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The data on my USB thumb drive is no longer accessible using a usual consumer computer (cf. https://superuser.com/questions/1687720).

I wish to make sure that someone cannot extract data from it without having to take extraordinary measures (e.g. spending €million).

How to damage the drive's data beyond (easy) recovery while maintaining the way the drive looks i.e., not damage the hull or otherwise destroy it physically on the macroscopic level. That is, no hammers, no nails, and no drills.

Some reports on the web said that microwaving for 5 minutes didn't help and neither did simple immersion into water. How about boiling water? Perhaps, in a pressurized cooker? Or the freezer? I don't have 9V batteries at my disposal.

Any further ideas using typical household or office items?

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    I would apply a high voltage on the data pins of the USB drive. That would fry the inner components, leaving the case intact. I would do so by discharging a capacitor on pin 2 and 3 (D- and D+).
    – A. Hersean
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 12:37
  • @A.Hersean Thanks. Unfortunately, I don't have a standalone (i.e., unsoldered) capacitor at home or in my office.
    – user270138
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 18:04
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    @A.Hersean that could easily fry the controller but leave the flash contents intact.
    – dandavis
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 18:52
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    @dandavis Yes. I hesitated to write it. However, once the controller is fried, the flash data is inaccessible without changing the controller, which will not happen because it is far more costly than throwing away the drive and replacing it with a new one. And that's supposing someone takes the time to open the drive to find the fault. The threat here is a consumer service, not a skilled targeted attack that is after the data.
    – A. Hersean
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 9:16
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    I must point out that this might appear to be a form of fraud, because of the fact that you wish to return it for money and void the warranty without making it look like you voided the warranty. Securely delete the data. But returning goods for refund that you damaged yourself is problematic. That element of the question has been removed.
    – schroeder
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 9:38

2 Answers 2

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If the value of you data exceeds the price you paid for the USB drive, destroy the drive and lose the money. There's no guaranteed way to destroy the data on the drive without physically destroying the drive in the process.

If the value of the data is negligible, return it as is. Chances are the seller will not try to recover the data, and even if he recovers something, its value is close to zero.

Damaging the drive before returning will void the warranty, you forfeit the right of a refund, your actions will be seem as fraud, and you may end up facing legal issues because of a cheap USB drive.

Even if you think "a 256GB drive isn't cheap", a lawyer is guaranteed to be more expensive.

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    Sorry, I removed all the "return for warranty" parts of the question just as you were answering
    – schroeder
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 9:44
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If you wanted to keep the drive mostly intact to keep it displayed, you should carefully open the case and remove the contents, which you can then dispose of securely through incineration. Members of the military intelligence community would suggest using thermite for this purpose, as it is very thorough, and when done safely, many people report that it is a fascinating process to watch.

Grinding the contents to a powder should also prove effective, though it may involve a more labor intensive process and is not nearly as fun.

If you want to keep the drive in "mint collector's condition," where someone inspecting the drive would not notice any tampering, then you will need to be able to write to the device normally. You would need to repeatedly write random data to the drive for several cycles.

If you can not write to the drive, then you can not ensure the data that is already contained on the drive would be impossible to recover while maintaining the drive in mint collector's condition.

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