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Ten Ways To Destroy a Hard Disk 289

Barence writes "Following his blog last week about the homemade hard disk destroyer, Bustadrive, Mike Jennings was deluged with comments from readers, both on the blog and here on Slashdot. Most seemed to like the product, but also offered up far more innovative and madcap methods of hard disk destruction, with a wide range of implements used — household and otherwise. In this follow-up post, he rounds up the best of an imaginative bunch of hard disk destruction methods."
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Ten Ways To Destroy a Hard Disk

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:20PM (#29149101)

    Install Vista on it?

  • by impaledsunset ( 1337701 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:20PM (#29149103)

    Write zeros. Once. Problem solved. Then you can sell the disk.

    Physical destruction is only necessary if the disk is already broken, and you can't erase it properly.

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:48PM (#29149487) Homepage

      I'm surprised they only had a list of ten. There must be 50 ways to wipe your platters.

      Just give it a whack, Jack.
      Smash it with a van, Stan.
      Shoot it to destroy, Roy.
      Just listen to me.
      Soak it till it rusts, Gus.
      You don't need to discuss much.
      Toss it in the sea, Lee
      And get yourself free.

    • by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @04:22PM (#29150479) Homepage

      You are almost right, but not entirely. Some drive firmware (as I understand it) will detect failing sectors of the disk and mark them as "bad." Your software won't even see them, as this is done at the firmware level. This means your data will still be there on the disk, even after a zero-write.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by thue ( 121682 )

      A hard disk has inaccessible spare sectors, which will be logically swapped in if a sector fails. See []

      How do you guarantee that there isn't some important data lying around in the swapped out sector? It is not accessible via the hard drives external interface, but could be accessed by a raw reading of the disk.

  • Spot Welder? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:22PM (#29149125) Journal

    The average welding torch, meanwhile, is a fully paid-up member of the "life-threatening but enormously enjoyable" club - and there's no denying that a 3,000-degree flame would reduce the average hard disk platter to a pool of reflective liquid quicker than you could say "data protection". It's a superb suggestion from Steve, who also put forward the angle grinder for consideration. We're worried about him.

    A not as messy method might be a spot welder []. They go by different names but my dad's shop used to have a nice adjustable Miller spot welder that would function great for sheet metal work. Anyway, I can envision a homemade spot welder [] (very trivial to make) with a stand around it and two wooden 2' by 2' pieces of plywood with a handle grip sticking up and two hard drive holes counter sunk with a quarter inch lip to hold each drive (for 3.5" and 2.5" drives). Place the hard drive in the selected hole and clamp your spot welder on it and go to town. Mark your initials in it and you should have a pretty solid drive with no mess, no metal shreds laying around, no flying debris or sparks and probably easier to store/recycle/transport. Man, I wish I didn't live in the city and had a wood and metal machine shop.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Landshark17 ( 807664 )
      Homemade spot-welder is cool, but I think the truly epic way of destroying a hard drive must involve the Flaming Bacon Lance of Death: []
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by BrokenHalo ( 565198 )
      I used to be a blacksmith, and I still have my forge and tools. My favourite treatment is to heat the whole HDD assembly up to a nice orange/red colour (which is more than sufficient to demagnetise any media), then give it a few wallops with my 300 pound power hammer. The drive comes out about 1 millimetre thick, and I challenge even the most serious boffin to get any data off it after that.
    • I've made a couple of spotwelders in my time. It's difficult to homebuild a spotwelder that has sufficient amperage to fry a hard disc for at least the following reasons: the power from a 110V, 20A outlet is unlikely to be sufficient to destroy a hard drive. Transformers for a DIY spotwelder, that can handle over 2kW, get breathtakingly expensive even if you're just talking raw materials to wind your own (which I did) so even if you have a 220V, 30A outlet. Aluminum, from which hard drive cases are made,
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Run bit torrent on a hard drive continuously until it dies. Works every time.
  • Magnesium (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hubbell ( 850646 ) <[brianhubbellii] [at] []> on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:22PM (#29149131)
    If you have the harddisk out of the shell, buy 1 package of sparklers, if it's inside it, get around 4-5 packages (the metal sticks with grayshit on them)

    Strip the grayshit (magnesium normally, if its something else it probably wont work as well through the case) and crush it into a powder off of all sparklers but 1, you can strip the last one down to about an inch or so from the tip. Pile it all on the harddisk/shell, light the sparkler tip that's left, insert into the pile, and other than it appearing as though the sun is arm's length in front of you for 5-10 seconds, anything underneath shall be melted/vaporized due to the white hot heat released. I've melted through steel grills at my local beach at night this way before, around 11pm 1 package of sparklers prepared this way lit up the local beach on long island sound for about a mile in all directions as if it was daytime.
    • by amplt1337 ( 707922 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:29PM (#29149225) Journal

      And when you win a Darwin award, here I'll be able to say, "I knew him when..."

