How do you delete data from broken hardware?

happygeek 2 Tallied Votes 2K Views Share

According to research from data recovery specialists Kroll Ontrack, some three quarters of those workers that had lost data on a broken device didn't attempt to ensure that information was irretrievable before disposing of the hardware.

dwebdatarip It doesn't matter whether the hardware itself is a PC or laptop, removable drive, tablet or smartphone, the ugly truth remains that most people simply assume that if the device is dead then the data has died along with it. Actually, data lost through software corruption or hardware failure is more often than not recoverable - at least partially. The study revealed that 62% of those workers questioned who had lost data during the last year were able to recover it one way or another. This is good news, of course, and data recovery experts have gained some quite remarkable skills in bringing data back to life from scenarios where you just wouldn't think it plausible that any information would survive. I have witnessed laptops that were victims of serious fire, smartphones crushed under truck wheels and hard drives fried by electrical surges all give up their data, or at least much of it, when interrogated in the right way.

This kind of data recovery doesn't usually come cheap though, and many people assume that if they themselves are unable to resurrect any data then it's OK to simply throw the hardware away. The fact that corporate data can be recovered, as the statistics from this study show, reveals such an assumption to be highly risky. Kroll Ontrack says that only 26% of those employees questioned had made sure that information on 'broken' devices was erased properly and professionally. Most are happy to give it away, sell it on for spares or just throw it in the bin. All in the mistaken belief that the data within has been lost forever.

Robert Winter, chief engineer at Kroll Ontrack, says "even data that’s been deleted is often simple for experts to restore, so employees and businesses should also consider end of life solutions for equipment that is working but no longer required, even if it’s thought to have been wiped.” So, given that the device doesn't work, how do you erase data from broken hardware? Well, by end of life solutions, Winter is talking about either industrial shredders that literally slice and dice your device into pieces too small to be able to get working again or get data from, or more commonly degaussing. Industrial degaussing machines pass very strong magnetic fields across a device, effectively destroying the data that was held upon it whether that hardware is working or not.

rubberman 1,355 Nearly a Posting Virtuoso Featured Poster

The only means to assure that your old data is not recoverable on discarded gear is to remove the hard drives, mount them as an external drive on another computer, and wipe the disc with an appropriate shredder software. Alternatively, if the system still boots and has a bootable usb/cd/dvd port/drive, then you can boot something like Linux from removable media and shred the data using that. Example, booting a live CD with Linux, you would generally do this (at a minimum): dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda
That will write 0 bits to all sectors of the disc. You can also use of=/dev/random which will write random data to all sectors. Actually, doing both is better. Not NSA-level disc erasure, but recovering any data after that is quite likely impossible unless you are the NSA with gazillion$ in specialized hardware, clean-rooms, and software that literally no-one else in the world possesses.

Kentuckienne 0 Newbie Poster

There's an even more fun way to do this. Remove your old hard drive and then open up the case itself. Look inside at the cool platters and tiny arm. Keep taking off screws until you can lift the round disks themselves out. Scratch them up. Even better: notice the two half moon shaped magnets inside? You can take those out and rub them all over the disks. These rare earth magnets are useful for putting stuff on the fridge, but they are brittle. If you pinch your finger between them it could hurt. Children might swallow broken chips and be seriously hurt, and they can erase your credit cards or driver's license, so be careful. If you're the maker type, you will find lots of uses for stuff inside the case. Or, you can just scratch the disk, wipe it with the magent, bend the write arm, then put everything back in the case and put the cover back on. Then drop it off for recycling as usual. The valuable stuff will still be recovered, but your data will not be.

gelmi 1 Newbie Poster

put in on a lava.haha JOKES.

babyelepante commented: this will totally dissolve everything +1
stormal1 0 Junior Poster in Training

It's hammer time.

petterrock 0 Newbie Poster

This is totaly imressive and creative information.....glad here that you shared this knowledge with us.

bamboobakery2 0 Newbie Poster

This is helpful! I think a lot of people would like to know this information! Keep up the great and very informational posts!

sophiaya -3 Light Poster

we need delete data from boroken hard drive? ...............

happygeek 2,411 Most Valuable Poster Team Colleague Featured Poster

Yep, you do if you want to protect yourself against the potential for all sorts of fraudulent activity...

javanoob101 10 Junior Poster

This is a very smart way of ensuring your data is erased, but buying a sledge hammer and smashing the drive / device is faster and looks prettier than pushing a button! =)

But in all seriousness, this can be a very effective way for large companies to ensure no data is left behind on old hardware.


dchrismoore 0 Newbie Poster

A blowtorch is more fun... Just burn it a little and it will be, “toast”.

javanoob101 10 Junior Poster

Yeah your right! Instead of "burning" cd's we'll just "burn" the drive! =)


masonliam11 0 Newbie Poster

These rare earth magnets are useful for putting stuff on the fridge but they are brittle. If you pinch your finger between them it could hurt.

