Apologies, I'll simplify my question: Are there any degaussers or HDD shredders out there in the $500-1500 range designed for use as such that you would recommend for low-volume use?

  • Have you checked to see if there are any shredding services nearby? – Zoredache Mar 8 '10 at 23:48
  • 2
    What's wrong with a secure erase which writes random data to every sector 7 times? this is what the US govt does from what I've heard. – hookenz Mar 9 '10 at 1:03
  • US civilian government has been found to not even quick format their disks on multiple occasions, but the US (and Canadian) military destroy hard drives for even unclassified systems in my experience. The drill method is often used for disc platters. – mctylr Mar 9 '10 at 1:52
  • 1
    @Matt, in the original version of the question he mentioned that the drives where broken to a point that the Computer/OS no longer recognized them. – Zoredache Mar 9 '10 at 2:23
  • @Zoredache, I didn't see the original question. That explains why someone mentioned only 10 drives. – hookenz Mar 9 '10 at 3:39

I could have sworn this has been asked before, but I can't find a close duplicate...

With only 10 disks to get rid of, you should do what I do: take the covers off and take the voice coil magnets out. They're rare earth magnets and some of them are quite large, they make great fridge magnets, and are useful for lots of other things.

If you want to be very, very sure no-one could get the data off, the first thing to do is to wipe the voice coil magnet over the surface of the platter you can see, which will mess up the servo tracks, making it essentially impossible to recover the disk. (I have one magnet from an old DEC 1GB drive that is 1cm thick and can wipe a hard drive without taking the cover off.)

I usually stop at getting the voice coil magnets out, but for an HR machine I once took the platters out and broke them and disposed of half of the pieces at work, half at home.

  • +1 for actually coming closest to solving the problem as intended. – Nicholas Knight Mar 9 '10 at 0:17
  • +1 for using the "extra parts" for fridge magnets. – Chris S Mar 9 '10 at 3:05
  • Among other things, I use them to put reminder notes in places I can't miss, the magnets can hold a couple sheets of paper to a wall anywhere there's a drywall screw. I've used them to hang heavy objects from a window by putting one magnet on each side of the glass... – Ward - Reinstate Monica Mar 9 '10 at 3:55
  • 1
    be careful you're not using the "magnet on each side of the glass" on modern energy efficient glass that is actually made of 2 or 3 really thin sheets of glass and an air gap. It could make for a sad day when the two magnets come together through the air gap... – chris Mar 9 '10 at 15:42

We use an inexpensive drill press. One or two passes and the platter is done.

  • re your edit...I'm saying put the drill bit through the platter...not the motor...of course that doesn't help. – Webjedi Mar 8 '10 at 23:48
  • I understand what you meant perfectly, but that destroys data on only a small portion of the platter, recovery from large intact pieces is still possible, hence the need for a proper shredder (or degausser). – Nicholas Knight Mar 8 '10 at 23:51
  • @Nicholas Knight: Or, it means you need to send it through the drill a couple of additional passes. Even if you're not drilling holes through the platter, use the spinning bit to gouge grooves all across the platter (scratching it up so badly that it can't be read). – bta Mar 9 '10 at 0:00
  • 8
    If your "adversaries" can get the data off of a disk with 3 holes in it, you should be more afraid of them taking you aside and asking you for a more current copy of the data. – chris Mar 9 '10 at 0:05
  • Actually, professionals tend to use the hole drilling method. I'd also suggest a dban wipe before drilling - just in case. – Journeyman Geek Mar 9 '10 at 0:33

Thermite (be careful)

  • Are you going to pay for the insurance? – Nicholas Knight Mar 8 '10 at 23:58
  • I have used thermite to destroy about 50 HD's that we had piling up. One caution is the slag takes much longer than you think to cool. – MikeJ Mar 9 '10 at 1:26
  • 1
    If you are concerned about safety, you can use a cinder block to contain the thermite reaction. Find a cinder block that has a hole large enough to place the disk platter into, and set the cinder block (hole facing up) on concrete (parking lot works well). Place the platter into the cinder block and ignite the thermite inside the block. The block should contain the reaction, but back up 10-15 feet to be safe. As long as you place the thermite so it isn't in direct contact with the block, the concrete will withstand the heat and possible flying bits of scrap. – bta Mar 10 '10 at 0:05

If the drives aren't capable of being wiped with software, mechanical destruction of the platter is about your only option (Good news! It's usually the fun way as well!).

If you don't have a lot of devices to get rid of, you can try using thermite which is typically fairly inexpensive to obtain (depending on where you live) and is completely irreversible (some military aircraft use thermite to destroy stored records in flight computers if the aircraft crashes in a foreign country). Take the top cover off of the first drive to make sure you're placing the thermite so that it melts through as much of the platter as possible.

A less fun but equally destructive method is to remove the individual platters and run the surface of them randomly across a bench grinder. You can probably borrow or rent one for a couple of hours and not have to spend much money compared to buying a degausser.


My father was a mechanic, and he used to say "the only two tools a good mechanic needs are a hammer, and a bigger hammer." I'd pull the platters, and smash them with a big hammer. Probably a good stress reliever. On place I worked would occasionally get PCMCIA hard-drives back from Cardiologiests with patient data on them, we found that banging the hard-drive flat on a bench would shatter the platters into tiny pieces, you coulc hear the glass shatter, then rattle around inside. Full-Size Hard drives are probably going to be a little tougher, but you should be able to damage them enough.

On the LTO tapes, I'd probably open them up and take a knife to the tape while its on the reel, cutting the tape into a series of 3-4 inch sections.

  • Bahaha, I would +1 for the hammer saying but I get the feeling that the OP doesn't appreciate these sorts of answer (yours was similar to mine, which I deleted) – Mark Henderson Mar 9 '10 at 0:42
  • +1 we use a 7# Sledge. It's excellent stress relief and as you stated, the platters are tiny pieces when you're done. For LTO Tapes nothing beats a fire pit. They stink a bit, but there's essentially nothing left. – Chris S Mar 9 '10 at 3:08

3 pieces of wood (at least 1" thick, 8" - 12" long) laid flat & lined up parallel to each other, attach the pieces to a 1/2 or 3/4" plywood base as follows. Allow about 2.75" between 1 & 2 (3.5" drive) and about 1.75" between 2 & 3 (for 2.5 drive). The drives will sit on top of the wood, you want a hollow space under them.

One 2lb hammer, 1 railroad spike or other very large nail. Get a length of pipe (any kind) with a diameter just large enough to fit the spike, cut pipe length about 1/2"- 3/4" shorter than the length of the spike.

Place drive(s) on platform (longer pieces of wood allows multiple drives at once), strike with hammer, repeat as needed, the pieces will be as small as needed or energy permits.

Cheap, fast (no dissembly of drive required), pretty safe (goggles?) as thorough as you need it to be, no electricity required and the operation is very satisfying.

  • 3
    Yikes that's a lot of instructions for: beat with hammer. – Chris S Mar 9 '10 at 3:10

Use a belt sander on the platters. About $50-$150.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.