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Hubbell ( 850646 )
        How exactly would I get a darwin award for something which is nonexplosive? Magnesium merely burns white hot until it's all gone.
        • It may not be explosive, but you're still playing with fire [].

          (only fire-related Darwin Award I could find in my brief search)
        • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

          Sparklers have more in them than magnesium. That's how you're able to be lit by a simple lighter or match and why they sparkle. I believe gunpowder is a minor ingredient, but I've no idea what else. While such a mess would not explode, it would burn very, very quickly and shoot off sparks in a myriad of directions.

    • I've melted through steel grills at my local beach at night this way before, around 11pm

      May I be the first to ask....why??

  • by gapagos ( 1264716 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:24PM (#29149155)

    Use a "Will it Blend?" [] blender.
    (Yes I know it's a BlendTec blender, but everyone is much more familiar with the catch phrase Will It Blend)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:27PM (#29149197)

    install Windows ME

  • Is to slowly destroy them physically. Back in the day we convinced our clueless boss that all drives had to be completely disassembled to prevent data theft; so we sat around when we were bored taking apart drives. We used the magnets, well, as magnets. But the electric motors were awesome! You can hook them up directly to power for a full on motor, or you can try to keep the drive in tact enough to still hook it up to the computer. Combined with some software (can't remember now) we were able to contr
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Trying to destruct a drive while the plates are spinning and the disk is open can be dangerous. I've done it a few times, but recently there are some manufacturers that make the plates from glass, and the glass can easily be crused if you do something to the plates while they're spinning, or you spin them too fast. I knew a kid who had been injured by hitting a glass plate of a hard drive while it was spinning.

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:28PM (#29149211) Journal

    1) .45 caliber 1911 style handgun (gets the job done)

    2) .357 magnum revolver (gets the job done with a louder bang)

    3) 10mm auto handgun (gets the job done and lets you pretend to be Ted Nugent)

    4) .44 magnum revolver (gets the job done and lets you pretend to be Clint Eastwood)

    5) 9mm handgun (gets the job done and lets you pretend that you have a real gun ;)

    6) 12 gauge shotgun (gets the job done and looks/sounds really cool)

    7) .30-06 rifle (REALLY gets the job done)

    8) .50BMG rifle (useful if you run into a hard drive with armor plate)

    9) .22LR plinking rifle (gets the job done in a cost effective manner)

    10) .223 fired from an AR-15 (gets the job done while scaring the crap out of any nearby big city types that assume any black rifle with a pistol grip is a weapon of mass destruction)

    • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:42PM (#29149399)
      That's the only way to be sure.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Eberlin ( 570874 )

      Hey, I think I saw this guy at a healthcare townhall meeting!

    • I have a .223 that sends 40 gr moly-coated Vmax bullets out at about 3700 fps. Punching holes in a hard drive is nothing. I want to see what really fast, highly frangible bullets do to a spinning hard drive. I have a stack of old drives, an old AT power supply, a 12v battery, and a DC inverter (it's 100 yards down to the impact area - that's a lot of extension cord to roll up when done). Now I just need to scare up a video camera that is up to the task of documenting the drives' demise.
      • The camera you require isn't going to be electronic. Also, and this is often neglected for some reason, you're going to need some *powerful* lighting in addition to the camera.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Shooting with a .223 can have other interesting effects as well (at least that's the one I noticed this on). I used a hypervelocity varmint load, light bullet, real fast, like 3800 fps, in a good rifle that can take that kind of overload. This was a plastic tip thing designed to more or less explode on contact -- even a piece of cardboard will make it go fragmented.

      In shooting a floppy drive, one that really deserved it, I managed to hit the magnet for the drive motor, and powder it. The sudden disappear

  • by bugg ( 65930 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:29PM (#29149219) Homepage
    Everyone knows drives are most vulnerable when the heads are engaged, and the spinning platters should cause a single destructive action to potentially spread to the entire circumference. Why not do a write operation to the entire disk and hit it with a hammer during the write? Do that properly and the heads should go flying off in pieces into the platters, and the platters spinning with the loose head material should ensure nothing survives.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by SOdhner ( 1619761 )
      I can confirm that this works.


