back to article How to destroy 60 hard drives an hour

Disk drives are extraordinarily resilient. I've seen one that had been run over, dropped in a toilet and then thrown out of the window of a seven-storey office block. It looked unusable. Kroll Ontrack managed to recover virtually all the data on it by drying it and taking it apart. picture of hard disk crusher Hard disk …


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  1. Tom

    For $11,500?

    How about thermite? If it can burn through an engine block it would destroy a hard drive.

    It's a lot cheaper, a lot more fun and I'm convinced it would be more effective too :-P

  2. Henry Wertz Gold badge


    Title's inaccurate. I wondered what good a 60/day drill would do -- I could sledge-hammer them faster than that. 60 an HOUR though... that's pretty decent. This would be great for excessive amounts of disk disposal. I wonder if it'll clamp onto the old 5 1/4" drives (yes, we still get those in too.)

  3. James L


    Why not just remove the platters and take a blowtorch to them? Might take a few minutes longer per drive but a hell of a lot cheaper...

  4. Scott

    eleven and a half grand?!?!?!?!?!?

    When a hammerdrill + a bench vice = ~$100-150 (if that)

    OK - might take slightly longer than a minute per drive, but at that price you could buy two, and hire two monkeys.... err.. I mean students to do it.

    Not Paris, 'cos I wouldn't want to drill her, even for $11,500

  5. Anonymous John
    Paris Hilton

    How much?

    Paris because she wouldn't pay $11,500 for an electric drill ether.

  6. Ian Emery Silver badge
    Paris Hilton


    Surely you could do the same, albeit a little slower; using a standard pedestal drill??

    Or even a hand drill in one of those DIY stands?? Geez 11K5 !! FFS!!

    Paris cos this is her kind of (pocket money when she was eight) mulah.

  7. Herby Silver badge

    What will customs think though?

    Have one of these (drilled) and then attempt to walk past a customs official. He will ask for the password. Then what?

    Them: What is the password?

    Me: The drive is unreadable!

    Them: I need the password!

    (never mind!).

  8. Chris Willhoite

    Spendy drill press

    $11k for a drill press? Get a Craftsman from Sears for less then $200.

  9. Simon Ward
    Thumb Down

    Meh ...

    14lb club hammer, a cold chisel and a steady-handed, fearless co-worker - everything you need to render a hard disk unreadable, and a lot less than $11.5k

  10. Tim Bergel
    Thumb Up

    Cutting torch ...

    ... would take 15 seconds and be suitably dramatic. What more can I say.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh, yeah


    Oh, yeah... She's a bad girl...


    I actually thought the current method in militry favour was to take the patters out and shred them, that'd do the trick.

  12. Random Coolzip

    Just ripples?

    I dunno, if I was a first- or second-world country and I came across one of these "drilled drives" in an embassy dumpster, and I suspected that it had something tasty on it (the drive, not the dumpster), I'll bet I could find some means of navigating the surface. Atomic force microscope? How effective would it be to run a drill bit backwards through the spindle hole? Would that flatten the ripples enough to enable some faster method of scanning the surface? Maybe...

    IIRC, US DOD standards for retiring drives that may have contained classified information require the drive to be disassembled and the oxide removed with a belt sander or grinder. I don't think this new machine is more effective.

    I like the thermite, though -- even if the entire disk didn't get melted into slag, I imagine the heat would effectively randomize any remaining media. Much quicker than a belt sander, too!

  13. Paul

    24lb sledge

    I've seen the BFH method used on a laptop drive.

    Judging by the number of teeny-tiny little pieces of glass platter this yielded, I'd say it was quite effective. Therapeutic, too. :)

  14. Calyth

    Cheaper solution

    Invest in a set of Torx, and open the drive up.

    If it's a multiplatter, I've heard from HD recovery people that the platters are aligned using information on the platters itself. If you twist them apart, then the alignment is screwed up, and basically no information can be read.

    If it's single platter, just take the platter out, scratch it up, and use it as a coaster.

    $11k saved.

  15. Bill Cumming

    How about...

    One of those ink re-filler Syringes a bottle of your fave fizzy drink (Irn-Bru for me)

    Fill the syringe and pierce the "air hole" and fill the insides with the drink. wait a few hours or so and drain. The Fizzy drink has eaten some of the surface of the platters, and the sticky gunk makes the drive motors useless.

    Heck see what those drinks can do to your teeth! :-\ :-/

    But Thermite or Pick-Axe are better stress busting way's to go.....

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Microwave them

    I know someone who put his external HDD into a microwave (for a Dare - don't ask) and even though it was on for only 1 second, it was completely useless after.

  17. Richard Neill

    IBM Deskstars

    The IBM Deskstars had one big advantage here: they used a glass platter rather than a steel one. So data destruction was pretty easy - strike once, hard with a hammer.

  18. Peter Simpson
    Thumb Up

    Just put 'em all in a cardboard box...

