Had an external hard drive fail, do I smash it or just recycle it?

Currently I’m cleaning out my desk and realized I have a failing external hard drive that’s just been sitting under my desk for a couple years.l. My question is how do I dispose of it? Do I smash it with a hammer or just throw it out? Can’t remembee what data was on it but would like it to not be retrievable though since it failed maybe that’s redundant.

I always physically destroy old storage media, including drives. Why tempt someone? If you want to be thorough, depose of the refuse in separate bins.


How do you go about destroying the drives? I used to just take a hammer to them until they broke apart. Although that was a satisfying release of pent up energy, it always felt over the top (and parts flew everywhere! :scream:).

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Take them to the Gun range and execute the drive :wink:
BTW I need more 3.5" drives to complete my art piece!



I’ve always smashed them to bits and pieces with a heavy hammer.

Once I took a disk apart and burned the actual disk - you don’t want to go there - it smells pretty bad (and I’m kinda sure it’s pretty toxic :grin: )

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I wrote the tracker for our destruction program at work, as such I get free run of it! We have a degausser, a crusher, and a shredder for smaller devices. It’s possible that you know someone somewhere with access to a secure destruction program like we have at work :slight_smile:

I just did this to get rid of a bunch of drives that I decided not to move to my new home next week.


Then, several friends on social media told me that I was being silly and they just drill a few holes straight through the drive casing, no messing with weird star-shaped screwdrivers.

I’d do the drill thing if I had a good garage/basement space (I don’t) where the mess would be acceptable.


This might be worth a read for the efficacy of various common DIY approaches to drive destruction.

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Personally I always pop open the case take a screw drive to the platters and then recycle what’s left.

For those interested find a link to Zoz’s classic defcon 23 video on data destruction Here on YouTube

Gilfoyle did a pretty nifty job on some guy’s laptop with a nail gun in this season’s Silicon Valley. Looked like a lot of fun in addition to being highly effective.



Just the excuse I was looking for to pull out the drill press!

I do a complete wipe (multiple passes) of old hard drives then take them to Free Geek Vancouver (there are similar organizatoins in other cities) and ask them to drill a hole through them as an added security measure. They also take care of recycling the drive.

Having worked in the hard drive industry for over 20 years, I know how to damage these quite well. I tend to go overboard by opening up the small breather holes on the HDA. These can be hidden under the circuit board, so just pry that off (and break it if you can) with a screwdriver.
I peel off the silver tape (if any) to expose some openings. I’ve put dirt, sand, or metal filings and vinegar inside. If you can get a screwdriver inside, gouge the platters if possible.

If you have a nice sturdy workbench, put the drive in s vise and still a bunch of holes in the HDA case. Submerse in water of other liquid.

If that’s too much work , throw the case up in the air and let it fall onto the street.


I take them apart to get the magnets out. Some of the older 5.25” drives had incredibly strong magnets.


Thanks all, many feel very strongly about this and have employed methods that are quite interesting. I think I’ll put it in a ziplock and then smash it and put some water and vinegar or dirt in with it. Thanks and I’ll also look into a recycling place in my city too.

Thermite works great but is hard to get. Using for target practice also good, just remember to clean up the mess from the range when you are done. Otherwise wipe, then shred. Access to a high end commercial media shredder is critical but watch to be sure a commercial place really does it.

The components for thermite are available on Amazon.

Interesting, I never really looked there…

I once used actual explosives on HDs. :slight_smile:
Today I just go to the IT department and throw them into the shred bin.

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The 3.5 inch drives still use rare earth magnets. They are dangerous if the shatter, they can also easily pinch your fingers.

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