      Even if destroying the drive wasn't intentional. Sigh.
    • A similar concept to yours, pressing a silicone button on the drive breaks open a sealed capsule of silica sand into the HDA; this would most certainly scrub any magnetic film from the rotating disks. And during its self destruction, it would attempt to rezero and seek, sure to polish most every data surface and thoroughly destroying the heads .

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hurfy ( 735314 )

      Hmm, i don't think it will work so well on modern drives but we had an old hard disk from our mini computer turn itself into a metal lathe one night. Came in the next day to find a whole room full of aluminum shavings. Shredded several of the 11" platters into nothingness. After the pieces went through the fan nothing was more than 1/8 x 1". At least everyone understood the value of the offline backup.....

      Very effective data destruction however it was a tad messy after it blew about a million aluminum curly

  • I think it's hard to beat death by locomotive for unusabilitification...

    I have a friend whose brother is a locomotive engineer, so whenever I have a bunch of drives to destroy, we head for the railroad yard when the brother works the night shift (no bosses at that time), and we merrily lay down the drives on the track, and the brother brings along his engine we watch the crunch crunch crunch crunch action. His brother can enjoy the action too, as the engines are remote controlled (like toy cars)...

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:31PM (#29149261) Journal
    Give it to my sister. If her laptop and last five cell phones are any indication, it'll end up with vodka dumped on it after a party or smashed to pieces in the middle of the street or even at the bottom of a toilet in a club. You would never believe how frequently that last one happens.

    I swear jean designers are in cahoots with cell phone manufacturers. Just slip your hard drive into the back pocket of a girl in a night club wearing tight jeans ... aw, who am I kidding, this is Slashdot.
  • The Actual List ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:32PM (#29149269)
    1 - The classic hammer
    2 - "What's wrong with an angle grinder?"
    3 - The average welding torch
    4 - weaponry, from 12-gauge shotguns to high velocity rifles
    5 - Science fans will be pleased to see an electromagnet on the list
    6 - use a drill
    7 - Hard disk platters are generally made from aluminium, which melts at 660.32C
    8 - Electric log splitters
    9 - An industrial shredder
    10 - Finally, another method that scores valuable points for science: Thermite
    • by Xtifr ( 1323 )

      10 seems redundant with 7 (thermite burns at up to 2500C, according to Wikipedia), and I'm not sure why 5 and 10 get science points while 7 doesn't.

      • by Tycho ( 11893 )

        Yeah, and all of the methods the GP posted are needlessly messy, dangerous, and destructive. Try this instead: []
        Secure Erase uses ATA commands to tell the drive erase itself using the drive's own built in methods. Using the Secure Erase ATA command will erase parts of the drive that are normally missed by reformatting using the OS, and takes on the order of 20 minutes. Data on an ATA hard drive can be missed by the OS, ATA drives reallocate sectors due t

    • How is thermite not number one? The quantity of thermite required to destroy a hard drive will easily fit in a 3.5" drive bay (above the drive in question), and can be made from materials purchased exclusively at Toys 'R' Us, including the ignition device. The only downside is that you have to build your case out of refractory bricks, so no over-clocking.

  • Fastest way (Score:4, Funny)

    by G-LOC ( 742078 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:35PM (#29149309)
    1. buy rare earth magnet. 2. play with magnet. 3. place magnet in pocket. 4. sit down and put macbook on lap. 5. call apple support. 6. tell technician "err it no work" 7. write good review of apple support.
  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:45PM (#29149431) Homepage

    ... which is to grind the device into dust, carried out entirely under supervision with all employees holding top secret clearances. I don't know where the dust then goes, but I doubt it's out of the country.

  • Become a plumber (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lttlordfault ( 1561315 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @03:03PM (#29149653)
    After reading the parent article, one thing I noticed was that welding torches and angle grinders seem to create a sense of well being within your average geek. I have to say, as a plumber who also has a keen interest in all things technological, there's nothing more satisfying than breaking into something with either a blow torch, angle grinder or a drill. I love my job, that I have to use these tools every day gives me great satisfaction and makes me feel like a real man :D

    When going through higher education I was originally aiming for a career in IT but half way through decided I didn't really fancy sitting at a desk all day. Becoming a plumber has definitely been the best decision I ever made, I get to work with really cool tools every day, plus I'm at the top of my profession having started plumbing about 6 years ago. I'm one of only 3 people qualified at my level in Mid Wales, and so am in incredible demand. I mainly work on servicing/maintenance on commercial/industrial heating and ventilation systems and see some incredibly cool tech every day. Sorry to brag, but as a self confessed geek, I have to say, plumbing is freaking awesome!

