The Different Ways of Destroying HDD Data (Hard Disk Drive)

The Different Ways of Destroying HDD Data (Hard Disk Drive)

By Sharanya Mohan

June 7, 2021

Technology business and work team looking at data

Tech and business teams working together to analyse data

Data destruction is universally acknowledged as the best way of securing privacy. It is especially important to dispose of data that is redundant or obsolete. This ensures that any future possessor of the device is unable to access the sensitive data of its previous owner. 

Choosing a method of destruction is not easy. While physical destruction of your device is one option, there is the more appropriate way of removing data using a software-based method. Where a hard disk drive (HDD) is concerned, both of these options can be effective. 

However, both of these methods require entrusting your HDDs to a specialist IT asset disposal vendor to get the job done.

hard drive disk hardware data hdd

View of a hard disk drive HDD

Physical Destruction of Your HDD

Physical destruction aims to render all data unrecoverable on HDDs and other forms of electronic media. This is to ensure that unauthorised people are unable to access any data stored in the device. However, the device itself usually ends up getting destroyed in the process.

There are several ways of physically destroying data - namely degaussing, shredding/crushing, and burning or melting.


Dubbed the easiest and cheapest way to physically destroy data, degaussing works to remove data by erasing or reducing any unwanted magnetic fields. This process is carried out using a degausser, a high-powered magnet, which quickly and effectively purges data once it is applied to a magnetic storage device.

Degaussing is extremely effective on HDDs, as HDDs store data using magnetic platters that continuously spin to read and write data. It eliminates the possibility of any threats to or misuse of data by rendering data unreadable. 

Unfortunately, degaussing does come with its limitations. Degaussing devices can be heavy and cumbersome. The strength of the degausser’s magnet would destroy your HDD in its entirety, as the disruption of the magnetic field inherently destroys the mechanisms of your drive. This would make your HDD unusable in the future.

Shredding or Crushing

Using a hard disk shredder, your HDD will be shredded into tiny parts - tiny enough to break through the small memory chips of your HDD and hence securely destroy your data. This would also mean the complete destruction of your HDD itself. 

This form of destruction will leave behind shredded equipment, which isn’t environmentally friendly. It would be much more sustainable to consider a method that is less harmful to the environment. The value of your HDD will also be lost as you will no longer be able to use it once shredded.

Burning or Melting

This requires the use of an incinerator to melt an HDD. A standard fire doesn’t exude nearly enough heat to melt the drive sufficiently. While this method may seem effective, it is highly discouraged for a variety of reasons.

The biggest and most crucial one being the release of toxic and dangerous chemicals. The burning of your HDD will release the kind of toxicity that is harmful to not just people, but the environment as well. This effort is, therefore, more dangerous and risky than it is beneficial. Not to mention incredibly time-consuming. It only leaves behind a melted mess of a drive that is no longer of any use. 
crop faceless developer working on software code on laptop

Developer coding data

Secure Data Erasure of Your HDD

Data erasure is the process of securely overwriting data as many times as required using ones and zeros across all sectors of Sec drive. This is a software-based method of data destruction. It ensures that data becomes unreadable once it is overwritten.

Once data erasure is fully performed, the software will provide verification that data has been successfully overwritten. Following this, an auditable certificate will be generated. This verification is proof that the targeted information has been removed from the drive completely. 

Secure data erasure is the best way of attaining data sanitisation, as it permanently and securely clears and purges data from your HDD.  It allows you to recycle your HDD for further use. And above all else, it poses absolutely no threat to the environment or people.

Making a Decision: Physical Destruction vs. Data Erasure

All you really have to do is ask the simple questions: Would you, on one hand, rather destroy your confidential data in a way that would ultimately destroy your HDD? Or do you think it preferable to wipe your hard drive clean and still retain its value? Do you want to protect your business and safeguard the environment at the same time?

It goes without saying that data erasure is the best way to permanently remove sensitive and personal data. Aside from being the safest form of data destruction, it’s also cost-effective and allows you to retain the value of your HDD. It is fully effective across all devices, including SSDs, and renders data irretrievable in the most secure and eco-friendly of ways. 

Businesses must keep in mind that regardless of the method, be it physical destruction or secure data erasure, destroying sensitive and redundant data is a necessity. In light of the very real threat of data breach, it’s imperative that we be exceedingly conscious of our digital imprints.

SPW is Asia's go-to solutions provider for data destruction, data erasure, IT asset remarketing, and environmentally-responsible IT asset disposals. Contact us and learn how you can incorporate an ITAD strategy into your business today. 

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