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    • I have an old windows PC that I’m going to dispose of. There’s a hard drive inside. I’m pretty sure it was given a ‘windows washer’ treatment back in the day. How best to dispose of the hard drive? Can I safely toss it in the electronic waste recycling stream, or need to do something else first?

    • I'll be interesting to hear other's answers -

      I tend to be very paranoid about old storage media, and physically destroy them after erasing them by overwriting three or more times. But maybe I'm just too paranoid.

      I know the probability of someone taking the time to actually mount and inspect an old drive is low, but the the possibility of over looked, old, log in details is something I try to protect vigorously - which is why I overwrite the drive three times and then disassemble it with a hammer, or screw drivers and wrenches, and take the drives apart and demagnetize each platen, or bend them until they break. But then I shred the media of old floppy disks too with a cross cut shredder. 🤓

      Wow, I do sound paranoid. 🥺

    • I'm also paranoid. I smash the controller electronics with a hammer then drill holes in the platters before disposing of it.

      I wonder what the paranoid approach to solid state drives should be...

    • someone I knew (head of a security think tank no less) said he baked his in the oven then sprayed EZoff in the cavities, but that seems exteme, and not environmentally friendly.

      ‘Keep them till I die’ and ‘bury them in the back yard’ are ideas that also came to mind, but I like to think there’s an easy technical approach.

    • I'm not the only paranoid running around!! I feel better already knowing I'm not the only one. Hah!! I've tried drilling the platters, but some of the later, more recent, ones seem to have a really hard surface to penetrate with a modest drill - and I used a 1/2 in drill table - not a hand tool.

      If one bends HD platters, be aware, some fracture into many pieces suddenly like stressed glass - so heavy gloves, pliers, and full face shields.

      I suspect solid state memory won't react well to high amperage 12 DC volts from a fully charged car battery or an electric wleder, or even 110/220 volt wall current - kids do not do this at home by yourself - only fully knowledgable adults with N95 respirators and heavy NON-CONDUCTIVE welding gloves consider these acts. ( That's joke for those who can't detect my sublte humor )

      A sledge hammer probably will defeat most SSDs and certainly will damge their connections I would submit. Or one could cut SSDs with large metal shears - that should be pretty effective, without to much danger to the person doing the "erasing"

      Not sure what prolonged exposure in an industrial microwave oven would do - I would not radiate SSDs in a microwave you are concerned about or want to eat food out of again though.

      I'm pretty certain that incinerating them in a wood fire would erase them - but am a bit leary about what might be out gassed or might contaminate the burn site.

      I suspect there are several folks in Silicon Valley who have contemplated these topics a bit too. They probably know a lot better, safer and more effective tricks to employ. I am all ears. 😇

    • The problem I have with burying SSDs or memory cards, and such is that I know of memory cards that have traversed a hot, soapy wash in a washing machine, followed by a hot tumble dryer that still worked flawlessly afterwards. That doesn't make me sleep securely, just with burying.

      I agree that burying is probably fine, but somewhat less than certain, in my mind. I strongly prefer CERTAIN

    • My thinking behind burying is that they probably won’t be found till after I’m dead, at which point I’ll no longer care.

      Unless of course, I upload my brain to a server somewhere before I die, in which case I’ll forever have that ‘did I leave the oven on?’ feeling about my buried hard drives.

    • I strongly prefer CERTAIN

      I think the only way to be certain is destruction. Shredding is the best bet, but I don't know how accessible that is for regular people.

      The only option I've seen if you want the drive to still be functional (like if you're going to pass it on for someone else to use) is to do a full encryption of the drive with a password that no one will be able to crack without unreasonable computing resources.

      At that point you could probably recycle it if you'd rather not contribute to environmental issues.

    • Wow.

      Reading the replies, I do wonder what your threat modeling looks like. What are you defending against? You have millions in bitcoin? Work for the CIA? Head Fortune 500 companies? Run vast criminal enterprises? Work to overthrow the government?

    • Fire and acid are exciting, but the fire marshal might have issues.

      How about concentrated lye - its easy to get and when heated is pretty corrosive. You probably shouldn't mess with lye either without a HazMat suit.

    • I paid the owner of a pet crematorium $25 to incinerate all my old drives several years ago. He placed them in a crucible so the metals wouldn't flow out of control.

      Not sure about gases, but his system was supposedly totally self-contained. Anything that escaped the initial blast was incinerated in secondary and tertiary fire rings.

