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How Do I Erase Data on a Dead Hard Drive?

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February 5, 2010 9:57:00 PM

Well, my parent's hard drive finally took a dump, and although I always told them, don't save any credit card or passwords, etc, on a hard drive, in case if fails they did. And some other data we'd rather not get out, into a criminals, or normal persons hands (No, not pr0n). But in all seriousness...

I hit up Seagate and we have a 5 year "limited" warranty, and our drive IS covered by the warranty.

HOWEVER, I do know how to format, and tri-format and whatnot, but this drive has imploded... It won't get recognized, at ALL!

Through BIOS, through an enclosure, through a SATA -> IDE -> USB and everything else.

When I try booting off of it, or WITH it, the BIOS will not go through, so it doesn't past P.O.S.T.....

Before we send it in to get a new hard drive warrantied, I want to get this stuff off the disc, and deem it even more useless, because who knows what Seagate can pull out of their.... mouth.... and to find the credit card, password, and such information.

Any advice?

I've heard passing a magnet over would work (well, it's a myth), but I've also read that it doesn't do anything at all...

BTW: I'd like to keep the hard drive in one piece, without voiding the warranty, and also, it's a SATA drive.
February 5, 2010 10:13:56 PM

Can't, it's unrecognizable...
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a b G Storage
February 5, 2010 10:19:38 PM

Well, aside from my personal feelings that you don't have to worry when sending it back to a reputable manufacturer like Seagate (but hey, I understand where you're coming from, you never know who's hands it may end up in), I looked around a bit online.

It sounds like you want to destroy it, but not in a physical manner that's obvious to Seagate which may void your warranty. Here's some info I found - probably the least obvious would be the magnet route, followed by the electric shock. Although, I don't know how well, of it they even test a bad drive once it's received. So, you may be putting yourself out of a new hard drive by doing any of these, so therefore I wouldn't recommend it :p 

Magnets - A powerful magnet will destroy a hard drive in a second by either jumbling the magnetic information on the platters of the hard drive or bending back the read write heads, permanently disabling them. Many companies that work with sensitive data equipment will use powerful electomagnets to streamline the secure destruction of hard drives. At home, you can make a drive fail with the magnet from the back of a speaker simply by applying it to the front of a hard drive. Smaller magnets may gradually cause failure, which is why even refrigerator magnets are banned from the cubicles of some companies.

Physical Shock
- Hitting a hard drive with extreme force will, of course, break it, but in particular a direct hit to the center of the spindle of a drive should cause a lock up that's even worse than a head crash in some ways. Since the heads of a hard drive are extremely sensitive, hard hits to other areas of the hard drive will send them flying off track or into the platters of the drive, ruining the data. This is why you need to be careful when handling drives; yes, a big hit is bad, but a bunch of smaller hits aren't too much better.

Electric Shock - Applying electricity to the sensitive chips on the electronics board of a hard drive can make it completely unreadable. The PCB interfaces with your computer, and it's usually home to some very unique components of the hard drive that are written at the factory when the hard drive is made. These components, called adaptives, are different from drive to drive, often within the same model, and without them the drive can't operate. By damaging these areas of a circuit board, a drive will become inaccessible. This is why you should always ground yourself and protect yourself from static shock when handling a hard drive, as otherwise, static damage may inadvertently destroy parts of the sensitive PCB board.


Credit: Associated Content, 3 Ways to Ruin a Hard Drive
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February 5, 2010 10:20:23 PM

My advice is to take a loss on the drive, don't send it in.
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February 5, 2010 10:28:19 PM

Also thinking about just taking the loss, but would be even cooler if we could get a warranty.

As far as the magnet trick, what if I were to put a bunch of smaller, strong magnets on the top of the hard drive (where the label is), and just leave it sitting there for a while, maybe a week, then sending it in?

Also thinking about rubbing it all over my carpet, just take it for a tour of the house, with the PCB facing down...
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February 5, 2010 10:35:29 PM

Take the Drive to any Electronics store that sells car audio equipment. Find a 12in woofer and pass the HDD by the back of it. You can always ask to see a woofer out of the box or tell them what you plan to do. I find that asking nicely goes a long way with many people.

Good luck!
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February 5, 2010 10:39:44 PM

Hmm, never thought of that, my brother left a nice set of Logitech Speakers (Z-5500) I believe, and I own the Z-640...

Where would I pass the hard drive on the woofer?
The Z5500 has a giant sub, and my z640 is fairly small.
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a c 415 G Storage
February 5, 2010 10:48:51 PM

steve9207 said:
A powerful magnet will destroy a hard drive in a second by either jumbling the magnetic information on the platters of the hard drive or bending back the read write heads, permanently disabling them.
There are magnets that do this, but not in your typical home. No, not even from speakers.

All hard drives already have a very strong magnet INSIDE them which drives the voice coil actuator that moves the heads. Surprise - that magnet has no effect on the data. Neither will standard magnets that are applied to the casing of the drive.

The only reliable way to erase the data on a hard drive using magnetism is to either use an extremely powerful degausser or to physically open the drive and apply a magnet DIRECTLY to the surface of the platters. Of course, as soon as you open up the drive you've pretty much destroyed it anyway because once airborne dust enters the mechanism it's pretty much guaranteed to suffer a head crash.

See: http://pcworld.about.com/magazine/2208p107id116572.htm
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a b G Storage
February 5, 2010 10:52:42 PM

EDITED: After reading sminlal's reply, I guess the subwoofer won't help ;) 

Steve
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February 5, 2010 10:59:45 PM

Sounds like I'll it the carpet, magnet, and if I can do something else treatment.

Basically, I'm gonna tack on as many magnets as I can, strong and weak. Leave it for a week, and every day of the week, move the magnets for a good 3-5 minutes, then once the magnet treatment is done, take it on a grand tour of my house (which is all carpet), PCB facing down, then another week, magnets on the other side, and the PCB facing up, and carpet it again.

Sounds like it'd just be a great big hard drive of fun when they try and recover it...
We'll see I guess..
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February 18, 2013 8:08:01 AM

Shadow703793 said:
Take a shot gun or a .45 to it :lol: 

If you want to use magnets, look in to a huge Neodymium magnet. See: http://unitednuclear.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPat...


One of the stronger magnets out there is the magnetron from a microwave oven. Find an old microwave that was thrown out and grab the very large magnet out of it. That Magnet is why a microwave is heavy on one side.

When I worked in an electronics repair shop we kept a set of screw drivers stuck to one of these and it gave us a good set of magnetized screw drivers for when you didn't want a screw to come off of the end of a screwdriver. :) 

Regards,
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a c 288 G Storage
February 18, 2013 10:47:17 PM

The weight in a traditional microwave oven is due to the transformer, not the magnetron. Inverter microwaves are much lighter, but they still have a magnetron.

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