A few months ago, the hard drive in my desktop computer died, and I decided to recycle the computer. The last time I did this, I had a program that scrambled the data on the hard drive and it was also possible to reformat the C drive, effectively removing the data. But this time I found a simpler solution.
Remove the Hard Drive!
Perhaps I was being paranoid, but I decided that I wanted to make sure the data was inaccessible, even though the hard dive was broken. I called a friend who works in IT and asked him what I should do. His answer was beautifully simple and elegant — simply remove the hard drive (it’s about the size of a ham sandwich on flatbread) and recycle the rest of the machine. I was able to detach and remove the hard drive in about five minutes and recycle the rest without worry.
My friend in IT said that I could scramble the data by running a heavy duty magnet over the drive or opening it and scoring the platters and then recycle it too, but I was happy just to leave the drive on the shelf.
Locating a Heavy Duty Magnet
Recently I got an email from my cousin, who also had a desktop she wanted to recycle, and she was now asking me for advice! I sent her a photo of my hard drive, and since she still had the manual for her machine, she was also able to remove the hard drive in minutes. Of course, I told her about the heavy duty magnet solution, and I was surprised to learn that she had easy access to one.
My cousin works with special needs children, and two of her students use a Vegus Nerve Stimulator (VNS) for seizure control. The VNS requires the occasional use of a heavy duty magnet, which is about the size of a large wristwatch and which the students have with them at all times. So if you don’t want to leave the hard drive in your closet and know a special needs instructor or the parent of a special needs child or live near a school for special needs children, you might be able to borrow a magnet — literally for two minutes — and then recycle the hard drive also.