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3 ways to destroy an old hard drive

3 ways to destroy an old hard drive
© Alex Hinds | Dreamstime.com

You’ve just upgraded your computer and it’s time to say goodbye to your old system. You’re ready to recycle the machine, but you don’t want to let the hard drive and its backlog of private files and data out of your sight. There are some software solutions that will erase the drive, but there’s a certain satisfaction to be found in physically destroying it in addition to wiping the data.

Your first step (after backing up or saving any data) is to remove the hard drive from the computer. This usually requires a small screwdriver and opening up the case. Many desktops open from the back, while most laptops open from the bottom.

The hard drive is a rectangular piece of hardware. It should have a sticker full of information about the drive, including the capacity (like 750GB). Disconnect any cables and get ready to wreak destruction on your no-longer-wanted hard drive.

Note: Before you destroy your hard drive, make sure you back it up. We recommend using our sponsor IDrive, which I'll tell you more about later.

Now, we're going to tell you three ways to destroy your old hard drive.

Grind away your data

Are you a handy, do-it-yourself type person? If so, then here’s a drive destruction method you will enjoy. You will need some specialty screwdrivers, some sandpaper, and a willingness to dig around inside the hard drive case. Power tools are optional.

You don’t need to mangle an entire hard drive in order to ruin its contents. Traditional hard drives, not to be confused with the Solid State Drives (SSD) used in some computers, have a small disk inside called a platter. The platter is what holds your information. It looks a lot like a mini CD.

You will need a specialty star-shaped Torx screwdriver to open the drive casing and access the platter. Remove the screws, pop open the case, and then undo any other screws and hardware pieces holding the disk in place. Your drive may contain more than one platter, so be sure to get them all.

Now take some gritty sandpaper and rough up the surface of the platters to render them inoperable. Remember to follow the usual safety protocols if you choose to handle this task with a power sander or grinder. Wear gloves, eye protection, and a mask to avoid breathing in any particles.

Drill it

Sticking with the power-tools theme, let’s explore another way to ruin your hard drive on purpose. Get out your safety goggles and your power drill.

It helps if you have a workbench where you can clamp the drive into place, but any sturdy work surface will do. Your goal is to drill through the platter. You can remove the cover if you’re not sure where the platter is located inside the case, or you can just drill with abandon and cut multiple holes through the drive until you’re satisfied with your work.

SEM Model 0101 Automatic Hard Drive Crusher

If DIY isn’t your thing, there are other options. Let’s say you have a spare $5,000 lying around. You could throw logic to the wind and buy a SEM Model 0101 Hard Drive Crusher, nicknamed the “Sledgehammer.”

This beast of a machine is designed to do one thing well: smash hard drives. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dainty drive from a laptop or a hefty drive from a desktop. The crusher even meets drive-destroying compliance guidelines laid out by the U.S. National Security Agency and the Department of Defense.

You put the hard drive inside a chamber, close the door, and let the Sledgehammer lay down 12,000 pounds of force to push a punch through the drive, “causing catastrophic trauma to the hard drive chassis while destroying the internal platter.” The machine is certainly impressive, even though it’s not the most practical way to go if you’re an individual who just needs to dispose of a single drive.

If none of these methods sound appealing, then check your local area for a computer recycler that also offers drive destruction services. An industrial-strength shredder can give you the peace of mind to move on from your old hard drive and the rest of the computer can be safely recycled.

Psst! Don't forget to back up your hard drive with IDrive.

If you're really serious about backing up your data, it's best to sign up for IDrive, which lets you back up all your devices to a single account and stores that data in a secure cloud. That means your desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet will all be protected in case the worst happens.

IDrive's Universal Backup protects up to five devices with just a single account. And it works with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS operating systems. Plus, IDrive lets you backup data from your social media accounts so you'll never lose special photos or videos if your account gets hacked.

Go to IDrive.com and use promo code Kim to receive a special discount.

Click here to receive the special discount.

More tips you can't miss:

Nuke your hard drive before getting rid of an old PC

3 steps to virus-proof your computer

One critical thing to do with your printer before selling it

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