Physically destroying your company’s old hard drives is all about getting rid of the data they contain. So naturally, it begs the question of whether data recovery is possible once a hard drive has been physically shredded.
The short answer, according to Revolution Recycling’s president Mark Cooper, is no. It’s virtually impossible to retrieve or recover data at any useful level from a shredded hard drive.
“The mechanical separation of a hard drive using a shredding device or machine typically breaks that drive down into particle sizes of anywhere from 1½ inches to 3/8 of an inch,” explains Cooper. “So not only do we believe that shredding is the most secure method of hard drive destruction, it’s the best way to permanently destroy your company’s data.”
Physical Shredding vs Digital Destruction
But what about businesses that might be looking for ways to recover some of the value from their decommissioned hardware? Hard drive erasure is the way to go in that case.
Like shredding, data erasure software gets rid of your hard drive data for good – not by physically destroying it, but by overwriting it with a random series of zeroes and ones, multiple times. The advantage of hard drive erasure – or sanitization – is that it allows a drive to be reused. The downside, says Cooper, is that there are multiple ways the process can fail.
“Sometimes, the software fails because of a glitch involving compatibility issues. There are hard drives with drive architecture that’s so specific to the server they came out of, for example, that when you try to insert them into a hard drive erasure server, they can’t be detected. The data those drives contain remains fully intact and cannot be wiped.”
The beauty of physical shredding, meanwhile, is that failure is never an option.
Revolution Promises Zero Data Recovery from Shredded Hard Drives
For customers who are equally concerned with both value recovery and data security, Cooper recommends what Revolution calls best-method data handling. “With best-method data destruction, we’ll try to erase or sanitize a hard drive first. But if the drive fails the erasure process for whatever reason – or if it’s just too old or obsolete to be usable even if we did manage to wipe it – we’ll shred it instead.”
But while it’s one thing to just shred a drive, what many businesses want is some sort of verifiable proof that a specific hard drive has been destroyed. And that’s where the element of data capture comes in.
“Data capture is standard in Revolution’s destruction package,” explains Cooper. “We scan the serial number or bar code of each individual drive from a particular project, then convert that list of shredded hard drives into a Certificate of Destruction.”
There are companies out there that will perform the data capture portion of this process themselves, then pass the buck and have someone else do the actual destruction. “That,” warns Cooper, “means your company’s hard drives – and the data they contain – could be leaving those facilities intact.”
It’s the very fact that things can go wrong when destroying data that makes it so important for your company to use only a certified and reputable vendor for this type of work. Service providers like Revolution Recycling have multiple policies and procedures in place that dictate data handling methods throughout the destruction process, including:
- Criminal background checks and drug testing on all employees
- GPS-enabled trucks
- Swipe access and CCTV cameras throughout the facility
- Robust hard drive shredder with less than ¾” particle size
- Leading edge, military grade wiping appliance
- SOPs which demand physical destruction in the event of a wipe failure
“It’s essential for companies to understand that the key to responsible hard drive destruction lies in the chain of custody,” says Cooper. “Knowing where your hard drives are, who’s handling them, what’s going to happen to them, and where they’re ultimately going to end up is one of the benefits of working with an accredited data destruction specialist like Revolution.”