How to Destroy a Hard Drive

Worldwide, as much as 50 million tons of old electronics are discarded annually

The dangers of discarded, old computers stem from what’s inside them. Your typical piece of electronic equipment — especially one like a PC with many circuit boards — may contain up to 8 pounds of lead, along with lower levels of mercury, arsenic, cadmium, beryllium and other toxic chemicals


Recycling older computers and computers accessories at Island Return It is an easy way to ensure that your older pcs aren’t sitting in a landfill contributing additional toxins into the environment. As you may imagine, landfills are a particularly harsh hotbed for pollutants and almost one in six (Canadian) households puts its unwanted electronic equipment in the garbage, and 35% of households say they do not know what to do with it. [Source: Stats Canada]

What Our Customers Say

The biggest concern that we hear from our customers is about privacy and security. How can you ensure that any personal information you may have stored on your hard drive remains private?

First up, let me take this opportunity to assure you that no electronic e-waste is ever stored outside, unprotected. We are required to keep all electronics stored securely indoors under lock and key so that no one can access your old computer.

Next let’s go over a couple of simple, easy ways to destroy your own hard drive so that it will be rendered unreadable:

Wipe It

Check out this post from PCWorld detailing step by step instructions to wiping a hard drive.

Wiping a hard drive is a simple solution, although if you are really concerned with keeping your private data private we recommend wiping the drive and physically destroying it too, as someone with really sophisticated equipment might still be able to gain access.

Hammer Time

Once you have your hard drive liberated from the tower of your PC, you can work out a few frustrations with the help of some household tools.

Using a regular hammer, tap the top of the drive a few times, the goal is not to create a mess, just to render the equipment useless. Please wear safety goggles when you do this.


The Thrill of the Drill

An alternative to the hammer is the drill, just as much fun and just as effective. (Also, this might be a good time to point out that power tools such as drills are free to recycle at Island Return It)

Take a drill (you’re going to need a pretty strong bit) and put holes in the hard disk platter. You’ll want to drill several holes in a wide variety of spots in order to guarantee that the data cannot be recovered. Beyond that, have fun with it and make art. They can make great Christmas tree decorations. Also, please remember to wear safety goggles while drilling holes in hard drives.

Death by Drowning

There are some people who say that submerging the hard drive in water is enough, but after some research, we haven’t found much in the way of supportive literature. Some forum users say that in order for this to work you would need to add some aggressive cleaning products to the water while others have pointed out that a truly gifted hacker would probably still be able to pull up some info from a water logged drive.

Don’t Dread the Shred(der)

In Victoria, on Vancouver Island you can go to Asset Investment Recovery and for a small fee they will shred your old hard drive and turn it into a completely unrecognizable pile of bits and pieces. This might be the way to go for those of you who want professional help.

In the end, the choice is yours and probably depends mostly on the tools you have available and how appealing each option is to you. As a final parting word to the wise, we would like to remind you to back your files up before attempting any of these destructive methods.

** Update: If you are destroying the hard drive of a laptop and you haven’t first removed the hard drive, please be very careful that you don’t puncture the screen. It is full of toxins that may be harmful to your health.

**Disclaimer. At Island Return It we strive to make the information on this website as timely and accurate as possible. However, Island Return It makes no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the contents of this site, and expressly disclaims liability for any injuries.