. What cost a few grand a few years ago can be replaced for a few hundred today - all new and no effort.

Once you've got the disc, a rock hound's hammer/pick-axe will render it completely FUBAR. Crank it a vise and let the sledge have a few more shots. After that, the dump is probably adequate, but have chucked a few in lakes too. There are a lot of people, for a variety of reasons, that need to be darn sure their data is never found.

3:31 am on Dec 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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That thermite sounds cool though. Wonder how much you would use, maybe a half-pound or so.?

Making Thermite [how2dostuff.blogspot.com]

1:10 pm on Dec 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I normally use a combination approach - sledge hammer to start with, then drills, screwdrivers, axes, vices, etc., once the platters are exposed and broken apart.

That seems unnecessarily time consuming, unless you're being paid a lot to do it.

If a sledge hammer isn't good enough, why not just stick to a quick scrub with some coarse sandpaper?

Don't forget, it's not the metal you're trying to destroy, it's the magnetic coating.

[edited by: Dabrowski at 1:11 pm (utc) on Dec. 10, 2008]

2:49 pm on Jan 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Destroy your hard drive [news.bbc.co.uk]
The only way to stop fraudsters stealing information from old computer hard drives is by destroying them completely, a study has found.

Which? Computing magazine recovered 22,000 "deleted" files from eight computers purchased on eBay.

Freely available software can be used to recover files that users think they have permanently deleted.

While Which? recommends smashing hard drives with a hammer, experts say for most consumers that's a step too far.

4:39 pm on Jan 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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For the really paranoid, they have the equivalent of a paper shredder for hard drives.

[semshred.com...]

This level of paranoia will probably set you back a few hundred grand. But it looks so cool, every office should have one.

Sorry lawman I couldn't find a noncommerical site that had an image of this thing. But I certify that I have absoulutely no connections with this company. At least im not teaching people how to make thermite.

10:28 pm on Jan 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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@ lgn1

That video is going viral.... at least around our office.

 

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