How to Properly Destroy a Hard Drive & It’s Data



One gig of data can contain up to 675,000 pages of information. That is just one gig. Imagine how much information is on multiple computers, printers, phones, etc. in your office or at home. Each one of those devices has the power to ruin a person, business, or agency if it is not properly destroyed. Data destruction is your best protection, and it’s not something to take lightly.  What is involved when it comes to hard drive destruction? Can’t you just restore to factory settings and be all set? A factory reset removes the paths from the software to the information you stored on a laptop or other electronic device’s hard drive, but it doesn’t remove the information from the hard drive. It’s still out there. If a person cracked the code the system used to delete the pathways during the restore, it would be possible to retrieve everything on the hard drive.  You could take a sledgehammer to your hard drive. That would definitely destroy the information. Some states have laws regarding electronic recycling. If you threw those pieces into the trash, you could be breaking the law and added toxic metals that could be released into the ground or air. Choosing an e-recycling firm that specializes in data destruction and responsible recycling is better. How does an expert in ITAD like ERI destroy data?

 The Seven Pass Wipe System

ERI uses a seven-pass wipe system that’s used by the Department of Defense to ensure 100% of data is destroyed. How does that work? The DOD 3 Pass system starts with data being overwritten with zeroes. In the second step, data is overwritten with ones. Then, a secret character is used on the third pass. With a seven-pass wipe system, the same process is used but it’s repeated seven times.  In 2012, NIST came into play and cut the number of overwriting passes to one. It saves time and also works effectively on newer SSD technology. NIST still recommends multi-pass systems or degaussing on some technology, but Cryptographic Erase is a newer sanitization technique that wipes the cryptographic keys used during data encryption instead of wiping just the data. As there are pros and cons to different methods, the NIST does recommend that ITAD companies choose the best method for the device and data stored on that device. The method ERI uses, therefore, may differ depending on your business’s or personal needs.  While many companies prefer to have software destroying data on hard drives and storage devices, degaussing is another option. It involves the manipulation of magnetic fields to destroy data on a magnetic hard drive or tape system. Before any of that data destruction happens, items have to reach ERI and go through the intake process.

 First Step: The Electronics Arrive

The first step is to gather and bring electronics to one of ERI’s eight facilities. There are secure recycling boxes that you can have sent to your home or office. You prepay for the shipment to be shipped to a facility for processing. Amazon and ERI have a partnership with drop-off boxes for consumers. You can also have ERI come to your place of business to destroy.  Electronics that are delivered to one of ERI’s facilities are immediately assigned a tracking number. Use this tracking number to follow exactly where your electronics are in real-time. Optech™ ensures you know where your electronics are at any moment. Once at the facility, they are assessed to see if they can be refurbished, if any parts are usable for resale, or if the item is no longer viable.  Items that are deemed obsolete skip data destruction and go straight to shredders. Shredding takes care of data destruction and is the first step in recycling. ERI partners with several companies so that the commodities that are collected during recycling are certain to be reused to make new items or parts.

 Second Step: Data Destruction

Once items are assessed, reusable parts are carefully removed and set aside for refurbishing other electronics that still have life left. Intact glass screens can be carefully removed and used to refurbish other electronics, too.  The data that’s on hard drives and other storage devices has to have all data destroyed before it can be refurbished and resold. Data wiping software can completely wipe data from a hard drive or other storage device using the seven-pass system. Once it’s removed, the boot system is also destroyed, so this renders a hard drive unreadable.  Degaussing is another way this can be completed. The hard drive or tape is demagnetized, which erases all data. There is a downside in that some pieces of information may be harder to erase, in which case stronger levels of degaussing are needed.  The seven-pass system recommended by the DOD is one of the preferred ways to destroy data once it’s ready for data destruction. At ERI, data destruction is completed following the proper guidelines for one of four levels of destruction.  Regardless of the level you need, there are a few things you should know always happens. Plants are always protected through video camera and motion detectors for security, hand-held and walk-through detectors, and biometric access into secure areas of the e-recycling plant. Even the lowest level of data destruction is protected by the utmost in facility security.  Standard Compliance is what most people need. It follows NIST 800-88 Rev1 policies to sanitize data and then purge, clear, or destroy the data found on hard drives and other storage devices. Why follow NIST? The standard is put to the test time and time again to try to recover data destroyed using it. The randomness of the pattern makes it effective and it doesn’t take long to complete the destruction. That saves you time and money.  Some companies need higher levels of security than that. They need to have TSA certified drivers with lockboxes that hold the electronic items during shipment. Data is then destroyed through software that wipes hard drives clean or by destroying it through degaussing or shredding. Video verification of data destruction is possible. This is what happens if you choose Enhanced Compliance.  High-Security Services are offered to any company or agency that needs data destroyed in a way that meets NSA/CSS Storage Device Sanitization rules. Specialists who destroy data on devices at this level are U.S. citizens. Your electronics are processed into parts that are no bigger than two millimeters in edge length.  Government agencies and contractors may need Demilitarization Services for top-secret files on computers and other electronics. Non-essential personnel is not allowed within the area. The government representative escorts the electronics into the processing area and witnesses and signs off on the data destruction and recycling process.  Data destruction at ERI guarantees you that 100% of the data is gone. By the time your electronics head to the department who can refurbish them for resale, you do not have to worry about any data remaining somewhere on the hard drive.

 Third Step: Shredding

If the item has no life left, it can just go straight into the shredders. Shredders are like a larger scale paper shredder that chops up electronics into small parts. Once shredded, the components like circuit board pieces, wires, and plastic casings are sorted for recycling.  Refurbished electronics will be repaired, but any broken or obsolete parts that come from them are removed and head to the shredders. The copier that you no longer need in your office may be valuable to someone else, but before it’s repaired and resold, it’s old parts are replaced and disposed of in a secure and responsible manner.  One thing that sets ERI apart is the machines known as Sam and Ernie. Sam stands for “Super Automated Machine.” This robotic device can sort 10 different items as it comes down the conveyor from the shredders. Sam can sort of different shapes and sizes of electronic components like batteries, cases, and circuit boards.  Ernie is the other important machine, but Ernie (Electronic Recyclers Next Innovated Efficiency) needs to have some help from humans. It’s Ernie’s job to dismantle LCD and LED so that toxins like mercury go into a secure chamber and other items continue on the path to Sam.  ERI’s equipment shreds up to 30,000 pounds per hour. With the capability to process so many electronics every day, your items do not sit around for months waiting to be shredded and recycled. You have peace of mind knowing that you’re choosing a leader in ITAD.  Once the e-recycling process is complete, you receive a certificate of destruction. This is your proof that items were all disposed of correctly. Nothing goes into a landfill. Nothing is shipped to another country.  Partner with ERI to be sure your equipment’s hard drive is destroyed. You don’t want to risk having your own or your customers’ private information stolen because you weren’t thorough. Every electronic device we accept for recycling is wiped clean, shredded, and recycled here. We do not ship anything overseas to be processed.

Author: ERI Direct