5 Ways To Destroy Your Hard Drive

Security is a word that seems to be on the tips of everyone’s tongue these days. With so many hackers, trojans, spybots most people are concered about security primarily when connected to the internet. But with rising amounts of ID theft and the ever-present threat of theft, how do you keep your data safe when you aren’t there to protect it?

So if your hard drive has just been borked after some heavy use, or you just want to trash your system and make sure nobody will ever get their dirty hands on your stuff, you need a surefire way of destroying all your data on that little disk! Without further ado, let’s look into how you can totally destroy your hard drive and everything on it!

NB: Kids, do not try this at home! We will not be held responsible.

  1. Hydrochloric (Muriatic) Acid Burn
    This stuff is highly toxic, so you have to be fully prepared to use it and wear all the safety equipment of the day (eye goggles, aci-resistant gloves etc). To destroy your hard drive using this method you will need to pour in a measure of Hydrochloric Acid into a glass cylinder that is deep enough to avoid spilling over once the hard drive is inserted. Tie some wire around your hard drive case and lower it into the acid. Let it sit there for a number of hours so that the acid gets all the way inside the casing and can munch away on yor disk. To really get the reaction going, expose the acid to sunlight. Be warned, once the reaction gets going the acid will start bubbling and may spill over onto the floor. So make sure you are well prepared!
  2. Burn It With Thermite
    Thermite burns at about 3,000° and is used by the military for thermite grenades, making it an ideal candidate to destroy any hard drive. Once you manage to get your hands on some of this stuff, place about 4 or 5 pounds of it on top of your hard drive. It would be advisable to place the drive on sand so that the surrounding area does not go up in flames. Stand far back and ignite the thermite. Once you are satisfied that the drive has been irreparable destroyed, douse the flames in sand or water.
  3. Smash It With A Hammer And Hacksaw
    This way is a little less corrosive or explosive, but it will still destroy your hard drive. It also means that you don’t need to worry about where you’ll get some acid or thermite, just have a look in your garage. First off, take a large hammer and start to whack the hard drive repeatedly until you see plenty of damage. Ideally part will be falling out at this stage, if they aren’t give it a few more solid whacks. Then clamp the hammered hard drive tight with a vice. Now take your hacksaw and start to saw the hard drive into fine strips, making sure to wreck the discs and platters. Once done nobody will get a thing off it.
  4. Grind It To Powder
    This is another simple way of totally destroying your hard drive, making it impossible for even the best of data recovery services to recovery a single byte. Take your hard drive and place it into a vice, then clamp securely. This clamp should be attched to a large study workdesk that won’t move. Then take a grinder with a large 60 grit sanding disk and go to work on the hard drive. Your aim should be to reduce the hard drive to a pile of powder, just like something you’d see your mum grinding in a mortar and pestle.
  5. Fully Bork It With Magnetic Degaussing
    Finding magnets powerful enough to magnetically degauss your hard drive will be a bit of a challenge, but it is a foolproof way of destroying any and all data on your hard drive. Once you get your magnets together, lay them out on a surface and pass your hard drive over them. Rub them back and forward, left and right, alternating exposure to the magnets.

The basic premise of each method of data destruction is to destroy the disc and the platters, otherwise data can be recovered. When engaging in an act of data destruction, make sure and target these 2 areas.

I haven’t included any software as a lot of these software-based data erasing products will actually leave something behind. If I wanted to destroy my data, what use would that be?

39 thoughts on “5 Ways To Destroy Your Hard Drive

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  2. Bob

    I have a 5 year old gateway computer. pentium 4, 128 ram, 20 gig. the original wd200 hard rive seems to have gone bad and I replaced it with a 40 gig wd400bb caviar drive. Now as soon as I power on the computer I get a black screen with that reads “A problem with the hard drive has been detected. consult troubleshooter setion oy your owners manual. Press the enter key to continue.” I press the enter key and the computer boots up fine and everything seems to be working. The bios shows the drive detected correctly from what I can tell. Any help is appreciated. Thank you, Bob

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  4. CC

    Hi Andy,

    I’m a girl. I have a hammer but not a hacksaw. All other ways of destroying my hard drive(s) seem too hard (no pun intended). I’ve got several of them I’ve pulled from all my old computers and I’m ready to let them go, because they are heavy and a pain in the kiester to pack and move around for no good reason whatsoever except I don’t want some resourceful person to hack in and get my vitals…

    Would simply giving it a bubble bath help to destroy it or is acid necessary? Beach bonfire maybe? Would a dip in the ocean and sunning maybe help to corrode and rust the apparatus?

