Data Destruction & Disposal Methods | CompTIA A+ 220-1002 | 2.9

In this video you will learn about data destruction & disposal such as:  physical destruction & recycling or repurposing best practices.

Physical Destruction

Physical destruction is the process of rendering a device completely unusable & unrecoverable. Physical destruction can involve shredding hard drives, smartphones, printers, laptops and other storage media into tiny pieces by large mechanical shredders. Methods to physically destroy mass storage devices include the following:

  • Shredders: Hard drive shredding is one of the most effective ways to destroy a hard drive. It involves running the drive through a heavy duty shredder made for destroying hard drives which cuts the drive into tiny bits. Since hard drives store data on a platter, cutting it into smaller pieces renders the drive and any data on it useless.
  • Drill/Hammer:  Putting holes in a hard drive destroys its platter and ensures that nobody can use the data on it. It is also one of the best ways to go about the hard drive destruction process because there is no need for the use of any complex machines.
  • Electromagnetic (Degaussing):  This involves using a powerful device known as an electromagnetic degausser (or permanent magnet degausser) which is used to scramble the hard drive platter so that it cannot be read by anyone. Although the drive is still physically intact, all of the data and the control track data are missing. This method is preferred if you want to keep a hard drive simply for display purposes.
  • Incineration:  Melting or burning hard drives involves dipping them into acid to destroy their platters & housing. This is one of the most effective ways to destroy a hard drive, but it is also one of the most dangerous due to the process involving the use of hydrochloric and nitric acids which are very dangerous to the environment and human skin.

If you choose to send your hard drives off to a recycling company to handle data destruction, ensure you get a Certificate of Destruction (COD). A Certificate of Destruction is an important document that includes all the pertinent details regarding your shredding service. Following every paper shredding or media destruction service, you will receive a COD confirming that your material has been securely destroyed. Beyond simply providing a peace of mind, the COD is proof that the information stored on the media is no longer at risk and that your business is compliant with relevant privacy laws.

Recycling or Repurposing Best Practices

Other methods for making data unrecoverable on mass storage devices include the following:

  • Low-level format vs. standard format:  A standard format (quick format) is the process of preparing a data storage device such as a HDD, SSD, floppy disk or USB flash drive for initial use. This type of format clears only the root folder while the remainder of the data on the disk can be recovered until it is overwritten. Long formats rewrite the entire disk surface. Low-level formats are used to initiate a hard drive & prepare it for data by creating the actual sectors and tracks on the drive, as well as the control structures needed to read & write data on the drive. Low-level formats are performed by drive manufacturers before the drives are shipped out.
  • Overwrite:  Data erasure is a software-based method of overwriting the data that aims to completely destroy all electronic data residing on a hard disk drive or other digital media by using zeros and ones to overwrite data onto all sectors of the device. By overwriting the data on the storage device, the data is rendered unrecoverable and achieves data sanitization.
  • Drive wipe:  To be sure that data on a storage device is unrecoverable, the drive must be overwritten with a program the can meet or exceed industry data destruction standards, such as the US Department of Defense which requires storage devices to be wiped a minimum of 7 times. These disk wiping programs destroy all data and partition information to make the data unrecoverable by way of data recovery programs or forensic analysis. If you plan on giving your storage device away for whatever reason, drive wiping is the preferred method for ensuring that all data has been thoroughly scrubbed from the device.