How to Destroy a Hard Drive
Destroying a hard drive can be accomplished with home remedies, i.e., shooting it with a gun, drilling a hole in it or throwing it in a fire pit. More commercial methods of destruction of a hard drive include shredding and crushing. Government and NSA sanctioned methods for destroying a hard drive are disintegration, pulverization, incineration, and shredding. Because of the permanency of these destruction methods, they are utilized when the media is at the end of its life cycle.
Although all of these hard drive destruction methods physically alter the casing of the hard drive, unfortunately they do little to purge the media of the confidential data contained on the hard drive itself. Physically destroying the media does not remove the confidential data from the hard drive disk platters. Because of this, certain government mandates and the NSA require that hard drives must first be purged or degaussed before the media is released for physical destruction.
Degaussing is the process of exposing the medial to a strong magnetic field to completely eliminate all data from working and non-working hard drives and tape. Degaussing is magnetic destruction of a hard drive. Degaussing, however, does not alter the physical appearance of the hard drive.
In almost all situations, commercial and government hard drive physical destruction methods require utilizing a third-party vendor to transport the media from its secure location to the site of the physical destruction equipment. Removing the media from its secure location before being purged of the confidential data and handing the media over to an outside vendor creates a significant risk of a data breach. For this reason, the NSA requires the media to first be degaussed before being handed over to a third party vendor.