How can I safely and securely dispose of a USB device at my workplace using only basic tools and objects commonly found in an office? I am unable to remove the device from the premises. I cannot engage in potentially dangerous activities like lighting fires.

Will soaking it in a glass of water work?

  • Can you bring in small tools such as pliers? With them, you can exert considerable force on small objects such as usb flash drives. You should be able to break open the casing (even if it's metal) and crush the memory chip that sits inside. Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 21:38

6 Answers 6

  1. You can wipe it software wise first: dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda. Securely wiping it software wise will take time tho.

  2. Don't put it inside a microwave. Also water will not help 100%.

  3. Your company's house keeper will probably have what you need. If the memory chip is physically damaged beyond repair, it will be impossible to salvage data from it. Some suggest beating it with a hammer to pulverize it. Others suggest using multiple drill bits to drill into the memory chip, essentially turning it into a powder. I suggest driving a nail inside it, makes less of a mess.

  • I've heard a lot of hammer suggestions, but using one on a nail instead of directly on the device is a great idea.
    – Numeron
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 22:30
  • Or a wire cutter and cut the chip in half. Anything that damages the chip directly will be very cost prohibitive to recover.
    – Nelson
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 3:56

You should use a way adapted to the risk:

  • if the USB device has never contained sensitive information simply remove all files from it and throw it away
  • if it contains or may have contained low to medium sensitive informations, use a wiping software to erase it more securely and throw it away
  • if it may have contained confidential information, you should make it physically unreadable by breaking the device. Many of them would not resist under a chair leg once you have sitten down on it. But if you work in an office that commonly process confidential information (law firm, research lab, etc.) you should buy a strong press or anything else like that to easily destroy those devices, like you should already have something to destroy printed documents.

To evaluate the sensibility level of information, just wonder how it could cost if the information was made public (bank account credentials) or how could an attacker be ready to pay to have it (report on a security problem still not fixed)...


Hire a professional company to destroy it. One advantage of this is that it transfers the responsibility: if data is leaked your company has done everything possible and it is now someone elses fault. Another advantage is that you won't have to work with powertools in an office environment.


Water will not work, water only damages electrical equipment when powered on. The reason water damages electrical equipment is that it produces circuits where they should not be and provides a voltage too high for the components therefore damaging them. If you put it in a glass of water and then dry it out, nothing will have happened to damage it.

  • Exactly. It's not the water that kills electronic devices. Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 15:21

Water probably won't work.

If you really want to physically destroy the thing with basic office equipment, two solutions spring to my mind:

  1. Scissors: If it has a cheap casing, you could be able to just cut the chip in two
  2. Your chair: Put the thing under the wheels of your office chair and sit on it for a while.

Flush the remainders down the toilet. Preferably in multiple steps.


You could do a securewipe (min. of 3 passes) and the write 1s & 0s over it. Then take a hammer to it. :)

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