What Should You Do With an Old or Broken Computer That Still has Personal Information On it?

This Ask the Experts session stems from a question originally posted on Quora regarding data security best practices.

Our computers tend to capture a substantial amount of personal information. I’ve seen everything from social security numbers to application passwords stored on various hard drives while working on client engagements. To make matters worse, a lot of information can be recovered from a hard drive even if you “erase” or format the drive (not all drive formatting tools are created equal, allowing for the recovery of personal data). Whether your donating a computer to your charity of choice, or want to get rid of a broken one, destroying the hard drive is one of the best ways to render sensitive data unrecoverable.

Three popular ways to destroy a hard drive are by utilizing a hard drive shredder, drilling through the magnetic disk disk/platter, and degaussing the hard drive.

1. Shredding the Hard Drive – This method requires a specially engineered shredder that can slash through thick pieces of metal.

Whitaker Brothers DATASTROYER MVHD-1C Hard Drive Destroyer

2. Drilling through the magnetic disk/platter – This tried and true method is simple, open the hard drive casing, grab a drill with a strong enough drill bit to puncture through aluminum, and drill through the round silver platter disk. You can also destroy the platter with a hammer!

Drilling through a hard drive, a cheap and efficient way to render a hard drive inoperable!

Degaussing the Hard Drive – Degaussers are essentially finely tuned magnets that have the power to destroy the magnetic signature of data stored on magnet media, such as hard drives, upon making contact with them. Degaussing when done right is extremely effective! If you opt to go this route, make sure you choose a degausser with a high Oersted rating as the degausser will need to have an Oersted rating that is two to three times the Coercivity of the hard drive you’d like to degauss.

Garner Products, INC Data Eliminator HD-2X

At the end of the day, shredding, drilling through the magnetic disk/platter, or degaussing a hard drive are great ways to render data inaccessible. Interested in others way you can secure old or broken devices, or data in general? Contact us and we’ll be glad to assist you with your security needs! Click here to subscribe to our weekly newsletter for more information security related tips and tricks.

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