Hard drive in question has sensitive unencrypted data but has failed and no longer responds so can't be wiped.

I'd like to physically destroy the said hard drive (3-1/2" desktop, spinning platter drive) before discarding it. What "home remedies" are good options?

EDIT: To the close voters: None of the other similar questions talk about techniques one can perform at your everyday home (hard drive degaussers, industrial shredders etc). IMHO this question is similar but uniquely distinct.

EDIT2: We're not talking about corporate data, national security data or personal banking data. Encrypted backups mostly, with some unencrypted personal identifiable information when the said drive was used to migrate data.

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    @FiascoLabs: thanks but if read the answers there, none of them talk about techniques one can perform at your everyday home (hard drive degaussers, industrial shredders etc). The other talks about opening the drive up but nothing more. IMHO this question is similar but uniquely distinct. Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 6:05
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    I've found disassembly, hacksaw or a hammer to be pretty effective on dead drives. All are cheap, disassembly allows you to use the head servo motor to mess with the platters before hammer whack. Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 6:37
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    Putting this as a comment because not everybody is an amateur pyromaniac who whips this stuff up at home with ingredients bought from art shops, but it turns out thermite isn't that hard to make and does a really good job. Melts a hole right through the drive, both casings and platters. That data is GONE!
    – CBHacking
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 5:44
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    @CBHacking: Pro tip: put your thermite in a small ceramic flowerpot with a hole at the bottom. The pot withstands the heat and does a great job at keeping the thermite together during the reaction, funneling the 2000+°C molten iron onto the HD. (Please don't try this at home. Try it out side ;)...)
    – fgysin
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 9:18

7 Answers 7


You want fast and simple?

Step 1: Try and take it apart. If you have the right screwdrivers, great, if not, just go to the next step.

EDIT2: Also use sandpaper on the platters before smashing them. It's very hard to smash into small enough pieces, and very hard to sand afterwards. If you can spend a bit of money, there are also dedicated kits, such as DiskStroyer which provide instructions. Apparently, they also provide a magnet and screwdrivers.

Step 2: Have at it with the biggest, heaviest metal hammer you have. Hit the platters a few times and it should shatter. (EDIT: NB: Make sure you smash the logic board (all the green stuff) up decently as well. Modern HDDs have 32-64 MBs of cache, and SSHDs have around 8 GB, and we don't want anyone to get a single bit)

Step 3: Find a big magnet and go over the disk a few times.

Step 4: Find a really hot flame, and melt the data off. A good gas flame can get up to 1200 °C, easily enough to demagnetise even the toughest materials.

And you're done! Send your now thoroughly unusable drive into the bin, or a recycling center, or whatever else you do to dispose of electronics.

EDIT: To be completely honest, I would do this to an encrypted drive as well, with the logic that any drive needing encryption should be disposed securely to prevent the exploitation of vulnerabilities in the encryption discovered in the future.

  • I don't find step 3 and 4 simple, as the TS asked. Most people don't have a big magnet nor a hot flame that can do this and know how to do this safely without destroying the house as well. Besides that, if you're really paranoid, distribute the platter parts over different bins. As it's metal, it will probably be recycled anyway if you put it in any bin in town or elsewhere.
    – SPRBRN
    Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 13:50
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    Meh, propane torches are a dime a dozen. Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 18:01
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    Depending on if you have an induction or gas stove, you can, using the stove, perform step 3 or 4 respectively.
    – timuzhti
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 2:36
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    Step 3 pro tip: magnetic HDDs already contain some pretty seriously strong magnets. Don't get yourself caught in between.
    – user
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 8:57
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    @Alpha3031: I took apart all my old hard disks over the last years (bonus: you can use the magnets you find inside on your fridge)... But shattering the actual data platter seems unlikely. The ones I had were made from fairly sturdy metal - you can bend them, scratch them, sure... but shattering?
    – fgysin
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 8:01

First, write it over on the sector-level with random data. You can do this multiple times.

After that, you can take it apart with a screwdriver.

In your place I would use simple sandpaper to destroy the magnetized data layer on the plates mechanically.

Extension: It is also highly suggested to destroy its electronic, sometimes it contains also a flash ram for cache or for service data, which is also persistent data of the drive which you want to destroy.

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    How do you do that first step, given that the question says that the drive "has failed and no longer responds so can't be wiped"? Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 16:23
  • @TobySpeight Right, then only the second step remains (sandpaper).
    – peterh
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 16:30

Electric drill

If you have any kind of electric drill or cordless screwdriver the easiest and quickest way is to just drill a dozen holes through them.

