Degaussing vs. Shredding

Degaussing vs. Shredding

When we think about hard drive destruction, many people think of large hard drive shredders.  These are machines with large, powerful blades on the inside that physically destroy a drive, making it impossible for someone to put the drive back into a computer and read the information on it. Unfortunately, information still exists on the shredded pieces of hard drive and is readable using laboratory methods.  Yikes!  This is where degaussing comes in.

What is Degaussing?

Degaussing is the act of erasing the data from a magnetic hard drive using powerful magnets.  As you can see in the image below, data on a magnetic hard drive has these nice patterns written into it, and that’s how the information is read.  After the hard drive is degaussed, these patterns become completely unreadable. Even if the hard drive is still physically intact, there is no pattern left on the platters to be read.

Should I do both?

Degaussing using a third-party evaluated degausser is the quickest way to ensure that all the information on your drives is being fully eradicated.  The NSA (National Security Agency) does extensive testing of degaussers to ensure data is unrecoverable.  The NSA’s data destruction guidance does require physically deforming the media after it is degaussed, which is where the hard drive shredder comes in.  Because degaussing only changes the inside of the hard drive, it’s impossible to tell from the outside if a drive has been sanitized or not.  By physically deforming the drives after degaussing, you lower the risk of accidentally getting them mixed up and you increase your security by ensuring the data is completely unrecoverable due to degaussing.

If the media is degaussed first, it’s not necessary to completely shred the drives.  A simple action like bending is sufficient to make it clear that the drive is erased.  Degaussing and destruction together provide the best defense against a data breach!

If you’d like to learn more about degaussers, contact Data Security, Inc.® at 1(800) 225-7554. We’ll help you find the right product to fit your needs.