Hard Drive Destruction Myths Debunked

destroyed hard drive

When it comes to hard drive destruction there are a lot of questions and misinformation out there. This misinformation leaves a lot of personal data vulnerable. In fact, a recent Data Recovery Study showed that even after attempts to wipe drives, data could still be recovered. The study purchased 200 used hard drives on eBay and Craigslist and found that 67% of those drives still held personally identifiable information. Even more frightening, 11% of those drives contained sensitive corporate data such as company emails, sales projection spreadsheets, product inventories, and CRM records.

In order to protect yourself and your business, you need to have the right information. For this reason, we have decided to debunk four of the most popular hard drive destruction myths:

Myth #1: You can destroy a hard drive by putting it in water.

Truth: Hard drives are pretty well sealed, so dunking it into water quickly will most likely not affect it at all.  Leaving it in a bucket of water for an extended period of time may damage the hard drive to the point where it doesn’t function anymore, so it that sense it will be destroyed. However, it will not get rid of the confidential data that is stored on it. Data on hard drives is stored magnetically on the interior platters, so adding water does not affect it.

Myth #2: I can use a magnet to wipe the data off my hard drive.

Truth:  Since data is magnetically stored on a hard drive, it makes sense that you can use a magnet to wipe the data right? Wrong…. First, it is important to understand there are two types of drives: solid state drives and hard disk drives. Hard disk drives (HDDs) create binary code by changing the polarity of magnetic bits in the drive. So, in theory yes, a magnet could flip the bits and erase data stored on this type of drive. However, the magnet would have to be stronger than most MRI or Tesla magnets. A normal magnet will not cut it. Solid state drives (SSDs), such as USB thumb drives or smartphone memory keep binary code in a stored charge rather than using a magnetic field, making a magnetic ineffective at wiping data off this type of hard drive.

Myth #3: Formatting destroys data.

Truth: Unfortunately if someone knows what they are doing, they can easily retrieve data from a reformatted hard drive. All a hacker needs is some software and a desire to get the data off your drive and your confidential information is now in the wrong hands. In fact, this is not a job that only an expert hacker can accomplish. Data recovery software is designed to allow a layperson to easily access data they once believed was lost.

Myth #4: I can use a software program to erase information on my drive.

Truth: First, it is important to know that deleting files doesn’t erase them entirely either. It is like removing the front door to your house. The house and your valuables are still there, but you can’t just walk through the front door to get in. A person still could gain access through a back door and take your home’s valuables. Deleting a file is similar to this scenario. You are removing the easiest access point, but a hacker can easily find other methods of retrieving the information. Even the best information-erasing programs can’t completely remove all of the data off your hard drive.


So what is the best way to properly dispose of your old hard drives? Physical destruction is the most effective way to ensure information is unreadable and unrecoverable. And we are not talking simply taking a hammer to your drives, or running them over with a car. Proper destruction means running the drives through a specialized shredder. There should also be a secure chain of custody process and Certificate of Destruction in order to completely protect your business.

Want to learn more about proper hard drive destruction? Check out our Hard Drive Destruction page, or contact us for more information.