The question comes frequently, and often so suddenly as to momentarily stun an employee into stupefaction: what is degaussing? I know because it’s happened to me before.
Hard drive degaussing may seem abstract or complex, but in fact, it’s really not. It’s actually quite simple. The technical definition of degaussing involves the reduction or elimination of a magnetic field. Now, to break this down further into layman terms, degaussing simply means getting rid of or weakening a magnetic field. And since hard drives have magnetic properties (platters, for example), hard drive degaussing is one of the most effective ways to destroy sensitive data contained within them.
Let’s take a closer look.
The History of Degaussing
Like many innovations brought about by war (gas masks, anyone?), degaussing was developed during the perilous days of World War 2. Responding to the strategic challenges faced during the war, naval ships used degaussing systems to reduce their magnetic signature and allow them to safely navigate over magnetic mines. This wartime necessity basically laid the foundation for the later adaptation of degaussing technology in the IT world.
Effectiveness in Wiping Out Hard Drive Data
Hard drive degaussing is effective, very effective. When a degaussing machine, like the LM-1 Degausser, subjects a hard drive to its process, it completely disrupts the magnetic field storing data, rendering it irretrievable.
Pros of Hard Drive Degaussing
Irreversible Data Destruction
Degaussing ensures the irreparable destructiion of sensitive data, thereby providing a high level of security against attempts at data recovery.
Quick and Efficient
The process is fairly quick, allowing for the efficient erasure of data from large quantities of hard drives in a short amount of time. Take our LM-1 Degausser, for instance, which can erase up to 1,300 hard drives or magnetic tapes per hour! Not too shabby.
Degaussing Various Media
A degausser can apply to various magnetic storage media like tape or floppy disks, making degaussing a versatile and effective solution, not limited solely to hard drives.
Unlike shredding, which potentially releases particulates and bits of metal into the air, degaussing doesn’t involve any physical destruction of the storage media, which in turn makes hard drive degaussing an environmentally conscious solution.
Some Cons to Consider
Limited to Magnetic Media
Unfortunately, as powerful a weapon as degaussing is, it has one drawback: it will not work on solid-state drives (SSDs) or other non-magnetic storage devices.
Degaussed Media is Unusable
Perhaps the biggest drawback to degaussing is this: once a hard drive is degaussed, it’s rendered ineffective and unusable. While this is advantageous for secure data destruction, it means the hard drive cannot be reused or reintroduced into the market. As a result, it is not ideal for achieving a workable circular economy.
Businesses need specialized degaussing equipment, which can be a considerable upfront investment. However, contacting data destruction companies like eAsset Solutions, equipped with degaussing machines (in our case, the LM-1 Degausser), will relieve businesses of the financial burden.
So to reiterate: degaussing is the process of using powerful magnets to disrupt the magnetic fields on a hard drive’s platters. By erasing the magnetism that encodes data, degaussing effectively renders the information irretrievable.
Hard drive degaussing is a very reliable and effective method for secure data destruction, as it offers a sweet combination of speed and security. It is not the answer to all your data destruction needs, however, especially when considering the mounting e-waste crisis, which calls for effecting a circular economy in all realms of life.
If you have any further questions about degaussing, or anything else relating to data destruction, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!