Kind of a silly question, but I'm genuinely curious: (in part because I recently saw several questions that refer to "nuking" a hard drive...) what would a microwave DO to an HDD? Would it erase data on there, or at least corrupt it enough that it's difficult to recover?

  • 1
    The term "Nuke" comes from the wiping software "Darik's Boot And Nuke"
    – user10008
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 16:56
  • @user10008 Ah, I've seen this on Hiren's Boot CD, but never had the occasion to use it. Nice to know.
    – KnightOfNi
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 18:49

2 Answers 2


In theory, no.

The outer shell is a Faraday Cage, so the radiation from the microwave will not penetrate the shell to do anything to the plates.

But it will render most of the control board unusable. The radiation can damage the controller chips, and arcing can damage the board tracks and passive components. But swapping the control board could make the data accessible again.

  • Darn. Perhaps if casing were damaged, so that a hole was put in the Faraday Cage? By my (limited) understanding of Faraday Cages, this would render it useless, no?
    – KnightOfNi
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 16:44
  • 1
    No, a Faraday Cage works even with a hole. The front grill of your microwave is part of the cage, and has lots of holes allowing you to look inside. If you really want to kill a drive, use a very heavy hammer. Or a furnace.
    – ThoriumBR
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 16:49
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    Sounds like this could potentially harm the microwave more than the HD. Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 17:00
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    Sure, depending on the placement of the HD, the radiation would not be absorbed by anything and could be reflected back to the magnetron and make it "cook" itself.
    – ThoriumBR
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 17:12

Actually, I've tested this. The platters inside are made of aluminium, glass, or a ceramic substrate. They are manufactured through a process called magnetron sputtering which coats the object with the magnetic material which is written to. This material arcs when photons of such frequencies (~2400 MHz) passes by. This results in actually damaging the disk and stripping the disk through "burning" or "arcing" the coated substrate. Thus, the disk would be classified unreadable but no longer usable.

  • 5
    You said you tested this, but your conclusion says "would". If you tested it perhaps you could tell us what actually happened - was the disk or data accessible at all?
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 22:24
  • 2
    You tested with the enclosure opened or closed? How was the test and the results? It would be a nice thing to know the details.
    – ThoriumBR
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 14:03

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