How do I clean the data off these donation-bound hard drives?
August 10, 2007 4:14 PM   Subscribe

How do I clean the data off these old hard drives without using software or a mallet?

I have a number of old hard drives pulled from computers I've used in the past. I'd like to donate them to CRC or a similar organization for possible reuse. Currently the drives are all uninstalled, sealed in static-free bags, and I do not need to recover the data that is on them.

I've googled for information on how to wipe them, the advice all falls into two categories: wipe the drive using software or physically destroy the drive, e.g. smash it or take it apart. I want to avoid the later as I hope they could be reused (none of them are bad, they were pulled to make room for larger capacity drives). I can't do the former as all of them have an interface (SCSI) that none of my current computers use. I'd prefer not to spend any money on purchasing adaptors, enclosures, or spend time fiddling with finding an old computer and reinstalling them.

I also read using a very powerful magnet might wipe them but would the scrambling a magnet cause also render them un-initiable? Would the magnet treatment 'get' everything (in other words: render all my data unrecoverable)? Are ~9-20 GB hard drives worth this effort to donate?
posted by jamaro to Technology (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Magnet is unlikely to get all the data, or any of it unless you use a really powerful magnet; modern magnetic media have much higher coercivities than older media (it helps increase the data density). If you were to magnatically erase the data you would also erase the various head-positioning and calibration information that's put on the platters at the factory, and the drive wouldn't work any more.

Maybe you could donate them to someone who would be willing to let you use their equipment to zero the drives?
posted by hattifattener at 4:22 PM on August 10, 2007

You'll mess up the usefulness of the drives if you magnet them. You can recover, but it's not a simple format at that point. Software is really the only way to wipe your data and have it be clean.
posted by cschneid at 4:28 PM on August 10, 2007

posted by k8t at 4:31 PM on August 10, 2007

I 2nd DBAN. just used it on a drive.
posted by sharkfu at 4:32 PM on August 10, 2007

Did you guys read the question? He doesn't have any way to hook the drive up.
posted by 0xFCAF at 4:35 PM on August 10, 2007

I can't think of anything that fits your specifications besides what hattifattener suggested already. I'd just suck it up buy an enclosure. You might need one later anyway.
posted by puke & cry at 4:37 PM on August 10, 2007

Think of it this way:

Purchasing a (presumably) cheap adaptor is part of your donation. And you never know when that adaptor will come in handy.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:39 PM on August 10, 2007

They would probably throw away under 20GB SCSI drives, because they're not big enough to deal with the hassle of being non-standard.
posted by smackfu at 5:00 PM on August 10, 2007

Nope you need to either hook them up to a machine to run wiping software or irrevocably destroy them. Any degaussing gear powerful enough to wipe the platters of a drive that hasn't been disassembled is more than powerful enough to ruin the more fragile components that make it work.
posted by frieze at 5:05 PM on August 10, 2007

I agree with smackfu: these drives probably aren't worth the bother.

Since you can't use something like DBAN, I suggest physical destruction by drilling out the hubs and then smashing them. Or you could use thermite.
posted by SteveTheRed at 5:26 PM on August 10, 2007

Idea: Is there a digital shredding company around your area? Maybe you could pay them to do all the work associated with finding enclosures and wiping the data (via software).

How old are these drives? They can't be totally worthless to someone who would be willing to hook them all up together, for some RAID-like configuration.
posted by philomathoholic at 6:43 PM on August 10, 2007

Philomathoholic: they range in age from 10 to 3 years old. None were used longer than 4 years or less than 2. The oldest they are, the smaller, the smallest being 9 GB, the largest being 60 GB (I just located that one stuffed deep in a drawer--I recall that one was a bit flaky--along with a pair of UW-SCSI 1GBs which I'm sure are completely useless). There's a dozen of them, total. At the time I upgraded each of them, I migrated my data to the new drive but left the data on the old drive figuring it was cheap backup redundancy.

This is a good lesson for me for my next round of drive upgrades: wipe 'em before I take 'em out and get rid of 'em while they are still of a size to be nominally useful.
posted by jamaro at 7:08 PM on August 10, 2007

If they are all over 2 years old, that's not charity, it's an albatross.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:24 AM on August 11, 2007

60GB is an unusual size for SCSI (should be 4.5GB, 9GB, 18GB, 36GB, or 74GB).

All 15k RPM drives, and many 10k RPM drives are very useful, but I think only the largest 7,200 RPM SCSI drives are worth a second look. In addition, any drive that is larger than the normal desktop form factor (3.5" low profile, according to wikipedia) is suspect - unless it is 15k..

And BrotherCaine, sounds like you have some albatrosses that I'd be glad to take off your hands for the cost of shipping :)
posted by Chuckles at 1:57 PM on August 11, 2007

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