A hard drive, that small constantly whirring box inside of your PC, knows a lot about you and your life: it can show how fun you spent your last vacation, your favorite video you’ve watched too many times to count (but still laugh and cry every damn time), and even that new recipe of finger-licking good pasta you’ve cooked for dinner. Meh, not a big deal, you’d say. But what about your passwords, usernames, social security numbers, credit card information? You probably don’t want those to get into the wrong hands, not to mention that embarrassing who-on-earth-picked-up-this-outfit teenage picture.
Most of us delete all the data before discarding an old hard drive, but if you think that simple dragging some items to the recycle bin or even reformatting the drive will help you to get rid of your files for good, you’re on the wrong track, for sure. The space gets available for new files, while the information itself is just hidden out of your sight and can easily be recovered. Many utilities offer their help to magically wipe your hard drive by overwriting it with zeros or some random garbage, but if you’re afraid that the bits that were on the disk before may be retrieved by some skilled hacker (yes, the one who will be laughing viciously while rubbing his hands together during this process), the only way to erase a hard drive entirely is to make it physically unusable. So, if you truly want your data to be out of the bad guys’ reach, you should let your creativity (and cruelty) run wild.
Whichever method you decide to use, provided that you have a traditional spinning hard drive, you should, first of all, remove the hard drive from your PC, open its casing with a screwdriver and retrieve the platters (those thin round disks made of alloy or glass that actually store your data). Having dealt with this, you have a wide choice of fun methods, some of which will not only destroy your hard drive but your sanity as well.
(Please, don’t take this advice seriously, and in case you do, ensure taking proper safety precautions!)
The good old caveman method
Brute force is not always the best option, but when it comes to hard disk destruction, this is exactly what you need. Just take the biggest hammer you have and smash the platters into tiny pieces. An ultimate stress relief and a good workout come as a nice bonus, though the same can’t be said about the mess you’ll need to clean up after. That’s probably worth it, but the hardest part is to resist the temptation of starting to run and crush everything around.
The crazy chemist method
If you enjoyed your chemistry classes at high school, you may consider this option worth trying. Just pretend you are some mad scientist running a secret laboratory and longing to destroy the human race, but your nasty plan will inevitably fail if you don’t get rid of a piece of important evidence. Dip the platters into a container of battery acid or some similarly strong acid, and let it do the job. Caution: don’t use this method unless you know exactly what you’re doing and have the proper safety equipment.
The handyman method
If you can’t leave your instruments behind even when going to sleep and a drill is your ultimate best friend, there can’t be a better option for you: take the platters and drill as many holes as you can throughout them (at least four in each will suffice). Profit!
The big fan of heights method
This method is most suitable for laptop hard drives, which usually have glass platters. Climb to the roof and just pretend you’re playing Frisbee. Throw the platters as strong as you can, but see to it that you won’t hurt anyone (including yourself).
The seasoned arsonist method
A couple hours in a rip-roaring fireplace can work wonders to your HDD platters, making them unrecognizable and your data in no way recoverable. Sure thing, it’s fun to watch the flames eating up your problem, but even if you’re a true mad head, better consider another option: melting platters emit extremely toxic fumes that can possibly kill you, which doesn’t sound like a good outcome.
The big game hunter method
What can be a more tempting target than a useless hard drive that is ready to spill all your secrets? Bring the platters to a local firing range or some other safe location and shoot them to your heart’s content. But don’t do this at home, think of your poor neighbors who will be quaking in their boots having heard continuous gunshots coming from your yard.
The bored housewife method
If you’re fond of cooking, your best bet is just to put the platter into a microwave and heat it enough to melt or shatter. No one will be able to see your data after this, but be extremely careful (better run far far away and never return) and don’t use your regular microwave for this, chances are it will come to a sticky end together with the disk.
The naughty raccoon method
Remember those funny videos that feature adorable raccoons who hilariously wash everything, including footwear and smartphones? Unfortunately, water alone is not able to destroy data, but you can put the platters into a bucket filled with water, add some cleaning products and leave them alone for some time. The corrosion will be slowly killing the platters as well as the information you’re so desperate to hide.
The Edward Scissorhands method
While simple scissors in this case are, of course, as useful as a chocolate teapot, a strong industrial shredder is a good way to go. And don’t forget to bury those little bits left of it in different places, to be on the safe side.
The kitty catty method
If the previous methods are too extreme for you, there is a viable alternative. Just take a sharp object, such as a knife or screwdriver, and scratch the platter (like your cat is scratching your favorite couch) until there isn’t a clear spot to be seen. Now you can take it easy – your data has gone forever.
As you can see, purposely destroying data on your hard drive is a tough row to hoe: it takes time or effort, or even both (let alone creative imagination). But the irony is that hard drives, these miracles of engineering, are, in fact, very unpredictable, and just some unfortunate coincidence, some small glitch, may make the drive fail at the most inconvenient moment, letting you only wave goodbye to the important data stored on it. So, don’t try to poke the bear, treat your hard disk drive with care, and have a piece of quality data recovery software as a card up your sleeve, unless you want to do away with your files.
And do you personally have any data destruction habits you’re dying to share?