    Kinda off topic, sorry about that. I don't often have any connection with anything posted on /. but like to read about it anyway.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by couchslug ( 175151 )

      You are also in a trade that will be in demand longer than you will live, can not be outsourced, whose services all modern humans require, and whose required skill set makes you a versatile fellow.

      "I mainly work on servicing/maintenance on commercial/industrial heating and ventilation systems and see some incredibly cool tech every day."

      Mmm. No shit piping! What's not to like? :)

  • by Burning1 ( 204959 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @03:03PM (#29149663) Homepage

    My favorite way to ensure all data is lost on an hard disk is to store the only copy of my Master's thesis on that drive.

  • It seems to me you really only need one: Mossberg.

    And lo it did come to pass that the frustrated IT geek spaketh "Go ahead, make my day", as they prepared to dispense final judgment upon the failing storage device. And there was a joyous noise and the bits and pieces were taken up unto the Lord in his mercy. Amen.

    Thus ends the reading from the book of Jobs.

  • My current manager enjoys dismantling the hard disks after rather stressful meetings. I think anything after that is just fooling around. You would have to be seriously good at figuring out the sector information for that disk to get anything useful and even then its likely been ruined by dust and other platters in the pile.
  • So a blog post gets a /. mention. Then the blogger summarizes the /. comments into a top-ten list (and a quick perusal suggests it's just a copy-and-paste job of the +5 comments, no new information added) and submits this summary as another /. story and gets those recycled comments accepted?
    A rather cheap way to drive up page hits, IMO.

  • by Erbo ( 384 ) <amygalert@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday August 21, 2009 @03:32PM (#29149955) Homepage Journal
    I had some old hard disks I needed to destroy a while back, so I thought I'd just open up the cases and then pound the platters into submission with a hammer. I did this on the kitchen floor.

    Unfortunately, the first drive I opened was an old IBM DeskStar. I had forgotten what DeskStar drive platters were made of...

    One swing and I had to call a halt to the whole operation while I swept a metric buttload of treacherous fragments of shattered glass up off my kitchen floor.

    I conducted the rest of the destruction outside, near the Dumpster.

  • at [] Perhaps the most impressively physical set of videos I've ever seen.
  • Apparently, asking the Best Buy staff to install a new video card will work pretty well.

  • Awesome (Score:3, Insightful)

    by otopico ( 32364 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @04:00PM (#29150219)

    Hey, rather than find a way to reuse a complicated piece of tech, lets play like cavemen and come up with awesome ways to break it so no one can do anything with it.

    Sure, some data is too valuable to risk, but it is 2009, you would think we would have a non-physically destructive way to securely erase data rather than a hammer.

    The scope of the pure wastefulness of this is just sick. Yeah, I'm probably in a minority, but this logic is why our landfills leach out heavy metals into the water table.

    America used to be resourceful and frugal.

  • See the "TubeSat Personal Satellite Kit" post from August 2nd: []
  • I just destroyed two drives yesterday.

    After throwing them 20 feet in the air (repeatedly) and watching them bounce, I realized that the platters still hadn't shattered - darn, they must be aluminum. (Deskstars are easy to destroy like this. They make pretty sounds with all the tinkling platterparts inside - like a rainstick.)

    So I took them into the tool shop, cut about halfway through them with a chop saw (glorified angle grinder), then clamped them into the vise, and struck them with a hammer.

    The result

  • by BigGar' ( 411008 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @04:25PM (#29150511) Homepage
    .. discovered the fastest way to destroy a hard drive. It was to put the only copy of his PHd. dissertation on one.
  • They could enlist the help of a data recovery company to test the feasibility of recovering data from the drives in question.

    Could include SSDs for good measure.

    Now obviously they'd try out violence (hammer, grinders), thermite, various weapons and explosives, but it'd be interesting to see their take on it, even if the 'simple' ways (like wiping and electro magnets) hardly make for good TV (let alone fast with wiping).

    Even a "here's the quickest way to erase everything securely" bit would be fun.

    I mean - i

  • simple way (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DragonTHC ( 208439 ) <Dragon@gPERIODam ... .com minus punct> on Friday August 21, 2009 @05:10PM (#29150913) Homepage Journal

    dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda

  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Friday August 21, 2009 @06:21PM (#29151515) Journal
    1. Remove drive from computer
    2. Dismantle drive, remove platters and magnets
    3. Use magnets for interesting things
    4. Either: Use platters for interesting things, or: Destroy platters (bending them up works well)
    Cost: essentially nothing.

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