The Easiest Explanation of Why You Need to Degauss Your Hard Drive

Most people who own a computer or who just use one in their daily activities are unaware of how valuable the data contained on their hard drives really is. Entire networks filled with shady individuals and malicious cyber criminals have been created with the express purpose of buying and selling important information in its digital form.

The most interesting thing is that the data contained in hard drives tends to persist even past when you click “Delete”. Any individual who wants your data merely only has to try hard enough to acquire it even when you think it’s been securely deleted.

That makes the data contained on discarded hard drives one of the biggest personal and business risks of the modern age.

Let’s explore why hard drive data destruction is so important and why degaussing is the best way to go about destroying your data.

How Do Hard Drives Work?

To understand how degaussing works, you first need to understand how the typical magnetic hard drive works.

In a magnetic hard drive, you have a series of platters that store your data on tiny magnetized bits of film. Depending on if that bit is magnetized, it then represents a “1” or a “0”. This creates the basis of long-term memory storage in most computers.

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The Problem with Hard Drives

The problem with this storage is that it’s far more permanent than you might want to believe. Even when you delete data, there’s a high chance that it can be recovered regardless of how you delete your files.

While the topic of data recovery is a complicated subject, think of it like this: Someone with enough time can construct a map that shows how your hard drive’s data has been altered. They can then recover deleted files regardless of how they were deleted.

Even physical destruction of hard drives, which includes breaking your hard drive in half or smashing it with a sledgehammer, is incredibly insufficient. A determined individual can reconstruct a “destroyed” hard drive in a laboratory environment to recover almost all the data that was present before the destruction of the hard drive’s platters.

This unique characteristic of magnetic hard drives is the reason that cyber criminals target both individuals and businesses alike. They can steal valuable data that can be used for everything from spam solicitation to identity theft on a massive scale simply by recovering data that someone erroneously thought was gone forever.

How Does Degaussing Work?

That’s where degaussing enters the scene. It represents a way to safely randomize the data stored on a hard drive in a way that leaves no recoverable patterns.

Degaussing essentially removes a hard drive’s ability to store data in any discernible way. This makes the hard drive impossible to use after it has been degaussed, which allows degaussed hard drives to be safely discarded after the process has been completed.

Degaussing represents one of the few certain ways that you can destroy the data contained on a hard drive forever.

Who Needs to Degauss Hard Drives?

As a broad rule of thumb, everyone who has ever entered sensitive information on their computer should degauss their hard drive when they are done with it.

There are specific types of people and businesses who tend to be targeted more often by malicious individuals. These types of parties include:

  • Data Processing Departments
  • Financial Institutions
  • Government Offices
  • High-Value Targets, Including CEOs of Fortune 500 Companies and Attorneys
  • IT Firms
  • Hospitals and Medical Facilities
  • Military Facilities
  • Research Departments and Facilities

The bottom line is that you should always degauss your hard drive if you have even a shred of information that could be used to hurt you, your business, or your clients.