Best Ways to Destroy A Hard Drive

June 16, 2021

Did you know as your company upgrades technology, retires outdated and obsolete equipment, and gets rid of broken-down devices, you may be increasing information security risks? Without proper destruction of data, criminals can still retrieve the confidential data they house, leaving your company and your customers vulnerable to theft.
The following article dispels common myths around hard drive destruction and explores the best ways to handle non-functioning technology.

Why Is it Important to Include Hard Drives, SSD and Magnetic Media in Information Security Strategies?

As long as the hardware still exists, the sensitive data on it is at risk for misuse. Failing to include old computer hard drives, retired servers, unused flash drives, external hard drives, and outdated mobile devices in your information security strategies increases the risk of a security breach, which could lead to major financial, reputation, and compliance ramifications.

Unfortunately, not all companies consider hard drive and other technology destruction in their security plans. According to our 2020 Data Protection Report, nearly half of small business owners don’t have a policy for disposing of confidential information on end-of-life electronic devices. Physical destruction of hard drive, SSD and magnetic media is the key to rendering it unreadable and preventing any overwriting.

Shred-it Can Help You Properly Dispose of Old Technology

Why Is Wiping or Reformatting Technology a Poor Data Security Strategy?

Wiping, degaussing, or reformatting a hard drive or other electronic device doesn’t completely remove data from the device, and forensic software programs can recover the information. A quick Internet search reveals countless instructional blogs and videos that walk through the data recovery process. Although these are aimed at people who accidentally wipe or reformat their machines, the same strategies can be used by criminals to access private and confidential data from discarded equipment. You should always destroy hard drives or other electronic devices before recycling because there is no way to ensure that equipment sent for recycling will not be accessed by information thieves.

Can Magnets Be Used to Destroy Hard drives?

A common misperception around hard drive destruction is that magnets placed on or near the technology will destroy the stored data. While this may have worked at one time, today’s technology is more advanced. Even if a magnet was able to corrupt the data, it may be possible to repair the information.

Is Locking Up Legacy Technology a Viable Strategy?

If your company is unsure how to properly destroy hard drives and other equipment, you may choose to stockpile these items in a locked cabinet or storage area. However, this introduces risks as well. Even if the technology is secured, sensitive information remains on the equipment and therefore can still be stolen. 

What Is the Best Way To Destroy a Hard Drive or Other Electronic Device?

Physically destroying hard drives and other electronic media is the only 100% secure way to permanently remove data from the technology. Although you could use a DIY approach and take a hammer to the equipment, this is not reliable or prudent and can pose worker safety risks. A better choice is to have it physically destroyed by a professional hard drive destruction service like Shred-it. Not only will we shear or crush the device to obliterate it, we guarantee a secure chain of custody from the moment we pick it up until it’s demolished. We also offer regularly scheduled pickups, on-demand service, and drop-off options. Additionally, we provide an itemized Certificate of Destruction (or Proof of Service) that includes the device’s manufacturer name and serial number. Once the equipment is unusable, we recycle the hard drive with local partners to reduce the volume of material heading to landfills.

What Is the Difference between Shearing and Crushing?

Shearing and crushing are two ways to physically destroy technology so data can never be retrieved or reconstructed.


Shearing slices the entire hard drive into small pieces with 40,000 lbs. of destructive force. The process completely obliterates the drive platters, mechanisms, and electronic components, rendering the data unrecoverable.


Crushing involves punching an irreparable hole through each hard drive with 7,500 lbs. of force pressure. This also annihilates drive platters, rippling and fracturing the magnetic surfaces and making the drive data unrecoverable. Either option is effective at destroying equipment, and our document destruction experts can recommend the most appropriate method for your situation.

Hard drive destruction is an important and often overlooked aspect of information security. Learn more about how Shred-it can help you and your company properly dispose of old technology.

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