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I have some failed drives that are about to be written off and sent for recycling. Some were members of a RAID 5 array, some I'm not too concerned about wiping information on them, but some of them were backup drives that failed. Most of them seem to have failed due to power surges, stuck heads, or fried controllers, so there is still sensitive data on the platters (private keys, medical records from data analysis, etc).

Considering using dd, or ATA secure erase is probably off the table for the failed controller/stuck heads situations, what is the minimum amount of physical damage I need to do to the drives to ensure the data is no longer readable, and what is the quickest way to achieve this level of damage?

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In the case you can not use "wipe" linux command (most used for this scenarios), nor other software tools (as far as drives are not working well), I just can say the same as Peter Gutmann's said:

"The only way to sanitize a magnetic/solid drive is to expose it at 2500º K"

So, prepare a good torche (first choice) or a crematorium furnace.

:)

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Though I echo the advice of abd%c3%b3n-romero, the usual mechanism I got used to from the goverment/military users I've been exposed to, was to remove the controllers (of the failed disks that would usually be returned to the supplier for disks under warranty/support), and the platters would then be physically destroyed using crushers/hammers/etc.

The next possible advice: go get some of those magnets they won't allow on a airplane, and use that to degauss the platters... after removal from the case off course ;)

PS: if you do do the wipe thing through software, make sure it's multiple cycles (last I recalled 15 times on some media to prevent latent data recovery) with various patterns, though pedantic I am only when I really feel the data is really life threatening.

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