Here on the blog, we often talk about the global data security standards from organisations like NIST and the NSA. These guys recommend a simple process for disposing of old hard drives: degauss, and destroy. But you might be thinking, “A degausser seems like a big investment. Surely I can just delete the files from my old drives, then smash them with a hammer? That does pretty much the same job, right?” Well, the answer to that question is…complicated.
There are various options at your disposal for recovering data from a hard drive. If the drive is still in one piece (i.e. you can connect it to a computer and spin it up), forensic recovery software may be able to bring back previously deleted data. This depends on how “heavy duty” the data erasure was in the first place – multiple passes, random bit writing, “military grade” erasure, all that good stuff. At the higher end, data wiping software is all but guaranteed to completely clean a drive. The downside? It can take multiple hours per drive, so it’s often not a practical solution.