Samsung Germany RMA Suggests Drilling or Smashing The SSD With a Hammer

Samsung 980 Pro
Samsung 980 Pro (Image credit: Igor's Lab)

According to a report by Igor's Lab, Samsung has taken data protection to a whole level. In communication with one of its consumers, Samsung suggested the user destroy the Samsung 980 Pro SSD in the name of data security. Furthermore, the RMA process involving this customer included a green light to drill or hammer the drive into pieces.

The story begins with a user on the Igor's Lab forum dealing with an almost dead and very expensive Samsung 980 Pro 2TB, one of the best SSDs on the market. A diagnostic scan from Samsung Magician reveals the drive was dying, with errors appearing everywhere on the NAND flash.

With the drive almost dead, the customer contacted Samsung support to get a replacement as soon as possible and showed Samsung the defective drive data from Samsung Magician. Unfortunately, we don't have all the details on Samsung's communication with the user, as most of it was reportedly sensitive, and some communication was accomplished through phone calls.

Nonetheless, we can easily assume the user had very sensitive data stored on the SSD to make sense of Samsung's next move. Samsung seemingly made an exception (that was made private due to what we previously discussed) and, as a result, gave the user full rights to destroy the drive before sending it off to Samsung to complete the RMA process. The official quotes from Samsung support went so far as to detail how to destroy the drive, suggesting drilling or hammering the drive to pieces.

For obvious reasons, Samsung also states that videos or pictures must be taken off the smashed or drilled drive to ensure it knows what state the drive was left in when it arrived at Samsung's factory.

This case is very different from the traditional RMA process you might go through yourself if you have a defective or dead drive within warranty. Usually, you need to send the drive as is (not smashed) back to the manufacturer, where inspectors will double-check the issues you initially reported in your RMA ticket and then send you a new drive if needed.

It is the first time we've ever heard of an RMA process involving drive smashing or drilling of any kind. But it's great news for users and businesses with dead drives who don't want to send it to the manufacturer, because it has sensitive data. If the data is sensitive enough in Samsung's case, the company will allow drive destruction to preserve the client's data security at all costs. 

However, if your drive isn't broken and you want to wipe it, you can just follow our directions on how to securely erase an SSD or hard drive. The data will be gone and you can then sell your drive or the computer it powers.

Aaron Klotz
Freelance News Writer

Aaron Klotz is a freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware US, covering news topics related to computer hardware such as CPUs, and graphics cards.

  • -Fran-
    I'm glad they're flexible in this regard. Not all Companies will go the extra mile these days (looking at you, Asus) when you explain why you can't use their process and need an alternative.

    Kudos to Samsung's support on this one; totally deserved.

  • kanewolf
    I worked in a secure environment. It was not uncommon to pay vendors extra for "black hole" (retain all failed parts) service agreements. Most vendors that deal with banks, or defense contractors are familiar with situations where parts can't be returned. Some required proof of destruction, some just required the serial number tag or other identifying information.
  • husker
    I guess smashing it up makes sense, since any wiping of drive data may not correctly execute on a drive that was shown to be defective.
  • TJ Hooker
    Given that the drive uses hardware encryption, all it would take is clearing/resetting a single key to securely wipe the whole drive. I guess the drive must have been supremely borked if even that couldn't be done reliably.
    While they could probably salvage some parts at Samsung, it's probably cost related.

    They dont want to spend money for the labrl to have the owner ship it and don't want to pay to dispose of it.
  • Droid126
    I have been asked by Logitech to destroy items they have replaced under warranty.
  • InvalidError
    sycoreaper said:
    While they could probably salvage some parts at Samsung, it's probably cost related.
    If it is anything like the last time I RMA'd a HDD, the vendor diagnostic tool generates a diagnostic code on error to be included in the RMA process and the code probably told Samsung everything it needed to know to conclude the drive wasn't worth fixing.
  • Must have been very sensitive data. I've had hundreds of failed devices over the years. I've always had personal data on drives, but I guess there is a "special" level of private and most consumers don't fall into that category :)

    The most common failures being Corsair hydro coolers. (15 failures over 6 years - I have 10 PCs here).
    But even MSI, ASUS and ASRock Motherboards, G.Skill, Corsair memory. A couple of monitors. Things aren't made for durability these days.

    Corsair is a special case IMHO. I don't own a cell phone and they tell me that not having a cell phone voids my warranty, yet they can't produce documentation that states that is a requirement of the warranty. So I've had to replace two coolers and a PSU that were within warranty but refused RMA because I don't own a cell phone.

    I had one Samsung SATA drive where the sata connector broke. Might have been an issue with space behind the drive. Samsung were very helpful. They could have argued "user mistreatment" but sent me a 1TB drive to replace my 500GB drive. Can't argue with that service.
    InvalidError said:
    If it is anything like the last time I RMA'd a HDD, the vendor diagnostic tool generates a diagnostic code on error to be included in the RMA process and the code probably told Samsung everything it needed to know to conclude the drive wasn't worth fixing.

    That's not what I'm getting at. Usually stores or OEMs want the device back regardless. I think we might start seeing more of this as ewaste becomes a bigger problem.

    Make it the end users issue.

    Though seemingly minimal, Amazon is sort of doing this. Any excess packaging material like the strip to reveal the adhesive, they just throw in your package so you have to dispose of the trash.

    With electronics that have to first be wiped and destroyed it's easier to just put it on us.
  • BondiBlue
    I dealt with an RMA for a broken SanDisk Extreme portable SSD (Extreme 500 240GB, the USB connectors were known to be extremely weak), and SanDisk told me it was fine to drill a hole through the drive before sending it in. I wish I still had the picture of the drive, but I put a hole right through it before boxing it up.

    They replaced it with a 480GB Extreme 510, and that drive is still working perfectly over five and a half years later. The original lasted about two weeks before the connector broke.

    I haven't had to deal with any other SSD replacements since then, so I guess it's not as common of a practice as I had thought. I was definitely far more comfortable with destroying my original drive than I would have been to send it in with my data on it.