    Do you know if there is somewhere I can take my hard drives and have them destroy it in front of me? I mean, I’d happily pay for them to be destroyed for me. To think I could hammer it to death and still not get it because of no hacksaw? Plus, I’m strong, but those buggers are hard and I don’t know that I’ve got the braun to do it… ;) CC

  5. Wee

    water probably will not destroy the data itself…. just beat the living shit out of it until it looks borked enough….. THEN dip it on the ocean… THEN throw it in a fire. :)

  6. Drillhead

    Drill holes in the drive. Make sure you go through all the platters inside the drive. You have to make sure that the platters are destroyed (not just outside enclosure) since that is where the data is stored.

  7. Emil Holm

    I’ve often wondered if it’s possible to implement some sort of slef destruct mechanism. For instance, if I wanted to destroy all the data I had on say 4 disks in one computer. I wonder if it’s possible to build some sort of electromagnetic pulse generator thingy. Just one button and *boom* all data (and probably all electronic article in the room, if not the house) destroyed.

    I wonder…

  8. Andy Post author

    LOL … or a handy magnetic type gadget thing like they use in the movies.

    I believe the geek in The Core had such a device. ;)

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  10. Ike

    If you have a volcano nearby, you could always toss it into the crater. Afterall, you can never be too sure. =D

  11. Mr Paranoid

    It’s not necessary to kill yourself trying to destroy the casing. Just open that sucker up and destroy the platters with the grinding method. You don’t need a grinder, you can use just your hand. Also acids hurt when they touch you, I’d stay clear.

    It wouldn’t be a bad idea to destroy the circuit board. All you have to do is put some current through it. DC at least 100v will fry them up. But wear rubber gloves and maybe a long sleeve non conductive shirt when doing that.

    Good luck or just get some m80′s and let er blow!

  12. dataeraser

    I am surprised nobody has mentioned degaussing.

    You can take a hand held Video/Casette-Tape Eraser (basically an electromagnet) and magnetically trash the drive’s data.

  13. egokick

    I saw a movie in which a hacker was about to have his apartment raided and heard them trying to bang down the door so he quickly ejected all his hardrives and put them in the microwave on full power. How effective would this be at making the data unrecoverable and how long would it take?

  14. Kes

    That would be a scene from “The Core.” Those were not hard drives either. Those were Cd’s, and a microwave is very effective at destroying Cd’s. Put a hardrive in the mic, and good chance the platter will survive, as the microwave will probably blow up before it gets through the casing. And in the core, he had high powered magnets very sufficient for the job as he was prepared for people to come raiding his apartment. Wont find something like that in a store. Mythbuster guys had a hard time getting there hands on some high powered magnets. Had to prove the company that makes em 100% who they were before they could get them.

  15. Jack The Ripper

    Actualy magnets from the hard drives are pretty powerful. I didn’t thry it my self, but i think that could work.

  16. Shred It

    You can try shredding it in one of those industrial shredders that will shred it to tiny pieces, but first take out the magnets – they are sweet!

  17. No hard drive

    The answer is soooooooo simple.
    Use A linux distro that can be loaded onto a thumbdrive like puppy linux.
    Puppy has opera,firefox,mozilla,etc.

    Small apps that run in windows also run in puppy under WINE.
    The environment in puppy is a bit different and some learning is in order if you are new to Linux.
    The GUI/Desktop looks like Win 2000 and has very nice icons to click on for surfing the web ripping dvd’s and cd’s -pet packages and pup packages need to be installed for the dvd part.
    Many very nice tools for partitioning flash drives and hard drives.
    Puppy is pretty much immune to viruses and spyware unlike ALL versions of windows.
    Puppy boots live from CD or DVD and is installed from CD/DVD to just about any thing you throw at it,unlike windows (Restricted to a hard drive).
    Puppy also saves your bookmarks to a .2fs file on your thumb drive so you can access them later.

    Anyway there is soooo much i could say about puppy here.
    Just google puppy linux and have a read about it,it’s really a nice OS and it’s private in that nobody will go trolling through your HD cause it needs no HD.
    Best of all it FREE cause it’s LINUX and it’s open source.

