June 19, 2023

How to Dispose of Old Hard Drives? First, Avoid These 7 Mistakes When Disposing of Your Old Hard Drives

Millions of Americans spend most of their day on a computer or other electronic device. In 2022, there were 67.2 million PCs shipped globally. Most companies use computers to conduct business and provide their employees with one or more devices. With so many computers and technology constantly changing and needing to be replaced, what should organizations do with the old devices? More importantly for businesses, what happens to the information stored on old computers and e-media when they are no longer needed? Companies need to know how to securely dispose of the hard drives to help protect their confidential data.

To help you avoid potential data breaches, we've compiled a list of seven mistakes to avoid when disposing of old hard drives. We'll also provide the best way to destroy hard drives to help ensure your information remains secure.

Seven Mistakes You Should Avoid When Disposing of Old Hard Drives

  1. Using magnets to destroy data: While magnets may have been effective in the past, modern hard drives are much more resistant to magnetic interference. Even if a magnet manages to corrupt the data, advanced technology may still be able to repair it.
  2. Erasing or wiping data: Simply erasing or wiping the data is not enough to ensure it's gone for good.
  3. Formatting the hard drive: Similar to erasing data, formatting a hard drive doesn't guarantee the information is gone.
  4. Ignoring the problem: Confidential data on old hard drives remain a security risk as long as it exists. Companies of all sizes are targets for information thieves, and some businesses may have legal data protection obligations to consider, such as under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
  5. Storing old hard drives on-site: Many organizations lack a proper policy for hard drive destruction and end up stockpiling them in locked storage areas. However, even in secure storage, the information can still be accessed and stolen.
  6. Physically damaging the hard drive with a hammer or other tools: Although this method might work in theory, it is not suitable for a professional environment. All hard drives should be destroyed by a professional data destruction service.
  7. Recycling hard drives: Simply recycling hard drives does not guarantee that the information will not be accessed by thieves. Data security management must be an integral part of any recycling process. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), organizations should follow specific guidelines for the secure disposal of storage media to minimize the risk of data breaches.

How to Properly Dispose of Old Hard Drives

One of the most effective methods for disposing of old hard drives is to have them physically destroyed using a professional hard drive and media destruction service. A hard drive destruction service like Shred-it® offers state-of-the-art destruction in two forms, crushing and shearing, subject to local availability. Both destruction methods leave the data unrecoverable. Crushing involves punching an unfixable hole in the device with 7,500 lbs. of pressure, which breaks the magnetic surfaces. Shearing breaks the device or hard drive into pieces with 40,000 lbs. of force.

In addition to professional destruction services, consider implementing a comprehensive data security policy within your organization. This policy should outline the steps for securely storing, handling, and disposing of sensitive information, including hard drives and other electronic media. Regular employee training on data security best practices and the importance of proper disposal methods can help minimize the risk of physical data breaches. If you do not have data security policies and lack the internal expertise, service providers like Shred-it® can help with templated policies and training. 

Securely disposing of old hard drives is essential to help protect your organization from data breaches. Avoid mistakes like using magnets, erasing or formatting data, and recycling hard drives without proper data security management. Instead, opt for professional hard drive destruction services like Shred-it®. By taking these precautions, you can help to safeguard your confidential information and your organization's reputation.

Learn more about how Shred-it® can help you protect your physical data with secure hard drive and document destruction services.