    • Good point. A reliable utility like the one @Dracula posted above to overwrite the drive a couple of times protects against all but the most sophisticated intelligence agencies. If they're interested in you, they probably already have the contents of your drive. Dumpster diving doesn't make a lot of sense for hackers now that so much insecure data is easily found on the net.

    • While I never had any classified material on a personal computer/hard drive, working in the government contracting arena opens your eyes to what is considered acceptable methods for data and device destruction. Main reason why I took all my old storage device to a pet crematorium for total destruction.

      As such, I have personal data secured on my personal computer hard drives and stored such that an honest person would have a hard time accessing and a not so honest person wouldn't want to expend the time/effort to access since I don't have current data that would be of use or interest.

      These days I attempt to follow protocols set forth in the National Industry Security Program Operating Manual using the clearing/sanitization matrix method. Simply overwriting the data numerous times with a OTC software program will no longer protect your personal data that was stored on the device. There are only 2 sure-fire methods to ensure the data is wiped out, total destruction of the device or degaussing. Degaussing is the procedure of removing the magnesium from the hard drive which totally destroys the data. Not sure I'd trust the devices sold on Amazon for this purpose. And shipping the device off isn't a 100% guarantee that the device is actually put through the process. At some point, you have to trust someone that old storage devices are appropriately destroyed if maintaining data security is a concern.

      Now the really big question is...and I alluded to earlier, is your personal data on an old HD worth the effort for a dishonest person to go after? For most of us, the answer is no. But, there are programs readily available on less than scrupulous web sites designed to counter most every OTC program that overwrites a HD. So the bottom line the data on that old HD valuable to someone if they were to access it? And how much do you want to pay to ensure you data is truly destroyed?

    • I know there are erasing utilities in the Mac world, indeed the naitive DIsc Utility that comes with every Mac, offers to over write the drive 1, 3, or 6 times, I believe, and the highest setting conforms to the DoD 5220.22-M specification. And as you said, for most folks this is fine, but it doesn't "feel" fine because I can still see the drive, and it is still capable of being used as a hard drive. Anxiety - everywhere in the modern world.

      So I usually attack them physically or magnetically or both.

      Total destruction of the platters feels the best, because I can SEE that they are no longer able to be restored by anyone but a state security team due to time and cost. I don't really have anything that needs that kind of security, but we all shop on line these days, so who knows how much of our shopping information is on our drives.

      I was kind of joking about destroying disks with acids, or bases, or fire , but I see that I am not alone in my concerns about recovery of "totally erased discs"

      Thank you for letting me know that I'm not REALLY that paranoid after all.

      Here is an article about this topic from Scientific American

      Here is another article about wiping a Mac

    • I recently ran across some old Zip disks. I disassembled them and ran magnets over the media and then cut them into pieces. Most people probably don't even know what they are, but I still made sure they were unreadable. There's not telling what was one them.

    • I'm not trying to beat this thing into the ground...

      But, DoD 5220.22-M is the most basic requirement for data destruction at DoD. And, ironically, 5220.22-M was never intended for or approved by DoD approved for erasing classified data!

      There are many different types of networks within DoD for storage of specific types of sensitive data.

      There are very specific protocols in place for the destruction of that data. For the most part, the custodian (user level) of the device will wipe (over-write) the device a specified number of times, turn the device into superior (in the chain of command) shop. That shop (or ones higher up the chain) will be tasked with degaussing and the physical destruction the storage device.

      Again, I doubt any of us need this extreme measure at the personal level. But, over-writing and the physical destruction of the device with a 5# hammer, spreading the pieces around town in several dumpsters, should sever out purpose just fine! :)

    • Tossing old parts in the dumpster around town was tongue in cheek...

      These days, once I have destroyed the devices, I deposit the parts at the computer recycle collection center.

    • I was only able to take one of them partially apart. To go further requires a tool I don’t have. I exposed the disk and scratched it with a screw driver. Does this look sufficient? I can see the reading head on top- there doesn’t seem to be enough room for a similar head beneath.

    • Most of the drives I have dis-assembled, have several platters, not just a single platter. Most of them require a set of computer tools - screwdrivers or torx wrenches etc. I doubt anyone will spend the time and energy to try to read the remaining data on your drive.

      You could let it spend and evening roasting on an open fire for a bit more saftey, I guess.

      Or break out a 12 pound sledge hammer - wear saftey glasses of course, don't want metal or glass fragments in your eyes.