How to Destroy a Hard Drive

Updated: Jan. 27, 2023

Ever wonder what to do with old hard drives? Here's the right way to destroy an old hard drive.

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Why You Should Destroy Your Hard Drive

A typical home desktop computer or laptop hard drive can contain your social security number, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and website logins and passwords. This information can remain on the hard drive even if “erased” or reformatted with a data-wiping program.

Before donating or recycling your computer, you need to completely wipe or remove the hard drives. By doing so, you will ensure that the data on the hard drives will be completely erased and untraceable by data thieves. Also, it is important to note, if your hard drive contains music, personal photos or anything else with sentimental value, be sure to back this information up on a different hard drive before proceeding with the destruction process.

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How to Destroy a Computer: Data-Wiping Program

Your first option for deleting data from your hard drive is using a data-wiping program. Do this if you want to keep the drive usable but data erased. You can use the free program called Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN), which comes in a version that runs off USB flash drives and another that runs off a CD or a DVD. DBAN has a solid reputation among security experts.

However, no matter how thorough a data-wiping program is, the only way to be certain that a hard-drive’s data is unrecoverable is by rendering the drive’s disk unspinnable.

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Physically Destroying Your Hard Drive

When disposing of an old computer, there is really only one way to securely erase the information on the hard drive: destroying the magnetic disk (also called a platter) inside.

To begin, locate where your hard drive is within your computer. You may have to look up your particular model if you’re having trouble locating the hard drive. Next, use an appropriately sized screwdriver to remove as many screws as you can access on the computer.

Now, open the hard drive casing. This will largely amount to again, loosening a bunch of screws in different configurations depending on the make and model of your hard drive. Often, there are screws hidden underneath labels, so you might have to go searching around.

With your hard drive removed from the computer and your eye protection on, repeatedly strike the hard drive on various sides until it starts to open. When open, maneuver out the round silver platter disk from inside. Ding, dent and scratch this platter. Many lighter taps with both the claw and peen of a hammer should destroy the hard drive sufficiently.

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There are many more creative ways that you can destroy your hard drive such as setting it on fire, cutting it up with a saw or magnetizing it. However, simply scratching the hard drive disk and smashing it a bit with a hammer will get the job done!

When you’re all done, box up the components and turn them in at your local electronics recycling center.