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Use Extreme Caution with HCL

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Dissolving Hard Drives in Hydrocloric Acid Part 1

Posted on 30 August 2012 by Total Secure Shredding

Howdy Folks,

A few months ago I got an email from Christian that went into great detail about how to dissolve hard drives in Hydrochloric Acid.

I for one think shredding hard drives and then recycling the materials is a much better way to go, but in any event, if you’re interested messing around with acid, here’s how you go about doing it.

Disclaimer: I don’t recommend doing this and I hope that by posting this, and by showing the potential dander, nobody will give it a try. As you’ll read, you need to Personal Protective Gear and you will be producing extremely hazardous Hydrogen gas. Not to mention dealing with a highly corrosive chemical.

Side Note: FYI… Shredding hard drives doesn’t required Personal Protective Gear, doesn’t great Hydrogen Gas, and doesn’t involve the handling of corrosive chemicals.

But on with the show…

Greetings.

I am writing with a few comments and observations on dissolving hard drives in HCL or hydrochloric acid.

First of all, the stuff is relatively easy to find.  Any Lowes, Home Depot, garden/pool/spa/home improvement store should carry it in quarts, half or whole gallons.  You might also want to ask for muriatic acid, which is the same thing.  The best thing to buy would naturally be the most concentrated, which they usually sell at between 30 and 32% or so.

Granted, you want to be damned careful with the stuff [my emphasis added], as I can say from experience that it burns like hell if the concentrated acid gets on your skin, especially if you have a cut…  Anyway, you don’t need a space suit to handle it.

Though I have never destroyed a hard drive with it, here is what I would do, based on my knowledge of and experience with this corrosive substance.

FYI, you can also find similar info on line, though perhaps not as detailed.  If you destroy a hard drive in acid, I’d recommend putting the drive in something either heavy duty plastic, or glass if you have a jar that big.  The reaction will cause a certain amount of heat as the acid reacts with the metals and creates hydrogen gas, and you don’t want your vessel melting on you, for obvious reasons.

You will also want to perform this exercise in either an outdoor or very open or well ventilated indoor environment.

The first thing to do is put on protective clothing, namely long sleeves, rubber/plastic gloves and a respirator, if you actually have one.  If not, take a big breath like you would if diving underwater, look away from the container and open the acid bottle.  If possible, hold the breath while pouring the acid into the container.  If not, breathe with the mouth away from the container of acid, as the fumes smell god awful and will irritate in small amounts.

I would recommend putting the drive in the container BEFORE the acid to reduce the possibility of spillage.  Anyway, once you’ve got your drive in a jar and are pouring the acid, it would be best to not get your face or body over the container in case the reaction is more violent than expected, which acid reactions can be at times.  Fill the jar enough to cover the drive with a bit to spare, and let sit for a few hours.  I’d say leave overnight, but one should probably watch this stuff and not let it sit.

I would NOT recommend closing the jar or container, as the reaction will produce highly flammable and potentially explosive hydrogen gas, the same thing that blew up the Hindenburg.

You can either wait for the acid to eat into the drive casing and begin corroding the platters, or you could do what I will do when the time comes.  Open the drive by removing the screws and/or rivets in the case itself, leaving the platters exposed and ready to be eaten by hungry acid.

Anyway, that’s my two cents or so on destroying hard drives with acid.  Have fun, stay safe and be well.

Very Exciting Indeed!

Again, I highly don’t recommend doing this unless you have extensive experience doing this sort of thing. After all, I don’t know who Christian really is so he may be an experienced chemist or a complete psychopath.

In Part II of this experiment, Christian fills us in on how to dispose of what remains after the hard drive is dissolved.

Talk to you then… Your friend,

Mike
Head Shredding Guy

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The Story of the PDA

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The Story of the PDA

Posted on 20 March 2012 by Total Secure Shredding

Hey Folks,

I would imagine that there isn’t too many still walking around with a PDA. Better yet, how many people even remember what a PDA is? Do you remember the Palm Pilot?

Well here’s a little story…

Once upon a time, long long ago (at least in terms of computing) back in 1986, the very first portable hand held electronic device know as Personal Digital Assistants or PDAs was released upon the public.

These devices were designed to get rid of those old fashioned paper day planners in which you would right down all your appointments and important contacts. And perhaps, if you were so inclined, you would also annotate your own personal information (just in case someone found your day planner – they could return it) and other important information like account numbers and pins.

So these PDAs were able to perform all the same functions as a paper day planner or organizer, but just not as easily or conveniently.

