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Safeguarding your data is important if you want to keep sensitive information, whether it’s about you, the company you work for, or anyone else, from falling into the wrong hands. Many of us discard data storage devices without a second thought, not realising that we’re placing ourselves at risk of data theft. There are several ways to sanitise these devices, and the two most commonly used methods are HDD/hard disk degaussing and data erasure. Each method comes with its own pros and cons, so choosing the right method for your data sanitisation process is predicated on your personal requirements. In this article we’ll be exploring the differences between hard disk/HDD degaussing and data erasure.

Pros & Cons of Degaussing

Degaussing is the preferred method for sanitising magnetic storage media like magnetic disk, hard disk, magnetic tapes, and so on. Degaussing utilises a strong reverse magnetising field that is generated using a degausser to neutralise the magnetic field orientation of the storage devices, which in turn makes the data stored within unreadable and irretrievable. However, degaussing could prove trickier against newer versions of magnetic devices with a stronger magnetic force. Consequently, existing degaussers may not have nearly enough force to degauss these media devices. Additionally, HDD/hard disk degaussing without proper post-degaussing recycling can even contribute to the toxic e-waste that is being generated. That being said, degaussing is still a popular sanitising method because it’s extremely thorough — the disk of the hard drive and all its data will be magnetically erased, which means that the data will be completely irretrievable and cease to exist on the disk itself.

Hard disk/HDD degaussing is also more transparent as the operator can completely audit their data erasure and provide transparent and clear logs proving that the volume data has indeed been destroyed. Furthermore, Data degaussing also provides businesses with the option to safely dispose of their hard drives post-degaussing for the purpose of recycling.

Degaussing also works for old data storage devices, like hard drives from the 90s, tapes, and magnetic media. In other words, if you have sensitive data stored in these devices, it’s not too late to have them wiped permanently.

Pros & Cons of Data Erasure

Data erasure is a sanitisation method that overwrites all addressable storage locations on the media device with binary pattern (non-sensitive data), rendering the stored data unrecoverable regardless of recovery tool or method used. Data erasure can be used on magnetic media and flash memory-based storage media like SSD and flash memory cards. Data erasure can be implemented using a software that initiates read and write commands on a functioning device to overwrite the target data with non-sensitive data. The biggest upside to data erasure is that it destroys data without damaging the core property of the storage media, therefore preserving its monetary value and functional aspects of the device. Also, because these devices can still be used, no e-waste is generated through the process.

However, the downside is that every hard drive has bad sectors, and the data erasure software won’t be able to erase those parts the way HDD/hard disk degaussing can. The data stored in those sectors can be accessed at a later stage as a result. Data erasure doesn’t erase the data on the disk; it only overwrites the data, leaving the previous layer of data intact. Hard drives often possess an internal auto-recovery function, also known as Ghost List. This tool enables the disk to automatically save your data in a portion of the disk that can’t be accessed by any software.

Regardless of the sanitisation method you wish to use, find it here at Metalo. For more information about our services and accreditations, please visit our website.

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