What do you do with old hard drives that will never be used again but are full of personal data? (Dreamstime/TNS)

Safely dispose of old hard drives with big hammer – or maybe a rifle

I have a box way back in the recesses of my closet that I’ve been meaning to toss, but there are a few things I need to do first.

The box is full of hard drives from my personal computers dating back to the 1990s.

The drives are old and small, and some of them might not even spin up when plugged in, if I still had a computer old enough to use them.

The drives are mainly in the box because I decided it was faster (and easier) to pull the drives from the computer rather than try to wipe them.

I tend to hang on to things way too long.

There is also a part of me that thinks perhaps I’ll go back through those drives some day and stumble across a forgotten directory of photos or movies that I’ll be delighted to discover. I think that ship has sailed.

I’m reasonably sure I’ve saved off all the files I’ll need or want.

So what to do with a shoebox full of old hard drives that will never be used again but are full of personal data?

The logical choice would have been to wipe the drives when I was finished with them, but now that they have served their purpose and are just doorstops full of my data, I think destroying the drive platters is the way to go.

Since we don’t want the drives to fall into the wrong hands, the best choices are to find a drill (or even better, a drill press) and drill a few holes in the drive through the platters to render them unreadable. Remember to wear eye protection.

If you don’t have access to a drill, or you’re not handy with power tools, I recommend finding the biggest hammer in your garage and whacking the drives until the platters are no longer usable.

I’ve talked to some friends who suggest using a framing nailer to pump a few nails into the platters.

Or you could just take them out to the country and shoot them with a rifle for target practice (safely, of course). This is Texas, after all.



Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at jrossman@dallasnews.com.

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