Like a used bike or like used underwear?
August 15, 2016 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Our work recycling often contains copious amounts of working equipment. It's ok to bring stuff out. I brought out a number of high-capacity name brand hard-drives. What now?

They have been mounted in some sort of enterprise level server or nas, are still in the pushbutton sledges with SATA connection. In my mind I can just zerofill them on a spare computer and then build myself a RAID setup, but it's been a while since I was goofing around with this sort of stuff and I am thinking I should check in with askme and hear if I am going to get herpes. Should I DTMFHD already? If not, what are the best practices for using them, and is there something fun I can do that I haven't thought of.
posted by Iteki to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yep you zero-fill them to remove raid signatures (or just do that to the ends and beginnings of the disks) then bung them in your nas, check the smart values, and create your raided volume.
posted by gorcha at 7:30 AM on August 15, 2016

Much more like a used bike. Lucky you!
posted by flabdablet at 8:07 AM on August 15, 2016

iiuc your biggest problem / main limitation is likely the number of sata ports you have on your mobo.
posted by andrewcooke at 8:47 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

do you have references? i don't know of any data that says batches fail together and would love to see it.
posted by andrewcooke at 10:21 AM on August 15, 2016

You can format these drives in whatever way you want and start using them immediately. Erasing them extra hard (eg filling them with all 0's, 1's, random data) is something you could do to ensure the privacy of your data when you are done using them, but is not at all a prerequisite to start using them. Your file system will ignore any old data that is on the drives. Your operating system should let you setup a raid system if that is what you want.

In regards to Super Computer Viruses, yes, it is technically possible that there is a virus in some un-erasable part of the drive (the firmware for example), but unless you have evidence that that has happened, I wouldn't personally be worried about this. Format them, and use away (imho).
posted by Phredward at 11:30 AM on August 15, 2016

The SO, bike, underwear, condom, and alzheimers analogies are entertaining... for the herpes analogy, check the Manuf. website and flash new firmware.
posted by at at 12:58 PM on August 15, 2016

I remember reading in an analysis Google did on their own server hard drive failures that the biggest predictors of failure was heat then age. Be careful.
posted by LoveHam at 1:38 PM on August 15, 2016

Backblaze posts a quarterly review of their hard drive performance; most recently, they posted a link to a survival analysis from a self-described "grumpy computational biologist." Figure out the age of your drives, then check his analysis and see if these dumpstered drives are truly EOL or maybe have a few years' worth of bit-jugglin' still left in 'em.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 2:07 PM on August 15, 2016

Oh, right, we were doing analogies! Sorry OP. I think you are looking at used horses, here.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 2:09 PM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know what kind of data you have or the relative capacities of the various hard drives, but you could skip the whole RAID thing and replicate a copy of all of your most important stuff on every single one of these drives (using a single enclosure, perhaps), and then store them various places, i.e., one in a drawer, one in a fireproof safe, one at a family member's house, another in a safe deposit box at a bank (only joking a little bit about the last one).

Refresh and rotate the backups every so often. Lots of copies keeps stuff safe.
posted by Pryde at 7:13 PM on August 15, 2016

How many drives did you get? What do you want to do?
Home media server with OpenNAS and a pile of physical drive redundancy? Perfect!
Running anything remotely important solely on these drives? You're asking for heartache.
posted by mfu at 8:10 PM on August 15, 2016

Response by poster: This is very promising, thanks for the quick responses. It seems like the horse analogy might be more apt. I've actually never had a hard-disk fail in 30 years, which is probably why I didn't even think of that as a risk. Given that it seems a RAID setup might end up failing somewhat simultaneously I think I am going to safe with Pryde's suggestion for now, just bung the same stuff on them and hide around the countryside like big old Zip-disks. Feels like I could gift two to a buddy and we trade backups, I took six of them. Do I need to take any special care re. viruses, it didn't sound like it?

Unless, that is, anyone has a more creative ideas? Fill it with rickrolls and leave it in the street?
I am afraid to say "keep em coming", the kiss of death for a thread.
posted by Iteki at 8:18 AM on August 16, 2016

Well, as always, old hard disks are kinda fun to take apart. You get two strong magnets and two shiny metal discs for your trouble.

Do I need to take any special care re. viruses, it didn't sound like it?

If you're talking super-paranoid stuff, it is possible to reprogram the firmware in order to persist some malware on a disk even across a reformat. I'm not sure if this has ever actually been seen in the wild. Even that only applies if you're booting from the disk.
posted by neckro23 at 8:54 AM on August 16, 2016

Do I need to take any special care re. viruses

I'm thinking that viruses are going to be less of a problem than recoverable previous-owner data.

If the C suite finds out that drives they thought were headed for the shredder are actually being distributed at random around the countryside, I would expect them to be upset - unless the drives have already been zeroed before being discarded, in which case I would not expect to find malware or anything else on them.
posted by flabdablet at 8:56 AM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Fill it with rickrolls and leave it in the street?

That's what I used to do with my old horses. You check the teeth; if they're all worn down, it's time to feed 'em a bunch of memes and tie 'em to the nearest public hitching post with a "Free Horse" sign. However, young people tell me that the rickroll is now deprecated, in favor of all-starring.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 10:12 AM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Was it ever precated?
posted by flabdablet at 7:26 AM on August 17, 2016

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