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What Should You Do Before Hard Drive Disposal?

Posted Date: March 13, 2017 By: Andrew Blau

Hard Drive Disposal Checklist: What to Do BEFORE Shredding

Information security should be top priority when a business is migrating to new laptop or desktop computers.

A company machine typically contains large caches of sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, bank account and other financial information, passwords, legal documents and more. Since this digital information needs to be protected, professional hard drive disposal plays a key role in technology transitions and should be written into official company policy. Shredding is the best way to ensure critical files are completely inaccessible to trash looters, data miners, and other thieves.

This raises an important question: What should be done with your hard drives before they are sent out for shredding?

Hard Drive Disposal Checklist

Any information that was on your hard drive will be completely inaccessible after destruction. So, it's imperative that you save, copy, or archive any data, files, programs or settings that you'll need on your new machine or storage drive.

Business files you may want to copy before hard drive disposal include:

  • Legal documents
  • Critical business data
  • Emails
  • Creative design files
  • Application licenses
  • Bookmarks
  • Browser settings

Individuals should also take care to collect these important personal items from old hard drives:

  • Family photos
  • Music, videos, and other media files
  • Saved passwords
  • Personal financial information and budget spreadsheets
  • Personal emails
  • Notes

Once important files are identified, you need to determine where the files will go. This may be on a new PC or a new external hard drive, in the cloud (in a Dropbox or Google Drive account, for example), or on a company server. Next, determine how to move them there. This may entail simply plugging a flash drive into your old computer then copying the files to the new machine, or it may be more complicated. Be sure to consult your IT service provider for assistance.

During this process, it can be very helpful to establish an archiving rule. Files that are no longer used on a regular basis or are of a certain age (possibly 3 years or so) are best stored in a separate folder/drive/DVD where they won't clutter your day-to-day folders.

Another important step is to make a list of software on the old hard drive. Make a special note of any pieces of software with paid licenses. There may be some apps that you need to deactivate and de-authorize, while others have licenses that you should transfer to the new hard drive. Some applications may be freely downloaded on the new machine, such as a free web browser like Chrome or Firefox. It can also be helpful to make a list or save a screenshot of your browser plugins, bookmark folders and other personal settings that you'll want to replicate on the next machine.

Once you've completed these steps, you're ready to dispose of your old hard drive. But what's the best way to do that?

The Best (And the Worst) Hard Drive Disposal Methods

Let's start with how NOT to dispose of your hard drive. Lay people, IT consultants, savvy business owners and imaginative TV show writers have thought of dozens of ways to destroy a hard drive. Unfortunately, these techniques either don't work, or are a nasty combination of unsafe and inefficient.

Some poor methods of hard drive disposal make for great TV show scenes and YouTube videos, but are inefficient, unsafe, and may not completely destroy your digital files. You can Google or YouTube hard drive disposal and find a variety of ill-advised destruction methods:

  • Putting the hard drive in a microwave
  • Setting it on fire
  • Submerging it in water/throwing it in a lake
  • Killing it with a super magnet (Breaking Bad style)
  • Pouring hydrochloric acid on it
  • Reformatting
  • Free data-wiping programs
  • Destroying the drive with a hammer or a drill

Data-wiping and degaussing are popular ways to clear data from a hard drive. While these are effective strategies when transferring a computer internally within an organization, they should not be seen as the final step in the hard drive disposal process. Increasingly effective technology has made it easier to recover information from drives that have been wiped or degaussed. Shredding provides an additional layer of protection to ensure that data will never be retrieved in the event that a mistake has been made in the degaussing process.

Other methods may release unsafe chemicals into the atmosphere (such as the burning, microwaving and acid wash methods), while others won't provide complete certainty that your drive is actually completely unreadable (particularly the big magnet technique—sorry, Heisenberg fans).

Unlike some of the methods listed above, destroying a drive with a hammer or a drill isn't necessarily foolish. The brute force involved can often make the drive's disk reasonably unreadable and you are not exposing yourself to toxic chemicals. However, the time, energy and liability involved (not to mention the danger of injury) in hammering a hard drive just isn't feasible for most businesses – especially if they have multiple hard drives.

The best hard drive disposal methods render the drive's platters unspinnable, and the best way to accomplish this is by using a professional shredding service.

Hard drives are completely destroyed at Shred One in our top-of-the-line AMS-150HD Hard Drive & Electronic Media shredder. This efficient and powerful machine is guaranteed to render your data irretrievable. We take the time to record, scan and verify all hard drive serial numbers, and then we present you with a Certificate of Destruction as proof of your commitment to data security.

Shred One can also destroy and recycle other electronics from your office, including smartphones, zip drives, CDs, DVDs, USB thumb drives and more. We can even recycle old computers for our customers.

Partner with a Professional Shredding Company

Partnering with a certified, trusted professional is an important first step to ensuring the security of your business accounts and information.

Shred One is a AAA NAID certified information destruction service serving businesses across the Delaware Valley, New Jersey and Delaware. We provide document and media destruction services to businesses in a variety of industries in an effort to protect business and consumer information and keep businesses compliant with HIPAA, FACTA and other industry regulations.

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