Because of interest in a recent story about an unrecoverable hard drive used by Lois Lerner of the IRS, I took a few minutes to explain why a recycled drive might be unreadable. Here is
Dr. Conspiracy’s guide to hard drive recycling
If you are a government agency with surplus computer equipment, it is important that sensitive data not fall into the wrong hands such as a Republican-led Congressional committee, or a right-wing talk show host, when that equipment is taken out of service. This handy tutorial shows how to erase information from a hard drive before recycling.
Specifications for hard drives include limits on the amount of shock the drive can absorb without damage. Since the goal of the procedure is to prevent the drive from performing, shock is a good first step in making the drive unreadable. As a professional government employee, it is important to dress professionally when carrying the procedures in this tutorial. The following illustration shows one measured way to apply shock to the drive:
After the procedure the drive should look similar to this:
A second limiting factor in a hard drive’s ability to function properly and retain its data is temperature. Here you will want to review the “storage temperature” on the drive and apply heat in excess of the published limit. Be sure to wear safety glasses when carrying out this procedure:
Here is the hard drive following application of the elevated temperature procedure:
Most drives have a warning against opening the drive, as this can introduce dust and other foreign matter that can render the drive unreadable. The following illustration shows one method for opening the hard drive. First select an appropriate tool such as this:
Insure that you have a clear area around you when opening the drive:
The following detail photo shows the proper placement of the tool on the drive:
The following illustrates how the hard drive should look after completing of the procedure. Note that the procedure should be repeated until the drive is clearly open.