5

I've seen similar questions out there but not the same.

I have a broken Seagate hard drive that I want to return to the store. It has a lot of private data on it. I can't access it through the computer. I can only see it showing as a 'backup' but it is not listed under 'computer' as a drive. So, I don't think I can overwrite the data.

The question then is, how can I destroy the data without erasing through the computer (no access) or without physically destroying it (store wont accept the return)?

Thanks

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    See also: superuser.com/questions/384890/… – Ben Feb 25 '16 at 9:52
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    Summary from the link @Ben gave: explain to the manufacturer that the drive contains confidential information and you would prefer to destroy it yourself. This might not work with a retail store, although you may be able to take it in, let them check that it is faulty, then destroy it, depending on the store/staff. – Matthew Feb 25 '16 at 10:20
  • Thank for the reply. I was thinking about nuking it. Would a 3-10 seconds in a microwave destroy the data? If it's just a short time it wont result in visible damage. – saitori Feb 25 '16 at 11:45
  • Doubt it - the casing is designed to protect it from EM radiation such as microwaves: security.stackexchange.com/questions/66335/… – Matthew Feb 25 '16 at 11:50
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    I would also recommend against sticking random things in the microwave... sometimes it doesn't go well for the appliance. A quick way to thoroughly destroy a drive is rubbing some high grit sandpaper on the platters. For what it's worth, if you can't read the disk, the chances of the manufacturer specifically mounting the drive to steal your data is slim -- they simply do not have the time or motivation. However, I understand why you could be concerned. – Ohnana Feb 25 '16 at 14:20
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I would suggest that you try a Live CD recovery disk. This might allow you to get access to your data and use a tool like Bleachbit to securely erase it. If you can't access the data this way, then it doesn't mean your data is secure. A disk engineer might have other ways of getting at the data, for example replacing broken circuitry (if that's the problem), or a specialised test/service rig.

Attempts to erase the disk with an external EM field are unreliable and you'd have no way of knowing whether they worked.

If you can't securely erase the disk, then I guess you have to weigh up the cost of the disk against the risk of someone else accessing your data. Or, as others have suggested, talk to the store and explain the situation.

(I know it's too late now, but this is a good argument in favour of encrypting your disk in the first place.)

  • Thank for the reply. I was thinking about nuking it. Would a 3-10 seconds in a microwave destroy the data? If it's just a short time it wont result in visible damage. – saitori Feb 25 '16 at 11:45
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    No, microwaving it will do absolutely nothing to the plates. The disk enclosure works a little like a Faraday cage, protecting the data. The circuit board will be toasted. – ThoriumBR Feb 25 '16 at 13:11
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    @saitori the only way you can get the data off is using a powerful electro magnet (assuming you are using a good ol spin drive) ... if not I very much suggest you use a big ol hammer and deal with the cost. – TheHidden Feb 25 '16 at 15:04

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