    ...and chuck it into the river on the way home.

  19. Peter Gold badge

    You obviously never *tried* drilling..

    I have drilled a drive once (for destruction reasons), but those platters are fscking hard, maybe you need a masonry drill - but that doesn' cut through the case.

    Harddisks are amazingly tough things to destroy. For simple end user block, all you need to do it to spin it up and then drop (i.e. its head is unparked so you create a head crash), but that is easy for a recovery company - you need real physical damage to the platters before you can be sure it'll be hard work.

    As for sledgehammer use - that doesn't guarantee unreadable platters but it's quite fun in a destructive sort of way. And you sure as hell won't do 60 an hour :-).

  20. Neil Greatorex

    I have the perfect tool for the job....

    It's called Jamie (nearly 8) who, armed with a selection of my screwdrivers, can reduce a drive to it's component parts in less than 15 minutes.

    Once the platters have been in his sand-pit for half a day, I defy anyone to recover significant data :-)

    He's got to be worth 20 squids a drive, any takers?

  21. Jonathan Adams

    These guys never heard of 'Boot and Nuke'

    Yeah, its not a physical destroy, but this guy knows his stuff.

  22. Andy

    Bah, get a shredder!

    If you have loads of drives to destroy then a shredder would be loads quicker and leave the platters in teeny little bits.

    Plus a shredder could be used to destroy other useless IT bits.

    And, shredders are fun:

    Pissed off with that cranky office copier? These people can bring you joy!

  23. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Dunno what the fuss is about

    All I do is take them apart and BEND the platters. I think you'd have a hard time getting any data off them.

  24. sauerkraut
    Gates Horns

    how about the supervillain method

    a good old barrel smoking nitric acit in a darkened basement room ]:)

    how will anybody recover data from a hd that no longer is?

    and i could think of lots of stuff more to dispose of this way...

  25. Jim Beam

    Bet my system works just as good

    Got an old outhouse on my families property. I just throw them down there for the winter.

    If they can get the data off after that, well, then they're welcome to it.

  26. Dom

    Shred 'em.

    That's what this lot do:

  27. Steven Guenther

    Pick axe and K2 paint remover

    Hire Large computer illiterate.

    Punch a couple holes with a pick axe.

    Fill holes with K2 paint remover or other industrial solvent.

    It will disolve the top layer of the platters.

    The other option is the 100ton hydraulic press.

    Put disk in sideways and crush, turn 90 degrees and crush to cube.

  28. Paul

    fastest way with a microsoft product

    just install Vista, especially Home Server, that'll render the contents of the drive useless pretty quickly!

  29. Will


    $1.50 and put them in a secure mail parcel courtesy of the Royal Mail. They will be gone for good.

    Even better, pack 100 drives in a suit case and head off to T5.


  30. Steve Mann


    Not sure why a *hammer* drill is needed, since they require special bits intended for pounding apart masonry which do a worse job of going through metal than a regular drill fitted with a twist bit optimised for the task. Still, whatever floats your boat.

    Wouldn't sticking them in a demagnetiser, then switching the thing off while the disk was still inside work? There are all sorts of warnings about not doing this in the instructions for a demagnetiser. Something about allowing the hysteresis curve to collapse gracefully.

    I wish I'd paid attention to Mr Miller's O level physics class now.

    Alien because the hard sums involved might as well come from Arcturus for all I understand them.

  31. Cameron Colley

    Another vote for Thermit here.

    I was under the impression thatThermit was the canonical method for the destruction of magnetic media.

    Saying that though, I think the microwave idea is inspired and, since you could fit a fair few drives in an industrial microwave it ought to work.

    My own idea (that just popped into my head) is to use induction-loop heating to melt them -- this should produce a similar result to Thermit, but without the need for combustion, I think the magnetic field might have some effect too.

    For the money they charge the method is simply not good enough.

  32. daniel Bronze badge

    When I worked for Alcatel...

    a new wafer fab was being built. One of the unix sysadmins walked out with a box full of dead drives, placed them side on and asked the road making team to run the road roller over them.

    The mashed parts were shovelled up and mixed further on in the access road's concrete bed.

    Eye protection due to flying plastic ;-)

  33. Tom


    throw them in a volcano! Jobs a good'un and if some EU red tape wants to get you in trouble for incorrectly disposing of electrical goods, lets see them get some proof.

  34. Neil Greatorex

    Nearly forgot......

    Will it blend?


  35. Danny Silver badge

    DIY Blast Furnace

    Calyth is right to open the case but his HD recovery friend was wrong about twisting the platters. I can think of one easy way to make sure a disk data is destroyed, and that is to build a blast furnace and melt it down.

  36. Sampler

    No one has an old furnace these days?

    That would render the data unrecoverable, just chuck it in with the rest of the old rubbish, like the ex-wifes corpse...

  37. Stewart Rice

    Some very effective methods...

