You have choices when you want to re-use, recycle or destroy a hard drive. Let’s look at a few common scenarios.
You have a computer that you want to retire or give to somebody else.
In this situation, the hard drive works properly. You just want to securely erase your data before giving the computer to another person. Thus, you want to securely erase the hard drive and then reinstall Mac OS X. Follow the instructions in my previous Tech Tip article on how to securely erase a hard drive. If you don’t want to do this work yourself, you could take your computer to an organization like Interconnection or Total Reclaim. Both of these organizations offer free data wiping of all hard drives on donated computers. I tend to use Interconnection as much as possible since they are a non-profit group that does their best to re-use the computer, while Total Reclaim is a for-profit company which focuses on recycling computers and other electronics.
You have an external hard drive that you want to re-use or sell, but first you want to remove all of your personal data from it.
This is very similar to the first situation. The hard drive works properly and you want to re-use the hard drive. Thus, you should securely erase the data from the hard drive using the instructions in my previous Tech Tip.
You have a hard drive that died and you need to get rid of it, but want to make sure that nobody can ever get any of the data.
Since the hard drive is not working properly, we can’t securely erase the hard drive as described above. Instead, the hard drive will need to be destroyed. You could either do this yourself or have somebody else do it. If you want to do it yourself, you could secure the drive in a drill press and drill a few holes through it. This would destroy the circuit boards and, most importantly, the platters containing your data. If you want somebody else to destroy it then I recommend using an organization like Interconnection or Total Reclaim.