How to Dispose of Computer Hard Drives

Updated February 21, 2017

Whether you are purchasing a new computer for your home or new computers for an entire office, you are probably wondering what to do with all of that old equipment. You could just give the old computers to your employees, or donate them to your favourite charity, but doing so could expose you and your company to fraud and identity theft. In order to recycle those old computers safely, you will need to properly dispose of the hard drives.

Use a disk wiping program to format the hard drive and replace the existing data with dummy data, which identity thieves and others will not be able to use. There are many disk wiping programs on the market, some of which are free. Eraser and Boot & Nuke are two of the most popular disk wiping programs. These programs are easy to use. They work by deleting the data and then writing over it with dummy data so that the erased data cannot be recovered.

Open the case of the computer. You may need to consult the owner's manual that came with your computer for the proper case removal procedures. If you do not have the manual available, you can check the manufacturer's web site.

Locate the hard drive in the computer case and unplug the IDE and power cables. The IDE cable should be grey in colour, while the power cable will typically be white. Remove both of the cables, then remove the screws that hold the hard drive in place.

Remove the hard drive from the computer and set it aside, then put the cover back on the computer case. This computer case can be given to a computer manufacturer, who can rebuild it for use by someone who cannot afford to buy a computer, such as the poor and disadvantaged, or sell it for the scrap metals it contains.

Place the hard drive on a solid surface and repeatedly hit it with a hammer. Make sure that the sides of the drive are caved in. Also make sure that the IDE and power connectors are flattened out and destroyed. Physical destruction is the only certain way to ensure that the data contained on the hard drive can no longer be used. Make sure to protect yourself when taking your frustrations out on that old hard drive -- and always don your safety goggles before picking up that hammer.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
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About the Author

Based in Pennsylvania, Bonnie Conrad has been working as a professional freelance writer since 2003. Her work can be seen on Credit Factor, Constant Content and a number of other websites. Conrad also works full-time as a computer technician and loves to write about a number of technician topics. She studied computer technology and business administration at Harrisburg Area Community College.