    Thermite has been suggested, but no-one seems to have thought of stacking drives and piling thermite on top. Depending on what the specific drives are made of, you could get through the whole lot in one run. Perhaps about 2 mins for 20 HDDs (pessimisstically).

    Another possibility is to invest in a bolt driver or rivet gun. And for added extra carnage, power up the drive before-hand. A high-powered rivet smashing through spinning platters would be fun, spectaular and very, very effective.

  38. Brian

    Target Practice

    Bullets are cheaper than 11k. And if you line them up and use big enough caliber, I bet you can do a LOT more than 60 in an hour.

  39. Chris Daley

    Sod it just use a sledge hammer or a pick axe

    If we ever replace a drive for a client we ask if they want it destroyed if so i usually go grab the pick axe or sledge hammer can't quite do 60 an hour but still cheap method of destroying drives!

  40. Nexox Enigma

    HDDs are durable...

    Most people here seem to underestimate the durability of the average harddrive. It is easy to make sure that a drive isn't readable in a computer - just snap off a few of the surface mount components near the power jack. If you want to make sure that someone with some actual money to spend doesn't read them, you have to beat them up pretty hard.

    I've heard that platters are pretty heat and chemical resistant, plus I doubt a microwave would even be able to penetrate the case (probably just damaged the external circutry in the above example.)

    I don't know how these ripples work in the presented device, but I imagine that they wouldn't make recovery completely impossible. I do like the thermite ideas, or any other heat enough to actually melt the platters (could be difficult, those are made from some serious materials.) Nobody has suggested shaped charges though - just bend the drive into a doughnut, then melt it, within a fraction of a second. You could probably nail a few at a time too.

    And explosives are far more fun than drills or hammers : -)

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    two step

    Company I worked for had two step method. Step one drill press, step two metal chipper..

    After I left the replaced the drill with a machine that saws them in half then puts them in the shredder then a gas furnace. We were certified as a gov approved data destruction center.

  42. Lukin Brewer

    I dismantle, you smash, it crushes

    Do a search on YouTube for "hard disk crusher" and you can see the beast in action. While it makes a noise very much like a drill, and the conical ram does punch through rather than bend the casing, it is a crusher, not a drill. The ram does not rotate.

    Then go and have a look all the related crushing and shredding videos! Whee! Fun!

    The EDR site has a not so fun, FUD-filled flash presentation, explaining why theirs is the only solution. (Apparently degaussing a modern drive can fry the heads, but leave the data on the platters still readable(!). And those nasty hard drives might jam your heavy duty industrial shredder. Oooh!)

    I think the main reason why a company would use one of these instead of more rough and ready methods is good old Health and Safety. *You* know that you can wield a hammer or pickaxe against a hard drive without causing self-injury, but H&S policy says you're not trusted to do this.

    Going back to YouTube, did anyone consider the possibilities of the bench vice? It can crush a laptop drive sideways on, so a desktop drive held crosswise between the jaws could probably be crushed enough to buckle the platters.

  43. Graham Lockley

    Oh boy, what fun

    Reading all the comments above has just got me itching to get hold of a stack of old drives and put some of these ideas to the test :)

  44. Tom Silver badge


    "I have drilled a drive once (for destruction reasons), but those platters are fscking hard, maybe you need a masonry drill "

    No a good quality metal speed bit is all you need. Takes me maybe 10 seconds to drill right through a drive with a 3/8" bit on my drill press.

    Tried powering one up that I didn't drill through the board too. Boy did it sake!

  45. Donald Atkinson

    A thermal lance would be faster & cheaper

    Nothing like a 4000°C flame to make short work of a hard drive. You could line up a hundred drives and just burn right through the entire stack in no time. You can slice right through the heaviest gauge steel beams with one of them, a hard drive would not stand a chance.

  46. Anonymous Coward

    How about a log splitter?

    Just put the drives in a hydraulic ram or log splitter and smash them lengthwise. Can get a decent one for a few hundred $. That ought to do it. For the really paranoid, drop the remains in a bucket of a fairly strong acid or base--like drain cleaner. Or spray the platters with oven cleaner---that would tend to do the trick too.

  47. storng.bare.durid

    I vote for the thermite

    More impressive display as well.

  48. Eric Pinkerton

    Health and Safety

    What you are paying for here, is not just a safe method of disposing of hard drives, but the peace of mind that you are not going to be sued by an employee who has just been mutilated beyond recognition by thermite, high caliber bullet ricochets or fizzy pop injections.

    Whats the real 'cost of ownership' of your scrap heap challenge hard drive death machines?

  49. Matthew

    Ive always found...

    A Decent hammer blow to be enough to render the average HDD useless :) Im sure i could crush 60/hour easily too.. plus you won't need to go to the gym after work :)

  50. Danny Silver badge

    Platters are aluminium

    The toughest platters are only coated aluminium, and will melt at 660 celsius. Even a software engineer can melt it -


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