Rakpereldche 0 Newbie Poster

The fact that corporate data can be recovered, as the statistics from this study show, reveals such an assumption to be highly risky.

tigerbright 13 Junior Poster

Hi , but trouble for, for oem VISTA os onwards, is how to retain the recovery / utility partition , as erasing this will reduce resale value as Windows recovery can not be executed without often added cost for prospective new owners (read non-IT industry/enthusiasts) as recovery disks will have to be acquired at oem retail.(free to sometimes $70 depending) or recovery from a tech shop ($$$$)

My thought is to remove the drive and attach to a secure system as 2nd drive or removable and run a mil spec shredder app (used and free space) of system C etc partitions, from host computer Windows
Then reinstall into native computer and recover Windows using the still intact recovery partition.

however if selling a computer used for $$ transactions or sensitive data best to change all pertinent passwords using the new replacement computer, then sell the old computer

ChemE_Programma 0 Newbie Poster

In highschool I was tasked ensureing no hospital data could ever be recovered on their old computers which were replaced. I am not sure how many computers I had to remove the HDD and the smash it with a sledge hammer but I know that there were two trailers full of computers and it took me a few days. Some of the most rewarding things I have ever done for work:D.

It is easy math=======> sledge hammer + HDD = job well done

P.S. It is way cheaper than this thing the OP is talking about

Wil 0' Wisp 2 Newbie Poster

The drive apart and scratch it is good especially if you can do it front of the client/user 15 mins top to do it. One extra trick is to connect he drive up to the power supply with the case opened up and use a small sharp screwdriver and just run the the tip from inside to outside edge, turn the disk over and repeat, the data is dust. Its safer than the sledge hammer, quiet and totally sure though not as much fun! The data overwrite method is good if the device is going to be reused but long winded. Incineration is good if you have a lot of drives.

ronald577 0 Junior Poster in Training

Just keep the disk aside and use it fo the expermenting purpose generally by dismentalling it.

alexstone 0 Newbie Poster
If hardware is broken, it`s not necessary to delete data
dchrismoore commented: That is not correct at all, especially if the data is sensitive to the organization. The data can be retreived as it is still present in the storage. +0
jay.perez.167189 commented: yep..:) +0
CoMpUtErGoD20XX 0 Newbie Poster

If the HD works, even if the rest of the computer is broken you will need to remove the drive and wipe the disk. The simplest program I have found is Darik's Boot And Nuke (free).

If the drive itself is dead discarding is safe in most cases. It is possible to pull data off of a dead drive but it isn't easy and will prevent 99%+ of the population from retreiving anything. You would have to be smart enough to completely disassemble the drive, pull the platters, and reassamble.

dchrismoore commented: Just because the drive is "dead" does not mean that the data can't be recovered. If there is corporate or personal data of a sensitive nature. +0
longhotsummer 0 Newbie Poster

Shredding/Wiping software? Scratch the discs? Use a magnet? Forget it. These are unreliable methods of trying to permanently remove data.

I took my hard drive apart, removed the 2 discs and melted them in my multifuel stove. A month on, I have 2 blobs of metal left in the grate. This is the only method I trust.

happygeek 2,411 Most Valuable Poster Team Colleague Featured Poster

Kind of does depend on what data you are trying to keep from prying eyes, of course, and whose eyes you think may want to be looking. For 99.99999% of people 99.99999% of the time, the shredding software, magnetic or nailing/scratching route is more than adequate.

sebastianedu -2 Light Poster

As I have read your artical , Its good stuff , actually any coorporate is very valuable to any one .So with out check properly data is remove from the storage device ,should not through to the dustbin .

AcmeUK 0 Newbie Poster

Just because a hard disk is not working DO NOT assume that the data cannot be recovered. As an IT user from the dawn of the age I have recovered data from a 'dead' disk by the simple trick of standing it on its side. Hard disks sometimes die due to bearing failure. Changing the disk orientation frequently reseats the bearing long enough to recover data. When we replaced a disk from our corporate systems they were ALWAYS destroyed with a hefty hammer.

sevitsil 0 Newbie Poster

Nice post. Thanks for sharing knowledge of delete data from broken drive and computer.

shdwmage 2 Newbie Poster

My process: remove disk, disassemble disk, power sand platters, shoot for target practice, leave in the middle of a field somewhere full of holes.

samfoster017 0 Newbie Poster
  1. run the software
  2. select the partition you would like to explore
  3. double click on it
  4. check mark folders you want to recover
  5. right click
  6. save marked
  7. indicate the path where you want those files to be saved to
  8. kick back, make some tea, and wait till your files all get transferred
    IMPORTANT! - *make sure it is not going to be saved on to the same drive as you are recovering.
samfoster017 0 Newbie Poster

When a computers dies due to a software failure rather than a hardware problem, its files remain inaccessible but intact on the hard drive. To recover data from the hard drive of a dead Windows, Mac, or Linux notebook, follow one of the methods below.
1 turn Your Old Hard Drive into an External Hard Drive (Windows, Mac, Linux)
2Get a hard drive disk enclosure.
3Borrow a working computer that is compatible with your old one.
4Mac users can insert a Windows hard drive into their computer and be able to read (not write) the contents of their hard drive if they did not install a separate driver, for example NTFS-3G or Paragon NTFS.
Remove the hard drive from the dead laptop.

sophiaya -3 Light Poster

Power Data Recovery

anaesarora 0 Newbie Poster

I put the drive in a microwave oven, set the timer to 10 seconds.Thats all.Easy, Quick, Reliable,Fast.

Be a part of the DaniWeb community

We're a friendly, industry-focused community of developers, IT pros, digital marketers, and technology enthusiasts meeting, networking, learning, and sharing knowledge.