  18. Ad

    Smashing a hard drive with a hammer will not destroy it. Unless you have the ability to smash it with a hammer to powder. The smallest of fragments of a hardrive can still be read by those who know what they are doing!!!!

    you only need about 1 square CM to be able to read it!

  19. Michel

    how about just drilling one hole thru the casing then dip it in the water for a while? Water being a conductor, shouldnt it demagnetize the plates?

  20. Floppy Divac

    Seems a little bit of an overkill, but the best way would be to wipe it several times using a decent software program and THEN physically destroying it

  21. Brian teh Lion

    just download killdisk. It changes every single bit (as in all data are made of bits), to a 0. which is nerd speak for it wipes all of the data from the drive.

    It’s free and easy to use for the most part. You might need a floppy though.

    Still not feeling safe? throw it in a wood chipper. Preferably not your own though. Maybe a rental

  22. Tissemand

    I went to this webpage to get some easy way to destory my HD. But acide and nuclear bombs oh really? would that destroy it ? What if I throw it at the sun ? would that help also ?

  23. Sheila

    you would think that with all the computer technology out there a business would be set up for you to take your hard disc along and watch it smashed in front of your eyes??

  24. Junebugg

    Easiest way for girls, like me…
    Buy the small star-shaped screw driver and disassemble the whole drive. Then take out the shiny disks, put them on a sidewalk and dance the twist on top of them until there plenty scratched up. Then throw it all in the trash, or recycle if you can.

  25. RadioFlyer

    If you want some powerful magnets you can find them inside junk microwave ovens. The magnatron has 2 very powerful magnets that are useful for a variety of jobs. Beware of the capacitor however, it may still have a charge.
    Be sure to short it first to the cabinet. (that’s the silver oval shaped can that is wired to the magnatron ) Be sure not to get them close to any crt type monitors or televisions! I doubt if there are too many techs. around that can degauss anymore.

  26. Power

    Just do it the easy way, works for men and women both and very easy and inexpensive. Take your favorite firearm and set the drives at a safe distance and shoot away. I prefer high powered rifles at 100 yards so there is very little chance of a richochet (handguns don’t usually go through very well, they are tough little buggers).

  27. veeguy

    You don’t need to do all this heavy destruction. Take the cover off the drive. Take a screwdriver or awl, and deeply put multiple scratches across the platter(s). Your drive is destroyed.

    I always keep the magnets, they are super powerful.

    If you STILL are paranoid the NSA or FBI wants your data, use a hammer or prybar on the platter(s) to bend them up a bit.

    The “wreck the circuit board” approach will NOT work. I regularly buy trashed drives on ebay to install the usually good circuit boards in static or lightning damaged drives to recover the data.

  28. Noggin the Nog

    Want to render your hard drives completly useless and unreadable even by military intelligence? I suggest these 2 foolproof ways:
    1: Send them through the post marked ‘Fragile’
    2: Give them to a couple of 3 year olds to play with

  29. Pure Planet Recycling

    Shredding it into pieces will destroy the drive but you can forensically recover data from shredded pieces…if you really want to. We degauss, blatting the data, our extensive research and testing proved this to be most successful.

  30. Adam Cleaner

    i have a hard drive that i need to destory but i’m a little unsure what is the best way, acid seems a little over the top so i think i’ll hammer it but i’m a unsure if it’ll completely remove the data.

  31. Monkeypaw

    I just shot mine. Took it out to the country and put 13 rounds of .40 cal Cor-Bon ammo into it, then one 12 gauge slug, just for kicks. And man was it fun!

  32. Jack the Ripper

    Disassemble the drive, throw the platters and circuit boards into a pressure cooker with a good dose of CLR (Calcium, Lime, Rust). Boil for an hour, and dump.

  33. jay

    if you need some strong magnets just go to united nuclear’s site they sell some very strong magnets
    though some are dangerously strong

  34. Captain Fizz

    Easiest way as mentioned is just to drill 2 or 3 holes through the platters of the HDD.

    Impossible to retrieve the data after that.

    Software scrubbers do work if left for long enough.
    Rewrite random 0′s & 1′s over the drive 7 or 8 times and the original data will be gone.

  35. Nat

    I heard that drilling directly through the spindle was a great and fast way to do this. Warps the platters preventing any residual data recovery.

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