How to dispose of hard drives responsibly and safely
Considering how to dispose of hard drives? Read this article to gain a full understanding of the issues surrounding this problem and to find out the best solution for your company.
Why is the question ‘How to dispose of your hard drives?’ so pertinent?
It sounds like a simple question, but the answer is surprisingly complex. Everyone knows that those old company computers, laptops and desktops cannot simply be left outside for the rubbish truck to take to the dump when they come to the end of their natural lifespan. After all, each computer contains a hard drive with any amount of sensitive data stored on it – passwords, confidential emails, sensitive documents and reports – the list is endless. If you had one personal hard drive to destroy, you might be able to take it into the back yard and follow one of the many methods suggested on YouTube – when you type in how to dispose of hard drives. These include helpful suggestions such as whacking it with a hammer, drilling it with an electric drill, burning it in a fire and even dropping it in the middle of the ocean. Apart from the questionable environmental ethics of these methods and the casual attitude to health and safety, the fact remains that they are completely unrealistic in a business setting.
Hard drives are in a range of electronic products, found in typical work environments, that you may not have considered when planning how to dispose of hard drives, such as:
Desktop computers, Laptops, Tablets, Smartphones, Photocopiers, Smart TVs, DVD players, Servers and Flash Drives.
Regulations affecting the question of how to dispose of hard drives
You can’t simply delete everything and hope for the best. The information could still be retrieved by a criminal who knows what they are doing. This might sound a bit paranoid, but data recovery continues to make rapid advancements, and it is undoubtedly possible to retrieve data from a laptop or desktop hard drive that looks as if it has been irretrievably damaged.
Moreover, GDPR sets out unambiguous guidelines about how corporate data and hardware should be destroyed. Did you know that each hard drive needs to be issued with a certificate stating that it has been responsibly destroyed? (read about our Certified Recycling)
There’s only one answer; you need to use the services of ITAD professionals who can give clear guidance on everything to do with e-waste and recycling.
Let’s look at everything you need to do to destroy your company hard drives safely. A note of caution, the following procedures should only be undertaken by an employee with the appropriate training or a specialised IT asset disposition company, such as Wisetek.
- Ensuring your company has a policy in place to dispose of End of Life IT assets.
One of the first things you need to do is to have a clear and comprehensive policy in place that sets out precisely what needs to happen to your company’s electronic products when they are broken or need to be upgraded. A comprehensive list of written procedures is essential.
You may wish to seek advice from our experts to ensure that everything is included, but as a guide, it should mention:
- Global auditing or tracking of all IT assets to have a detailed and accurate log of devices in use
- Your company’s position regarding on-site or off-site data destruction
- Asset recycling – the repurposing of used IT parts for banks to resell or reuse parts as ‘new’ equivalents
- Full accountability is ensured with a certificate of erasure of data for each hard drive; evidential video file of device destruction for each hard drive; date and time-stamps of the data destruction process; a full chain of custody tracking and reporting of all redundant/obsolete assets from receipt of goods to final disposition
Hard drive disposal – the actual methods
There are various methods of wiping the hard drive of data in such a way that it can never be recovered.
Over-writing the disk
Disk-writing software is utilised to replace the content of the hard drive with characters that are nonsensical or essentially meaningless. Over-writing is sometimes referred to as shredding or wiping the disk. Many ITAD companies, such as Wisetek, do not feel that overwriting is a viable solution. It does not physically remove the data from the hard drive, and the use of the software is problematic in itself as there is always the chance that it could fall into the wrong hands.
Degaussing is the method which is used to reduce or eliminate data contained on magnetic media; primarily hard drive but also tapes, cartridges, disks, and reels Magnetic media are coated with iron oxide ( or sometimes chromium dioxide) that lies on the circular plate of the hard drive and features a pattern of lines that form the data.
A hard drive degausser functions by creating a magnetic field that is forceful enough to completely obliterate the magnetic memory from the aforementioned iron oxide coatings. Altering the magnetic field on the circular plate with a degausser is an effective way of destroying the data stored on it.
The force-field strength of a degausser from Wisetek utterly destroys the magnetic structure in such a way that it would be impossible for any data to be restored. Since the demagnetisation of hard drives does not depend on software, defective or faulty hard drives are deleted completely and permanently.
It is vital that degaussing is carried out by trained personnel with e-Stewards certification.
Hard drive shredding
If you are thinking of how to dispose of hard drives, shredding or crushing is another popular method.
This process uses machines to physically grind the hard drives until they are no more than granules. Hard drive shredding machines use conical steel punches and extreme force of up to 7,500 pounds to punch the hard drives into oblivion repeatedly. The power effectively mangles the hard drives and makes them irreparable. Disintegrators are also machines that crush hard drives until they are a fine powder.
How to dispose of hard drives
The advantages of out-sourcing to a third party
Out-sourcing to a professional ITAD company makes financial sense for many reasons. Look for a company, such as Wisetek, that has an international presence and a reputation for excellence for data-centre decommissioning.
A team of experienced ITAD professionals that are fully vetted with thorough background checks before joining the company;
The team wear a uniform with personal ID badges/lanyards. Each ITAD technician is personally responsible for their allotted tasks.
If the process occurs on-site or off-site, you’ll receive regular updates about the progress of the data destruction. Importantly, you will also receive a verifiable Certificate of Destruction with a time-date stamp for your records, along with information about the dispatch on the contents to recycling plants. You may also wish to receive records of the serial number of each hard drive that is destroyed.
E-waste recycling plants
Wisetek, as a reputable data destruction company with a truly international reach, can ensure that all the waste products of shredded hard drives are properly recycled. Metal and chemical processing plants melt the end-products which is usually in the form of a fine powder, turning it into an alloy state so that it can be reused.
Ensuring that your old or unwanted electronic products are recycled is something that a company should be proud to advertise. Working in partnership with an international e-waste recycling company such as Wisetek is the best way of showing that your company cares about the environment and is prepared to invest in an ethical and highly responsible method of data destruction and e-waste management.
This is undoubtedly a great way of impressing clients, shareholder and potentially the wider population. An increasing number of medium and large company’s – when thinking about the issue of ‘how to dispose of your hard drives’ – are seeing the former problem as a new opportunity to generate positive press. Wisetek supports the concept of the Circular Economy which engenders ‘maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishment and recycling’ as opposed to the Linear Economy which is driven towards ‘take, make and discard’.
However, as well as having a clean conscience, hard drive disposal is not something you can afford to ignore. Data breaches pose a significant risk to all businesses. Recent US research revealed that 60 percent of companies who suffered a data breach had shut down before six months. You can count on the electronic recycling services provided by Wisetek to safeguard your company’s data. We use hard drive shredders that are fully compliant with NIST SP 800-88 standards and to ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 and the Responsible Recycling (R2) standard. In the USA, each of our sites is certified with the eStewards standard. In this way, we can guarantee complete safety and accountability.
For more information about disposing of your company’s hard drives, speak to our expert team. Contact Wisetek