Wednesday, I was able to check off another one of those things on the ‘To Do at least Once in your IT Career’ list by degaussing hard drives. Degaussing a hard drive means using a device that generates a strong electromagnetic field to wipe the data on the drive. This is an important step that I’ve mentioned before in the ‘Before you Recycle/Garbage that Old Computer‘ article to ensure your security and privacy; it is also required for compliance with state law for my office. Normally, we would use DBaN but that could take 20 to 60+ minutes per drive depending on the capacity and condition of the drive. The degaussing process takes about 20 seconds per drive (5-10 seconds per side). Since another IT office had just got the degausser, I decided to take it for a spin and wipe 250 drives in the time we would normally be able to do 8 (good) drives with DBaN.
The process was relatively simple. The only real difficulty was hauling 250 drives blocks away and then crossing the pothole filled street with a cart. The sheer weight of that many drives has also left my biceps and back reminding me of the experience, though not so fondly. The degausser I used was the Proton 8000 by Proton Data Security (pictured below courtesy of their website).
To degauss a drive, you put a single 3.5 inch hard drive into a tray. You then position the tray over the Active Area and rotate the drive 360 degrees while stepping on the foot pedal to enable the Full Degauss Current taking about 5 to 10 seconds. You then flip the drive over onto its other side and rotate it again for 5 to 10 seconds with Full Degauss Current. The drive is then fully degaussed. You’ll want to be sure to be using heat-resistant gloves as the drives get very hot as a result of degaussing them.
After the process, I had 250 drives securely wiped while my credit cards and phone still worked. Besides the heavy-lifting, I also got a work out because rotating the drives is a lot like trying to force the same poles of two magnets together. Unfortunately the drives are not likely able to be used again, but the time saved through the degaussing process is extremely significant.