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Six years ago, I got a Seagate Agent Flexgo hard drive, but recently it started showing signs of failure.

I was unable to get it formatted. I thought of opening up the inside to find some way of destroying the information contained within. I managed to crack open the plastic casing. I suggested burning the metal components in a furnace, but my family member told me that it could be illegal.

Has there been any method to cleanly erase a hard drive before being recycled if you cannot properly format it?

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  • Concering usefulness: If you have access to something hot enough to notably damage the metal, go ahead. Concering health and legality ... do you have ways to deal with toxic gases and/or particles in the air, and whatever is left after cooling down (pretty sure that shouldn't go to normal garbage either)? And it might help to ask your relative what (else) could be illegal in his/her opinion. – deviantfan Jun 14 '18 at 5:06
  • For more or less reliable ways without chemical problems, a) some shredder-like thing making powder of your HDD, b) magnetic degaussing. – deviantfan Jun 14 '18 at 5:12
  • Where can I find such a shredder capable of cutting metal to fine bits? Also, what are some good magnet types for degaussing? – HeavenlyHarmony Jun 14 '18 at 5:58
  • @HeavenlyHarmony There are actually services which you can take your drive to which will crush or melt them. You can sometimes even watch it happen on video and get a chain of custody document. – forest Jun 14 '18 at 10:26
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Let us consider two scenarios, one where you'd like to reuse the hard drive and one where you don't.

This link shows multiple ways to effectively destroy a hard disk ( Some of these are fun, do take a video)

The other scenario is when you'd like to reuse the hard drive. Here's the basic explanation of data storage - Any data you store is stored in the form of bits along with meta-data that tell the OS what the data type is. Also there will be a directory which will tell exactly where on the hard disk is the particular data saved. When you delete something, the directory is rewritten to the recycle bin. The data isn't altered. This data can be easily recovered. When you permanently delete something the data still isn't changed, instead the OS is ready to overwrite the data. If the deleted data was not overwritten, it can still be recovered. Even most quick formattings do the same, They just 'free up space' by erasing directories. To keep your data non recoverable, multiple programs exists. What these do is, they overwrite the data over the entire disk randomly a few times. These make it near impossible to recover data. Although a good way is to reuse the disk yourself and fill it up with games & movies a couple of times over the course of 2-3 months and repeat twice. You should be good to go. A final approach is to reinstall an OS on it, this usually clears up the disk properly. A couple of installs and you should be good to go.

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    -1 because a good number of those methods on WikiHow are either ineffective, wildly dangerous, or downright silly (not because they are overkill, but because they will not work). A DEF CON video on hard drive destruction showed exactly how useless some of those techniques are. – forest Jun 14 '18 at 7:59
  • These all sound okay, I guess, but if you can tell me how to get my hard drive working again..I cannot connect the hard drive to the computer again. – HeavenlyHarmony Jun 14 '18 at 9:44
  • Speak for yourself @forest the person asking has got the case open and if he is has destroyed the inner 'disks' I really doubt anyone can get the data back mate. You think post the destruction of inner disks you get data back, you are god to me. – Shubhanshu Dixit Jun 15 '18 at 11:55
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Here's what I do:

  1. Open the casing, until I see the blank platters
  2. Scratch heavily on the platters
  3. Bend/remove the head support
  4. Throw it against concrete floor some times
  5. Bring it to the local electronics recycling

This will prevent most recovery activities. If someone is determined enough to get to that data, they will surely use other ways

Just consider - how much would it cost to you to recover such a drive?

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  • Did you consider a) how much someone could gain with certain data? We have no way to guess the value of this "sensitive data" that is talked about here. And it will be different for different people who search a good destruction solution, of course. b) Other ways, other than getting the data back from the HDD? Why do you think that data is anywhere else? – deviantfan Jun 14 '18 at 21:43
  • @deviantfan a) Actually, I want the OP to consider the value of the data. I strongly believe that physically destroying the disc as described is more than enough for any private individual like the OP (can be safely assumed from given context). b) The information/data has come from somewhere (brain/internet/email) to make it to the disk. An attacker could use social engineering or even extortion. This would be much cheaper than a recovery attempt from a destroyed HDD. – Marcel Jun 15 '18 at 7:35

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