What do you do with your dead HDD?

Ecological issues around computing. This is an experimental forum.

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Post by derekva » Sat Nov 15, 2008 10:29 pm

jhhoffma wrote:
andyb wrote:
I keep a very large speaker magnet on hand for wiping out hard drives in general.
Does that actually work......

I have used the stupidly powerful magnets that are actually used "inside" HDD's and that doesnt work, I thought that the magnetism had to be directed very very specifically to actually work.

Whereas physical damage will definitely work.

No, that doesn't work. It does wicked damage to a CRT though....
I'm betting a bulk tape eraser (like you use to wipe out old reel-to-reel or cart tapes) would have enough oomph to scramble the data on a drive.

Alternately, I like the dropping from great height onto concrete method and I'm looking forward to trying out jhhoffma's method at some point (I have a Yugoslavian 8mm Mouser that makes a 30-30 look girlish).


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Post by NeilBlanchard » Sun Nov 16, 2008 1:22 am


Buy the correct size Torx wrench and take them apart -- use the magnets as fridge magnets. They will hold up anything! Recycle the aluminum bits. Use the disks as a mobile, or something.

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Post by Strid » Sun Nov 16, 2008 4:13 am

When my younger brother was around 12 years old he worked at my dads firm (the IT department of a large labor union). Once a week they had a quantity of hard drives that needs to be erased and disposed of. So my brothers job was to open the hard drives and then pretty much bash the insides with a hammer until the patters were toast.

As for how to get rid of the waste? Here we have recycling stations everywhere, where you can drop off all kinds of waste and they dispose of it in the correct manner. I for some reason doubt that this is possible everywhere in the US, though. I think that much of the working electronic hardware is sent to third world countries.

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Post by Olle P » Mon Nov 17, 2008 1:28 am

Packing it in a layer of sturdy brown paper and mail it to some friend at the other end of the country should do the trick!

I read an article about some computer magazine that had hard drives sent to a recovery company.
First, as a test, they sent some drives with a history of being in burning buildings and other drastic damages. Most of the data was still recoverable.
Then the magazine had some mishap with two laptops. One had fallen into the floor from about one meter height and the other one just had a broken HDD. In both cases they were pretty sure that just about all data was still present on the drives, they just couldn't read it normally. Some intern got the job of mailing the drives to the recovery company previously tested. He just wrapped up the drives in a thin layer of paper before sending them. When they arrived one drive was totally unreadable, and on the other one only a small portion, some 20% IIRC, was possible to retrieve.

The lesson learned is that tossing the drive around and exposing it to vibrations will destroy the data stored on it.


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Post by xan_user » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:47 am

Years ago I remember seeing someone take the platters out and fold them like origami, into flowers.
But I cant find the links anymore...

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Post by Mandarb » Wed Nov 19, 2008 11:11 am

CA_Steve wrote:A friend told me the magnets are the best stud finder he's ever used. They glom right onto a nail in the stud.
I'll second this one. Be sure to wrap it in a thin cloth or put it in a zip lock bag as they will mark the wall as you drag it around. In addition I bought these round magnets http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000KK2ESG to place on the nail heads after they have been found. They make a nice (sometimes straight) line above the studs.

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Post by tehcrazybob » Wed Nov 19, 2008 2:15 pm

When I retire a drive, I just format it once and throw it into a drawer, in case I need a spare drive for something. If a drive gets old enough that I can't read its capacity without laughing, or if it's totally dead, I pull it apart to harvest the magnets and platters. The magnets are fun, and the platters make great coasters (which can't be healthy for the data, either).

This thread is the first I've ever heard of glass drive platters, though. I'm disappointed I've never come across any, because that sounds extremely cool.

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Post by Shamgar » Sat Jul 04, 2009 9:12 am

I recently discovered a tool that can securely wipe HDDs from a floppy called HDDErase. It is regarded by security experts as the fasest and most secure software method of completely erasing a HDD, since it utilises a built in security feature that is on most hard drives manufactured after 2001. Block wiping tools like Eraser and DBAN may take several hours or even days to wipe a drive (depending on capacity) and may not erase all data including boot sectors and partition information. The caveat is that HDDErase can only recognise drives on the primary and secondary IDE channels. So, if you have a SATA drive, you must change the settings in the motherboard's BIOS to run it in IDE or Native IDE mode.

I completely secure erased a Seagate PATA 40GB drive in around 15 minutes. It was surprising. I wish I had found this tool earlier, as I had previously used Eraser (block wiping using DoD, Gutmann) which would have taken several hours. So far, I have not been successful in erasing a WD SATA drive in this manner, which makes me wonder whether WD drives have the inbuilt security feature or not.

Before that, I would try to physically destroy drives to damage the platters so as to prevent data recovery. Computer parts recycling is not as common here in Australia, but I do my best to ensure HDDs and other components are ecologically recycled or resused instead of ending up in standard landfill.

Last edited by Shamgar on Thu Jul 09, 2009 2:35 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Post by mathias » Wed Jul 08, 2009 7:56 am

Okay, so I see the magnet idea has already been mentioned. Perhaps if you were to spin up the drive with a very strong magnet stuck to it that might work. Along that line of thought, feeding a hard drive more than 12v of power might be an efficient way to make it a bit more nonfunctional.

I think this would probably work: take the hole which the drive breathes through and fill it with something, saltwater is the first thing that comes to mind.

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Post by DanceMan » Wed Jul 08, 2009 11:50 am

If it still works: Dban. It's free, can run off a floppy, and is among the tools on UBCD, Ultimate Boot CD. You can choose from several methods, including DoD, or Department of Defense. I object to destroying working hdd's simply from mindless paranoia.

For non-working, as stated by OP, I also disassemble.

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Post by nici » Wed Jul 08, 2009 2:44 pm

A company wanted me to take apart dozens of old computers and monitors for recycling, including destroying the HDDs. I ripped away the PCB, opened them up, took out the platters and drilled some holes in them and bent them like tacos, and then i hammered the PCBs for good measure.

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Post by Shamgar » Thu Jul 09, 2009 2:46 am

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Post by zodaex » Sat Jul 11, 2009 12:29 pm

Duke Nukem says: "Shove it up your &%#"

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