This article is going to give an overview of the speed that it takes to erase data from a hard drive using 5 different methods.
We are going to compare speed as well as efficiency and logistics of each method.
The methods included in this article are:
- DBAN or the Overwriting Method
- Hard Drive Shredding
- Hard Drive Punchers
- Hard Drive Crushers
Here is the video version of this article if you’re interested in watching:
DBAN (Overwriting Data Method)
The first method that we’re going over is the oldest and goes by a lot of different names.
Overwriting is the process of taking all the data on a hard drive and putting a layer of data on top of it.
Overwriting one time is considered very insecure, so some people go up to as much as overwrite seven times.
For a long time, DBAN was considered the best way of taking care of a hard drive.
Those days have kind of changed.
The pros of using DBAN and Secure Erase are that it’s free and anybody can do it.
As far as the cons go, it takes forever.
A one terabyte hard drive could take up to 18 hours to complete depending on the speed of your computer.
If you get up into the ranks of a 16 terabyte enterprise drive, you might need your computer doing overwriting for a couple of days if you want to do it seven times.
It’s not a very popular method for destruction anymore because there are much better and significantly faster options out there.
The next method we are discussing is shredding a hard drive with an HD Shredder.
This is one of my favorites methods because it’s so satisfying when you drop in a three and a half-inch drive and it comes out in bits and pieces.
It feels great!
The problem is, well I mean… it’s an industrial machine.
It’s big, loud, and expensive!
An HD Shredd costs $20,000 plus repairs are also going to run you $1,000 plus.
So hard drive shredding is a lot of fun.
A lot of people use a hard drive shredder as their method of getting rid of drives even though there are still better ways for eliminating your hard drives.
This method is my personal favorite!
Degaussers are great but nobody knows about them.
A degasser is in the shape of a small chamber.
With a degausser, we’re not hooking the hard drive up anywhere.
We just place it into the enclosed chamber and hit the button.
The chamber charges up and then, “POP” releases what’s called an electromagnetic pulse that irrecoverably wipes all the data on the drive.
In this instance, we’re not talking about overwriting it.
We’re not taking the sensitive planners and turning them into bits of sensitive information.
Instead, we are literally turning a hard drive into an inert piece of metal.
The only real drawback to a hard drive degausser is that the hard drive will have the same physical appearance before and after the degaussing process has been completed.
The best way to mitigate this drawback is to label hard drives as “erased” after they’ve been degaussed.
Moving on through our list of hard drive erasure methods, we get into simpler forms of destruction.
With a hard drive puncher, you drop a hard drive into the slot, you hit a button, and something goes through and punches a little hole in the hard drive.
When you pull it out, it looks like somebody went to a shooting range and put a nine-millimeter bullet through it!
What does this do?
It makes it really expensive to recover any data on that drive.
Punching a hole in a drive will work well for most business cases.
If someone wanted to take the hard drive to a foreign country and spend a couple of million dollars trying to put that data back together, just to find out who I’ve been emailing, then it would be possible.
If someone tried to get that data, it would probably take over a year, be exorbitantly expensive, and there would be no guarantee of success.
But, punching has the advantage of being relatively fast.
Punching also has the advantage of being quiet and of taking up the size of a normal office shredder.
For the same amount of money, you could be degaussing.
The final method that we’re going to cover is crushing a hard drive. For this method, you take a hard drive, you crush it, and it causes bending in the hard drive.
At Whitaker Brothers, we refer to hard drive crushers as, “the taco maker” because it bends drives to a 90-degree angle.
Crushing a hard drive is lower on the price scale.
For the price, you’re looking at a range of $5,000 or less in most cases.
It’s still meant for high security because it causes inflection in the hard drive makes it extremely difficult to recover data from.
Crushers can be approved by the NSA for second stage destruction.
Degaussers can be approved for the first stage of hard drive destruction.
A hard drive crusher will do the job for you if it’s NSA approved.
The advantages are that they are inexpensive, have a small footprint, they’re relatively quiet, and fast.
So, let’s go over how much time it takes to do each of these options.
Time Comparison Between Data Erasure Methods
Let’s go over the speeds of the different options we have because that’s what really matters to most people.
I will also analyze what each method satisfies for data erasure.
DBAN (Overwriting Drives) SPEED
The first method we will focus on is DBAN, Secure Erasure, or otherwise known as data overwriting.
For DBAN, it depends on the speed of your computer.
Supercomputers can do it way faster than normal desktop computers, but we’re talking about roughly 18 hours per terabyte.
The hard drive in my computer at the office is four terabytes.
So for my personal computer, we might be talking two or three days to do that at least four seven times over.
It’s kind of inefficient and you won’t see a lot of people doing overwriting anymore.
The people that are doing overwriting, most of the time just don’t know about the other options available to them.
Hard Drive Shredder SPEED
Let’s talk about hard drive shredding.
This gets really fast.
We’re talking about maybe 8 to 12 seconds from the time you turn it on to the time you’re reducing a hard drive to shreds.
There are more expensive ones that are faster.
You’ve got less expensive ones that are slower, but we’re talking about you know 10 to 20 seconds per hard drive, so you will be going through drives quickly no matter which option you go with.
Back to my favorite machine, a degausser.
These are great.
Whitaker Brothers has a degausser that wipes a hard drive in zero to five seconds.
I see most commercial-grade degaussers in the 20 seconds or less category.
If you get into NSA approved degaussers which are the highest security ones on the planet, they will degauss at four times the strength necessary to wipe a hard drive.
Then we get into 25 sec., 35 sec. , 45 sec., and sometimes up to a minute per hard drive, but still, when you consider that overwriting could take days, spending one minute to degauss a hard drive is not so bad.
Hard Drive Puncher SPEED
Moving on, you’ve got hard drive punchers.
You drop a hard drive into the slot of the puncher, you hit the start button, and then you’re looking at about 20 seconds per drive or somewhere in that range.
After the machine has punched a hole in the drive, it drops out the bottom into a waist spin.
Hard Drive Punches are very popular at the commercial level because they’re inexpensive, and because they don’t take up a ton of space.
But as I’ve said over and over and over again.
If you’re not buying a degausser to destroy your hard drives, it’s probably because you don’t know that they exist.
Hard Drive Crusher SPEED
The final option is a hard drive Crusher.
This is also very popular at the highest security levels, and also very popular at the lowest security levels.
The reason being, it’s approved by the NSA, and it can destroy a hard drive in about 14 seconds.
It doesn’t take up much space.
It could easily fit on the desk right in front of me.
So in conclusion, I think I’ve made it obvious that degaussing is the way to do things and overwriting is history.
Shredding hard drives is expensive, fun, and fast, but why spend all that money you don’t really have to.
Hard drive punchers are cheap.
They don’t take up a ton of space, but we’re really just putting a little hole in it and all the data is still on the hard drive.
You’ve just made it really difficult for somebody to put that hard drive back together in a way that it can be read again but it is possible.
And then finally crushing a hard drive.
With crushing, you’re causing a lot of flexion in the platters. You are again making it tremendously expensive to recover the data.
But for the price tag, why not just degauss.
So, that’s my opinion on hard drive destruction.
I’m sure other people might give you other ideas. I’ve been at this for about a decade though.
I think I’ve seen most of the situations and applications out there.
And again the only people who aren’t degaussing are generally the people who don’t know about degaussers or don’t trust them.