Finally, an article that puts the argument of Hard Drive Shred Size to bed!
Just a week ago, I about put myself into a coma by trying to explain the impracticality of trying to recover data from a hard drive that had been physically destroyed.
In short… IT’S IMPOSSIBLE
Ok… it is possible… but in the “I’m going to win the Powerball Lottery” kind of way.
It all comes down to how the data on a hard drive is encoded. Each manufacturer encodes their hard drives differently. Then, to allow for the most data to be stored on these hard drives, the manufacturers are increasing the “areal density” (how tightly the data is encoded) on the drives.
This equates to extremely complex coding unique to each manufacturer.
But isn’t there something that can read the data off a random discarded piece of a hard drive?
In theory… Yes.
There is a process called magnetic force microscopy (MFM) photography that can see the data in its encoded format.
So then all we have to do is decode it – Right?
Well, not so fast.
First, there is the problem of size. Each one of these pictures would have to be saved somewhere for later decoding. For a 20 gigabite hard drive, all these MFM “pictures” would take up approximately 16 terabytes.
Then, here’s the fun part, each picture would then have to “be analyzed by an expert to interpret each bit” of information. Just the idea of this puts the notion of hard drive data recovery in the realms of impossible.
But were not done.
Now we have to know how the hard drive was encoded so we can know how to decode it.
To decode the data it would be necessary to know the manufacturer of the hard drive and the model of the hard drive, in fact. Most likely, one would even need to know the version of the firmware that was used to write the data. Even this information is not enough to decode the data, as one would need access to the manufacturer’s proprietary information concerning how that particular firmware/model drive actually wrote the data to the disk surface.
Still not satisfied that the data on your hard drive is not secure after running it through a hard drive shredder?
So even if we had all the information needed to decode the data, any hard drive that has been physically altered (shredded) will have significant damage to portions of the disks platters that will make the data impossible to retrieve no matter what.
The only response at this point is that data recovery from a physically destroyed hard drive, especially one that is in pieces, is impossible.
So I guess I need to restate my earlier comment…
You probably MORE LIKELY to win the lottery than having the data from a shredded hard drive restored.
To read the full story as published in Storage & Destruction Business magazine, here’s the link:
As always, if you have any questions about hard drive shredding or have other document destruction concerns, please feel free to give us a call:
Also, I’d love to hear your feedback about this topic in the comments section below.
Until next time… Keep Totally Secure.
Head Shredding Guy
P.S. I always knew that data recovery from a shredded hard drive was virtually impossible. But that paragraph in quotes above really eliminates the “virtually” part – Don’t ya think?