Degaussing: the Best Method for Wiping Hard Drives

What to do with old hard drives isn't just a trivial matter for your business. It's a security issue. Here's what you need to do about wiping your old hard drives.

What is degaussing?  It’s a method which uses a high-intensity magnetic pulse to de-magnetize any magnetic media (hard drives, solid state drives and data tapes), rendering them totally unrecoverable and un-reusable.  


Data storage devices need to be disposed of in a safe and secure manner—one can’t just throw them away once you’re done, because all the information will still be present.

What is degaussing? 


Degaussers utilize intense magnetic fields that effectively demagnetize the device, thus fully erasing all data. By leaving the electronic in a blank state, organizations are assured complete safety of their information—a diagnostic or forensic laboratory wouldn’t even be able to retrieve data after degaussing of sufficient field intensity.

Degaussing stands as the only verifiable method of securely wiping hard drives, and when paired with crushing, it forms a secure one-two combo.

Let’s look at why software wipes don’t work as well. CNet reported that this method of removing data from a hard disk drive works best when you want it to be usable after the fact—for resale purposes, usually.  For organizations tasked with protecting client data or keeping compliant with laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, turning a profit off of these old devices isn’t the main priority—safe record-keeping is.  The legal exposure created by data breaches far exceeds the value of drive re-use.


Software wipes simply overwrite the data on the hard disk drive and serve as a rudimentary approach to denying access to important information. Hackers can still find and extract the data stored there. Software wipes also take hours to conduct, and don’t always work on every system. Organizations need to ensure data is safely erased before getting rid of old media devices.

How to wipe hard drives:  Use a safe one-two combo of Degaussers and Crushing



The National Security Agency has identified degaussing as the only surefire way to ensure data is truly wiped from a drive.

Degaussing and crushing form a potent one-two combo.

Degaussers work on any kind of device and can penetrate any media with up to 15,000 Gauss, or 1.5 Tesla.

Degaussing is not the only thing you should do to insure data security.  While degaussing is the only guaranteed method to remove data from a piece of technology, companies usually go one step further and pair their data erasure methods with crushing. While most people believe that if the platter can’t spin, then the hard drive can’t be read—but data can actually still be recovered from the device. This is why degaussing beforehand is incredibly important.

After degaussing, you should consider using a product that effectively crushes the device. Even tiny pieces can be put together and information can be salvaged if data remains on the platons.

If your organization needs to dispose of old media containing personally identifiable information, consider using the two-pronged approach of degaussing and crushing. Not only is it fast and safe, but it will keep your business well in the clear of any potential compliance breaches.

Organizations that invest in a degausser on-site can maintain chain of custody with relative ease. Using a shredder or a punch is the final step, leaving scrap available for collection and proper disposal. In conclusion, clearly documented data destruction processes supported with the right hardware can keep data safe.

Hackers don’t need ransomware to steal client information, all they need is an employee to leave a hard disk drive in the open.

How to prevent hacking attempts


The bottom line is, many businesses don’t realize that when they’re throwing away retired electronics without permanently erasing the data that was once stored on it, they’re essentially handing out confidential information to hackers. Cybercriminals can retrieve data from hard disk drives with ease.

This means that an employee could reformat it, wipe it clean with a software program or even smash it to bits and pieces and a data breach could still occur. This is why degaussing has to be incorporated in any training program a company devises.

Degaussing demagnetizes hard disk drives and tapes, rendering them completely unreadable and unusable. This, coupled with crushing the device, ensures that even the world’s foremost forensic hacking specialists couldn’t retrieve the data once stored on the device.

For many companies, a data breach could sink their reputation, operating budget and nearly drive them out of business  - all because an employee thought moving a file to the recycle bin that contained thousands of personal client details got rid of it for good.

Stopping the rise in cybercrime begins by building a solid foundation of knowledge. An Experian study also found that roughly 4 out of every 5 data breaches can be attributed to some operating issue stemming from employees—training them on degaussing can help stem the bleeding and keep companies away from hackers’ clutches.


Republished with permission from our friends at Proton Data Security

When searching the internet for ways to wipe hard drives, there are usually two options that pop up when it pertains to data erasure—software wipes and crushing. There’s a third option that hasn’t gained the momentum in the mainstream media it deserves, but it has certainly gained recognition in the data security industry.