How to Degauss a Hard Drive

Hard drives have a limited lifespan. Eventually we all find ourselves needing to replace our hard drives; usually this is because we’re upgrading our computer systems, but sometimes hard drives simply wear out and need replacing. When this time comes, you’ll want to make sure your drives are completely clean of any sensitive data. There are many ways to go about this, from simply deleting the data to destroying the drive entirely. But the best method by far is to degauss your old drives, using something like the Garner HD-2XTE degausser.

What is degaussing?

Many people think of degaussing as a process performed on old CRT screens to clear them of static. Indeed, that technology is what we’re talking about – but these days, it’s used for much more than televisions. Hard drives store data magnetically, so it makes sense that you can use a magnetic force to remove that data. That’s what degaussing a hard drive is all about. When you insert a hard drive into a piece of equipment called a degausser, the machine fires an electromagnetic discharge through the drive, wiping all magnetic data from the disk platters and rendering the drive totally inoperable.

Why degauss?

Degaussing is a quick and simple process that ensures 100% of data is removed from a hard drive. Shredding, crushing or smashing with a hammer only breaks the drive into smaller pieces, without erasing it. It’s possible that someone could recover those pieces and pull data from them with forensic technology. Of course, if the drive has been degaussed, data recovery is impossible.

Since degaussing doesn’t damage the physical drive, you can also send your erased drives to be recycled or sold for scrap value. Shredding and other destructive methods create plenty of nasty waste materials.

Degauss, destroy, verify

Degaussers are the best way to erase magnetic hard drives, but perhaps you also need physical proof that your drives have been destroyed. Since degaussing doesn’t provide this, you may want to then physically destroy your drives, using something like the Garner PD-5E drive crusher. This machine bends hard drives in half, ensuring that they’ll never work again while not generating any messy waste.

Something else you may want (or need) is a way to prove that the destruction process has been carried out, for auditing purposes or GDPR compliance.