hard drive shreddingYou’ve started a paper shredding program to protect your confidential information but now you are getting new computers and don’t know what to do with the old ones. The data stored electronically contains confidential information and is also covered by the HIPAA and FACTA disposal rules. The question is what is the best way to properly destroy the information.

The three most popular ways to destroy information on hard drives is software erasure, degaussing and physical shredding.

Software erasure. There are countless software programs that claim “Department of Defense” compliance. Some are freeware and others come with a price. They all work on the same principle of overwriting the drive with bad data several times.

At this time the National Association of Information Destruction (NAID) does not recognize software tools as an adequate means of destroying the data. “no one will guarantee anything in the software business” says Bill Adler president of Atlanta-based CyberScrub. “All software is sold without warranty. You have no idea of the configuration of all the computers people have, and people use products the wrong way.”

The bigger problem is the time it takes to run one of these tools. It may take two to three hours to erase just one 40 gig hard drive. If you only buy one copy of the erasure software it might take weeks to finish the project.

Degaussing. Degaussing is the process of sticking a very strong magnet next to the hard drive so it no longer holds any data. It eliminates all the time it takes to erase the drive but a tool to perform the degaussing are cost prohibitive for the average office.

Physical Destruction (Shredding). The third option is physically destroying the drive. Putting a drill through the drive or just smashing it with a hammer does not completely destroy the data. CyberScrub’s Adler says,” drilling or hammering makes the hard drive inoperable, but someone with forensics ability would be able to recover most of the data.”

The only way to make sure your data will not be reconstructed is to shred the drive into small pieces. The good news is there are services that will shred your hard drives for a fraction of the costs involved with erasure tools.

Once you have properly destroyed the data you need to properly dispose of the computer. Computers and monitors are considered hazardous waste and most states have laws that govern their disposal. Think you can just donate them to the school? Think again. If they are too old for you then they are going to be too old for your local school. Make sure you have a recycler who follows EPA and state guidelines.