Hard Drive Degaussing vs. Shredding: Which Is Safer?

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hard drive degaussing vs destruction shredding

Hard drives can contain immeasurable amounts of sensitive and confidential data. When replacing a hard drive or when disposing of an old device like a laptop or computer, even certain types of gaming consoles and printers, it is always necessary to make sure you securely destroy the hard drive as well. Even if the hard drive is broken, you need to make sure the hard drive, and the data on it, are actually destroyed when you dispose of it.

Two primary options for destroying a hard drive are degaussing and shredding. Degaussing a hard drive uses powerful magnetic forces to make the disc plates of the hard drive inoperable so that the data is completely destroyed. Shredding a hard drive involves tearing up the hard drive into smaller bits and pieces so that it can never be used again. 

What Is Degaussing?

Degaussing a hard drive uses a powerful magnetic field to demagnetize the disc plates on the device. This process effectively erases all of the data stored on the drive. Degaussing not only removes all data from a hard drive, but it also removes the original start-up files from the factory, so that the unit can never be used again. The hard drive is left effectively toast.

There are degaussing machines of different sizes and speeds available that can be used for this process. The fastest machines can degauss a hard drive completely in a few seconds or less.

Degaussing vs. Physical Destruction (Shredding)

One of the most common questions in comparing degaussing and shredding is, “Which process is considered more secure?” Both methods of destruction are safe, but using a hard drive shredder allows you to be visually certain that the entire hard drive is destroyed and can never be used again. After shredding a hard drive, you can be certain that the data once on it can no longer be recovered. On the other hand, degaussing a hard drive leaves the entire hard drive physically intact. Therefore, it is recommended to have a quality assurance process in place in order to test the hard drive’s function and memory after degaussing. With this in mind, many consider shredding to be more effective and more secure than degaussing because of the assurance it provides the customer without leaving any doubt.

Does Degaussing Work On SSDs (Solid State Drives)?

Degaussing does not work on SSDs, because SSDs do not use magnetic fields to store data like traditional hard drives do. Running an SSD through a degaussing machine will not destroy the device or the data on it. For destroying SSDs, shredding is recommended in order to physically destroy the device beyond the possibility of repair or recovery.

Does Drilling A Hard Drive Destroy It?

Drilling a hard drive could destroy it, but this is not a recommended process compared to degaussing and shredding. Drilling through a hard drive still leaves an opportunity for the data to be recovered if the drilling is not done effectively. For example, if you do not drill through the correct part of the hard drive, the data stored on the hard drive does not get destroyed.

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