How to Destroy a Hard Drive

By Techwalla Computers Editor

With identity theft becoming a growing problem, securely disposing of old hard drives is more important than ever. Simply deleting the contents of your old drives is not enough. Hard drives continue to store old data until overwritten with new data.

Step 1

Burn the drive with hydrochloric acid. Protect yourself with eye goggles and acid resistant gloves and overcoat. Put the hard drive into a glass enclosure that's large enough to prevent the acid from spilling over. Fill with enough hydrochloric acid to completely cover the hard drive. Allow it to sit for several hours so that the acid penetrates the metal casing. Intensify the reaction by using it under sunlight.

Step 2

Grind the hard drive into powder. Government agencies have used this method for years. Simply place the hard drive in a vice on a workbench. Make sure the vice is clamped securely to the bench. Use a grinder with a 60 grit sanding disk and grind away. Be sure to wear goggles, as you do not want metal flakes in your eyes. All that should remain of the hard drive when you finish is a pile of metallic powder.

Step 3

Cut the plates into strips with a hacksaw. Hammer the metal casing until it falls apart. Inside you'll find some disks where the data is stored. Secure the disks and platters in a vice and saw into fine strips with a hacksaw.

Step 4

Degauss the hard drive. Degaussing makes the hard drive unreadable by using a reverse magnetic field to erase and scramble the stored data. Unless you can afford a $2,000 degaussing machine, send the hard drive to a degaussing company to have the drive completely degaussed.

Step 5

Use a software wipe utility. The easiest method to destroy data on a hard drive is to use a wipe utility. The best software wipes information to U.S. Department of Defense specifications. Some free utilities available are Darik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN) and Eraser by Heidi Computers Limited.

Tips & Warnings

  • For ultimate security, combine two or more of the destruction methods. Always use a wipe utility, and then degauss the hard drive and physically destroy it.