  • The disk housing is generally made from aluminium, which is fairly soft. Any kind of metal drill bit (probably even the ones used for brick walls) will do the trick easily.
  • Make sure to drill the holes in various places and pay attention to actually punch the contained data disks.
  • The entire procedure is very quick and quite safe, although wearing eye protection is recommended when drilling metal. (Although bashing the thing with a big heavy hammer has its own merits, even if not very efficient ;))
  • Bashing with a big hammer does not work. Disk housings are too strong. Using a drill is not really safe, either, unless you fix the harddisk and carry safety goggles. You don't want sharp things rotating at 3000 rpm and suddenly snapping off. Furthermore, the discs inside may be unflexible as crystal, so may basically explode upon exercising force upon them. Therefore, -1, if I could.
    – phresnel
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 7:06
  • @phresnel I wasn't recommending the hammer technique, but it does work - just requires a large enough hammer or some patience. (Trust me, I have done this.) I edited my response to make that clearer.
    – fgysin
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 8:40
  • @phresnel As for safety... Even if a data disk would break it would be contained by the aluminium housing. But of course, when drilling metal eye protection is always sound advice, I thought that went without saying. Updated answer accordingly.
    – fgysin
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 8:43
  • @fgysub: "just requires a large enough hammer or some patience." -> Believe me, I am not a weak person, regularly carrying two crates of watter bottled in glass, weighing about 25-35 kg (sometimes including other purchases), over 100 m and into the third floor without taking a single break. And I've tried hammering a harddisk for many minutes. With hammers and picks. The noise alone can be harmful and deafening. The harddisk case was not even punctured. Have you even tested this method? Just because it's aluminum it doesn't mean it can't be robust - cars of several tons in weight drive on alu!
    – phresnel
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 8:55
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    This worked quite well for me. You will get better results with a 1/2 inch drill and a good sharp bit. I ruined the bit after the seventh or eighth drive
    – kevinskio
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 18:38

Homely style

  • Hammer it down as much as possible(with nails punched? Better!), flame it with gasoline, soil it with a mix of ash, clay and oil.

  • If you have acids (families with farm house would have it), soak in them (concentrated ones).

  • If you managed to open, scratch the discs as much as possible and bend it. Punch holes and now distribute them across non bio trash cans.

But, who will keep too much sensitive data unencrypted?

  • Yeah, but a thoroughly deformed and flamed hard disk won't hold anything useful, isn't it?
    – Nikhil_CV
    Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 8:35
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    And one byte of data won't give you any information without context. Unless it's 42, in which case it's The Answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.
    – dr_
    Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 8:44
  • @dr01 The minimum amount of data you can recover (or not) from a HDD is a single full sector. On classic drives, that's 512 bytes; on Advanced Format drives, that's 4096 bytes. Depending on what the data is about, that's a lot of context.
    – user
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 8:56
  • @MichaelKjörling Alpha3031 was talking about one byte only, not a full hd sector.
    – dr_
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 9:02
  • @dr01 Yes, but you don't get partial sector reads, so it's either a whole sector or nothing.
    – user
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 13:13

Melt the platters with thermite! The heat will not just rearrange the parts that hold the magnetic pattern but also completely demagnetize the metal, rendering the parts unreadable even if someone were able to put them back in order.

melting platters

DIY instructions in German with more pretty pictures.

  • Elegant. Very elegant.
    – phresnel
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 7:09

The simpliest way is to use this gel, it's an alcaline cream, free to buy : Super Shumanit I don't have an international description for it, but I'm sure it is a wide-used one. It dissolves SSD's or HDD plates =)


First, encrypt the hard drive with something like truecrypt. Then wipe it with Dban several times with default settings. Then install windows on the operating system. Then fill the free space with data. Then encrypt the hard drive again. Then wipe the hard drive several times again. Next, take the platter(s) out of the hard drive, along with the small circuit board. Smash any solid state chip on the circuit board with a hammer. Then take the platter and sand it down with a dremel or sand paper. Then take the platter and soak it in acid. Then shatter the platter with the hammer (if the platter does not shatter, cut it into pieces with wire cutters). Take those pieces, along with the smashed solid state chips, and smelt them over a fire.

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    That's rather a lot of effort to go through when you can simply run the platters through a belt sander and get the same effect.
    – Mark
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 22:20
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    The question notes that the drives are no longer reliably responsive Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 15:32

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