A Practical and Effective Guide to Hard Drive Shredding

Have unused hard drives lying around and are not too sure what to do about it?

If reuse and/or resale isn’t possible, then destruction is the most secure option to make sure unauthorised parties can’t access and use the data stored within the hard drive. Appropriate physical destruction may also be a legal requirement in your industry when secure data wiping isn’t possible or sufficient. 

With that being said, hard drive shredding is a secure, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective option to physically destroy a hard drive, although it’s not the only one. 

Below, we will discuss all you need to know about how to safely perform hard drive shredding, best practices, as well as alternative options you might want to explore before shredding your hard drives. 

Do You Really Need To Destroy Your Hard Drive?

Before proceeding with the hard drive shredding process, keep in mind that the physical destruction of your old hard drive is not the only viable option.

Basically, when decommissioning older hard drives, you have to assess three different factors: 

  • The condition and age of the hard drive
  • The potential resale value of the hard drive
  • Price of the replacement hard drive (if you are planning for an upgrade)

As a general rule of thumb, if the hard drive is still in a usable condition, then you should either reuse the drive (i.e. as an external drive or in another system) or sell the drive. If the potential resale value is still fairly high, then you should definitely consider selling the drive. 

A common concern when deciding to sell a hard drive (or throw it away) is data security. It’s common knowledge that data stored in the hard drive can be recovered even after it’s deleted, but there are methods you can use to ensure secure, unrecoverable data wiping. 

A more secure option here is to simply sell the drive to a specialist IT disposition company like Big Data Supply Inc. These companies will perform secure eradication of your data and provide a certificate of data destruction (which is legally binding) before they purchase the hard drive. 

In short, there are ways to safely sell your hard drive so you can maximise its value, which can help you finance a new hard drive if you’re planning for an upgrade, so you might want to explore this option first before deciding for shredding.

Brute Force VS Shredding VS Incinerating Hard Drives

If physical destruction is the only viable option for your hard drive, then you mainly have three options: 

  1. Brute force

In theory, the best option. You can use brute force to totally destroy the hard drive: take the drive apart, sand down the disk plates, drill holes in them or pound nails through the drive with a hammer. Basically, you’ll need to make sure the disk plate can’t spin. 

While this is a very secure option, it’s also time-consuming and ineffective.

  1. Incineration

Incinerating a hard drive is obviously much faster than hammering nails into the drive, but it’s not environmentally friendly as you’ll release chemical waste into the environment. Also, if incineration is now thorough, cybercriminals may still be able to recover data stored within the drive. 

  1. Shredding

The most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly method to physically destroy the hard drive is to shred the hard drives. 

Onsite VS Offsite Shredding

Hard drive shredding can happen on your premises (onsite) or in the hard drive destruction service provider’s facilities (offsite). Both can be equally secure, depending on the vendor, but typically, it’s more convenient to have your drives shredded onsite since you can monitor the process. 

In an onsite shredding, typically the service provider will use mobile shredding vehicles that will use cutting-edge hard drive destruction technologies to permanently shred the old hard drives.

Off Site shredding, on the other hand, is completed at the service provider’s facility. In this option, you can either package and ship your own hard drives, or the ITAD company may arrange to collect your hard drives. Typically the hard drives and/or documents will be shredded within 24 hours, and the shredded waste will be recycled on the service provider’s facility. 

So, while you have less versatility with off site shredding, typically it’s more cost-effective in the long run.

Choosing The Best Hard Drive Shredding Partner

If you are sure that shredding is the best possible option for your hard drives, then the next step is to choose the right vendor that offers hard drive shredding and destruction services. 

You’ll need to be extra careful when choosing a hard drive destruction service, especially if your business is in a heavily regulated industry. You’ll need to consider:

  • Onsite vs offsite shredding

Will the vendor perform the shredding at your premises, or theirs? If it’s off site shredding (they’ll do it at their facilities), who’s responsible for shipping and packaging the hard drive? Carefully discuss every detail with the potential vendor.

  • Secure and compliant destruction

It’s crucial to choose a vendor that is compliant with all relevant regulatory rules. To ensure compliance, choose a vendor that offers a legitimate certificate of data destruction for each shredded hard drive. This certificate may be a legal requirement in your industry. 

  • Environmentally friendly

Look for an ITAD specialist vendor that is both R2 (Responsible Recycling) and RIOS certified to ensure the hard drive shredding process is eco-friendly and complies with relevant industry standards. 

RIOS certification is an ANSI accredited standard that acknowledges the service provider’s compliance to ISO:9001 (service quality), ISO:14001 (eco-friendly), and OHSAS:18001 (health and safety). 

R2 and RIOS certifications are only awarded to companies who have performed the highest responsible recycling standards, so you know you are in good hands. 


Securely destroying your hard drives is important not only in ensuring the integrity and security of your sensitive information but also to avoid potential fines and other penalties due to breach of regulations. 

With that being said, shredding your hard drives remains the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly option to destroy old hard drives. 

We’d recommend using the service of a reputable hard drive destruction service provider or selling your hard drives to reputable ITAD companies that can provide certificates of data destruction to ensure compliance and data security.

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