Remember when you were in school and all the urban legends you heard from other kids were about ghosts, killers and spiders? The myths that adults circulate tend to be a lot more mundane. Ever heard the one about how getting magnets near your hard drive will destroy it? This rumor is why some people are terrified to bring even weak refrigerator magnets near their computers.

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What about when you actually want to destroy your old hard drives, to protect your sensitive data from data thieves? Considering the devastating damage a security breach can do to a business, it’s no wonder we perpetuate myths about data destruction. But can magnets destroy hard drives, really? Will tossing old drives in the water get the job done? Read on to find out.

Can Water Destroy Hard Drives?

Anyone who’s ever dropped their phone in a puddle knows that water is an enemy of electronics. So if you’re concerned about maintaining data security and looking to destroy hard drives, dropping them in the sink and dousing them with water could seem like a viable way to render them useless

This method is unlikely to work because of the way hard drives work. Data is magnetically stored on discs called platters, with most hard drives containing multiple platters. The platters spin on a central spindle while electrical components either read data from the platters or write new data on them. Submerging the hard drive in water could damage the electrical parts of the hard drive, but the data will remain on the platters even if they get soaked. When they dry out, that data could still be readable.

Can a Drill Destroy Hard Drives?

Drilling holes through a hard drive is another data destruction method favored by some DIYers. It certainly seems like it would be an effective destruction strategy, if you don’t mind potentially damaging your drill – but again, this method won’t work to permanently destroy all data from the platters. Data stored in areas where you create holes may be destroyed. Data stored on the remaining sections of the platters will remain intact. Your hard drive won’t be able to read the drilled platters, but the data could still be accessed by a savvy and motivated data thief.

Can Overwriting Destroy Hard Drives?

Writing over the data on a drive is another low-tech way to try to protect it from ever being accessed by others. Modern computers make it fairly easy to overwrite your hard drive, but this isn’t necessarily a permanent solution. The underlying data can sometimes be recovered. That’s problematic because people sometimes choose this data destruction method before reselling their old drives. Going this route could mean handing your old data over to a stranger – a risk that’s not worth the few dollars you might get for each resold drive.

So, Can Magnets Destroy Hard Drives?

This one isn’t exactly a myth. Yes, magnets can be used to corrupt data on a hard drive – in theory. Bringing a powerful magnet into contact with the magnetic platters could corrupt them and render the data stored on the platters unusable.

There are two major problems with this approach. The first is finding a strong enough magnet. Magnets that you have around your home or office are very unlikely to be powerful enough to do any damage to the drives. It requires extraordinarily strong magnets to affect the data on a hard drive, especially because the platters are contained within protective covering. Even if you fully disassemble the drive, the magnets that most people have access to won’t be powerful enough to destroy anything.

The second problem is that you can’t know with any confidence that your efforts worked. You could surround the hard drive with powerful magnets, and the drive might no longer seem to work. That doesn’t mean that the data is gone, and unless you have serious data recovery skills yourself, you’ll never know if that drive is truly destroyed.

This is the problem inherent with all DIY data destruction methods. Something you try on your own might render your sensitive data inaccessible… or your data might still be on an old drive when data thieves get their hands on it. It’s impossible to get real peace of mind about your data security unless you know for sure that your data has been destroyed.

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Shredding is the only common method that will completely and irreversibly destroy your hard drive and any sensitive data stored inside it. Northeast Data Destruction can help. We’ll disassemble your old drives, recycle any electronic components and shred the data-storing components into tiny pieces that can’t be restored. We can pick up your old drives to save you the trip to our shredding facility, or arrange for you to witness the shredding process – whatever works best for your data security needs.

Magnets probably won’t destroy your hard drives, so you need a solution that actually works. Contact Northeast Data Destruction today to arrange for the secure shredding of your old hard drives.