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I'm just curios, if i have a HDD (a working one ie. not defected), can I physically erase all the data without leaving the possibility to be recovered? ie. to completely format the hdd.

By physically i mean not to connect it to any kind of electric device, just using a screwdriver (or some other tools if needed).

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Disks are precision devices - the moment you take your (special, anti tampering )screwdriver and open anything that is near the data, say, the top plate, you'll get dust and other lovely things, or throw something out of alignment, and next thing you know, drive heads are ploughing lovely furrows all over that polished data surface.

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The moment you try physical destruction, it is permanant, and irrecoverable

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only if its on at the time, and even then its usually doable.. otherwise its perfectly recoverable. This is how data recovery firms get data off drives that have been in floods and have silt and water damage on them. – Sirex Oct 12 '11 at 21:40

I vaguely recall being told during a seminar at infosec that it's possible to recover data from a drive that has been overwritten up to 8 times, so to securely erase it you need to write 8 passes of random data to it. The time invested in doing that is usually more than the value of the disk though so they are usually shredded.

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The OP is asking for non-software means ("just using a screwdriver...") – P.Brian.Mackey Oct 12 '11 at 13:21
like a disk shredder? ;) – paulos Oct 12 '11 at 13:26
The OP also wants the disk not to be destroyed – qwertzguy Oct 12 '11 at 13:50
as far as i know this is a common myth, overwriting the data once is for all intents enough to destroy the data. Although its theoretically possible to recover the data when overwritten its never been practically shown to be possible, particually with easily obtainable equipment (sub government level). Most standards like the DoD are overkill for most people but err on the side of caution. – Sirex Oct 12 '11 at 14:37
here's some more info, - bear in mind the addendum at the bottom also though. – Sirex Oct 12 '11 at 14:49

Very powerful magnets can be used to erase modern HDD's. Not flash Drives and not the kind of magnets you can go buy for few backs at wal-mart (although floppies can be destroyed with cheap-o magnets).

That being said, even a hard drive that has been physically damaged as by fire still has the possibility of having data recovered. Just depends on who you are hiding from and how much funding they have..if it's the FBI, well good luck.

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i'm not hiding and i'm not going to...just curiosity :) – develroot Oct 12 '11 at 13:18
I figured, just messin with you :D – P.Brian.Mackey Oct 12 '11 at 13:19
a degausser will work, however it very often breaks the controller board or internal circuits also, leaving the disk effectively broken. That's ok if the disk is going to be binned though. – Sirex Oct 12 '11 at 14:40

We use Darik's Boot And Nuke to wipe all of our drives before they leave for reuse elsewhere.

Even the fastest wipe option should be more than sufficient imho.

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You cannot format the hard drive using physical means - you can use something like a degausser to erase everything from it, but then it will not be usable, as you will have removed metadata on track positions etc.

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