How to Completely Erase a Hard Drive in 5 Simple Ways

Knowing how to completely erase a hard drive can save you and your organization millions of dollars in the long run. How? By simply avoiding the type of data breaches that lead to huge fines and lawsuits. In 2008, Heartland payment systems had to pay about $145 million in compensation after leaked user data was used to carry out fraudulent transactions. This can happen to any organization, even yours, if you don’t handle data properly. Data destruction techniques like hard drive shredding have low costs, compared to that of damage control after a breach.

One common misconception is that these organizations are immune to data breaches as long as they fortify their online servers against malware and intrusion. This is not completely true because data can be stolen from hard drives accessed remotely. Compass Bank suffered this fate in 2008 when one of the company’s hard drives containing the records of one million customers, was stolen by a former employee with the intention of committing credit card fraud.

Another common misconception is that as long as you delete files from a computer, you have successfully wiped them from the hard drive. This is also false because when you delete a file, it does not leave the system. Bad actors can still access previously deleted data in the form of personal records, passwords and bank account details. They can use the acquired information to carry out credit card fraud, identity theft and other crimes. Fortunately, by simply knowing how to completely erase a hard drive, you can avoid this situation. You can securely destroy data stored on a drive in any of the following simple ways:

1. Using Hard Drive Erasure Software

The use of software to wipe hard drives can produce great results especially for people who don’t want to damage the hardware. You can easily pick one out of many different data erasure apps available on the market, like DBan, CCleaner and BCWipe. However, when deciding which software to get, it is important to keep in mind that they differ in functionality. There are two main types of erasure:

  • Write Software

    Some erasure software work by writing all the data on the drive to “Zeros”. Normally, data is represented by combinations of ‘1s’ and ‘0s’, so writing everything to zeros renders the data unreadable. Unfortunately, some people can find ways to undo this method using rare forensic techniques. However, for someone who doesn’t already know how to erase a hard drive, this a great option because it is easy to use.

  • Rewrite Software

    Alternatively, you can carry out a more reliable option called a rewrite. Using a special algorithm, the software rewrites data multiple times in a random manner so that nobody else can decode it. Some algorithms like the Gutmann algorithm rewrite the data on a hard drive as much as 35 times. This method is failsafe and ensures that no one can read the files on the drive.

2. Degaussing the Hard Drive

You can wipe a hard drive using a strong magnetic force to scramble the data stored on it, in a process known as degaussing. If you use this method, you will also wipe the start-up files that control the hard drive booting process. This means that once you have degaussed a hard drive, you can no longer use it.

You can carry out the degaussing process using a machine known as a degausser.  There are various types available,  including electromagnetic and permanent magnet degaussers. While you can easily purchase a degausser, buying one to erase the data on just one batch of hard drives, is a waste of money. A more suitable option would be to hire a data destruction company to handle the entire degaussing process.

3. Putting Holes in the Hard Drive 

Knowing how to completely erase a hard drive by destroying it physically saves both the time and money that other methods require. Although this renders the drive useless, it is one of the best ways to ensure that no one ever gains access to the data on it. It is also a great option because it doesn’t require any complex machines to work. So how do you completely erase a hard drive using this method? There are two major ways to go about it:

  • By using a hammer or nail gun to drive a nail through the hard disk platter to ensure that the hardware part of the drive can no longer function properly.
  • By drilling holes in the platter, using a hand drill.

4. Shredding the Hard Drive

Hard drive shredding completely erases data by destroying the hardware completely. The process is quick and requires a shredder, which cuts off every track on the platter of a drive. Companies like All Green Recycling offer affordable and reliable hard drive shredding services. This takes the stress of renting a machine and operating it unsupervised, away from the owner. Shredding is especially great when you have no plans of using the hard drive in future.

5. Using a Trusted Data Destruction Company

Although you can try all the methods listed above at home, doing it yourself isn’t the best option for several reasons. Firstly, you may not know how to completely erase a hard drive properly, leading to leftover data. Secondly, when you factor in the cost of equipment, doing it yourself is stressful, time-consuming and expensive. This is why the best option is to use the services of a trusted data destruction company.

How to Completely Erase a Hard Drive in the Most Efficient Way? The Answer is Simple

The data destruction industry exists to serve organizations that understand the importance of avoiding a data breach. All Green Recycling offers affordable and secure data destruction services including certificates of destruction, chain of custody and liability, Hard drive Shredding, and degaussing amongst others. We also have drop-off sites in every state so that businesses can reach us conveniently from any location within the country. Contact us to avoid such situations by getting rid of all sensitive data on old devices as soon as possible.

Have you recently encountered problems with data disposal? Leave a comment below and we will respond. Don’t forget to share this with anyone who would like to learn about secure data destruction.

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