What is Degaussing and Why Should You Do It?

by | Dec 21, 2017 | Software & Hardware

Whether you are running a business or are just a private individual, you want to protect information about yourself. There are a whole host of reasons why you might not want information about you to get into the wrong hands, whether they are sensitive secrets, scripts you never want published, or simply personal information that someone could use to steal your identity. No matter what the reason is, many people at one point or another will need to get rid of a hard drive that has information they don’t want getting out. Even destroying the hard drive with a hammer might not be enough to completely destroy the information inside, but fortunately, there is a way to completely erase your hard drive. It’s called degaussing.

What is Degaussing?
To understand how degaussing works, you first need to know about magnetic information storage. Magnetic storage has been used for nearly a century now; you might be familiar with VHS or cassette tapes that had a magnetic strip storing music. A degausser would basically emit and even stronger magnetic signal, completely cancelling out the signal that was on the strip before. Despite the fact that no tapes are involved, the spinning metal discs that form the core of hard drives also store information magnetically, just on a much larger and more complex scale. A powerful enough degausser can do to the hard drive what a more simple one can do to the tape, completely erase the information by flattening out the magnetic signature with a larger one. When you degauss a hard drive, this is absolute; you might be able to rerecord music on a wiped tape, but a wiped hard drive loses everything, including startup data, at which point it’s just a very expensive brick.

How to Choose a Degausser?
As with any product choice, read user reviews and consumer reports on any product you’re considering buying. In terms of what kind of degausser, the more complex the hard drive, the stronger the signal is required to degauss it. You might need help from a professional to determine how strong the degausser needs to be to thoroughly wipe your discarded hard drive.

Never, ever simply throw out a hard drive with sensitive information. Even if you can’t use it and need to get rid of it, that doesn’t mean someone else won’t be capable of pulling at least partial information from it. Make sure to properly degauss any hard drive that you need to get rid of.

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