They often included such functions as:

  • Appointment calendar
  • A to-do list (everyone loves a “to-do” list!)
  • An address book
  • A Calculator (a very novel idea indeed)
  • A memo or “note” program.

These PDA’s would save infinite amounts of time required every year copying all the information over from last years planner. From the busy executive to the average stay at home mom, this was manna from heaven not to mention digital efficiency at its finest. Perfect organization; never again late for an appointment; and no more forgetting important dates like birthdays or anniversaries.

At first, you needed a little stick, known as a stylus, to write on the PDA’s glass screen in order to input your information. These PDAs tried to recognize your handwriting, but as you could probably guess, it never worked as well as writing on paper. After all, half the time we can’t even read our own writing, how in the world is a computer going to read it!

So a virtual keyboard was designed that would appear on the screen and you would tap each virtual key one at a time with your little stick to input your data. Of course this took forever, but at least once that data was put in, you never had to input it again.

Then, a brilliant engineer came up with the idea of adding button onto the face of the PDA in order to facilitate data entry. It didn’t take very long until a full mini keyboard was included on the front of the PDAs to streamline data entry.

Everything was going along just fine until one day someone realized that they were carrying both a cell phone and a PDA. And, as luck would have it, the cell phone had many of the same features as the PDA including contacts and the ever present, tool for all occasions: A Calculator.

So again, one day, another brilliant engineer came up with the idea of combining the PDA and the cell phone. After many years of careful thought, a new device was created to replace the cell phone and the PDA. This device was called the Smart Phone!

Today, it is very hard indeed to find a mere cell phone or a PDA… They are all but extinct. However, it is equally rare to find someone without a Smart Phone. These Smart Phones can now browse the internet, send personal messages, play music, and even play games for hours on end.

Of course Smart Phones can still make phone calls, create a “to-do” list, be used as a calculator, contain an appointment calendar, and create a memo… however they just don’t perform these functions very well. Many times, instead of using your Smart Phone, we still use the old fashioned methods of paper and pen for data functions. And if you want to make a quality phone call where you can actually hear the other person talk, it’s often best not to use your cell phone.

So although PDAs, and now Smart Phones, have not made us any more efficient or less likely to forget an important birthday or anniversary, there is a high likelihood that you did try to input some important sensitive information into that old PDA or even a new Smart Phone.

If that is the case, it might be worth while to get that old PDA shredded to make sure none of that information falls into the wrong hands.

Until next time…

Keep Totally Secure!

Mike
Head Shredding Guy

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Hard Drive Shredding

Posted on 25 February 2010 by Total Secure Shredding

Hard Drive DestructionHey Folks,

The information held on your hard drive is every “Bit”…

Get it… “Bit”… as in “Bits & Bytes”…. As in the Digital Language encoding all that information held on your hard drive?

Well, maybe not… but I’ll get a little more to that a “Bit” later.

Sorry, not any funnier the second time.

Anyway… the information held on your hard drive is every bit as important as the critical information that is held on paper documents.

The real question is: How do I get rid of those hard drives now that you’ve upgraded to a new computer?

Before we get into how to get rid of hard drives, maybe we should look a little further into how hard drives work and how exactly that information is stored.

Don’t worry; I’m not going to get that technical…

After all, you don’t have to be a computer engineer to know how to use a computer and you definitely don’t have to be an engineer to know how to destroy one.

So without further ado, put on your propeller hat and let’s get a little technical

First off, hard drives are very precision pieces of machinery.

All that information on your computer, believe it or not, is held on thin round metal plates that spin upwards of 7,200 rpm’s per minute. That’s pretty fast!

Every keystroke produces strings  of “1’s” and “0’s” (Those are the “Bits” referred to previously. Bytes are a packet of 8 Bits.) that are transferred and stored magnetically to these highly polished hard drive plates, also known as platters.

There are two very important things to remember from that last sentence:

  1. Magnetically Transferred
  2. Highly Polished Plates

So remember these two tidbits for when we get further along in the destruction process.

Well I think that’s all we need to know with regard to how hard drives work…

And actually, that’s about all I know when it comes to how hard drives works… see, I said you didn’t need to know much!

Now on to how we get rid of these hard drives…

There are basically three ways to commonly used to get rid of hard drives, or at least the information held on them.

The first is “Wiping the Entire Hard Drive”. This is the method of simply “overwriting” all your old information with new useless information – for example, writing 0’s over the entire hard drive.

One item of note is that “Wiping” IS NOT the same as “Reformatting” a hard drive or “Deleting” files on your hard drive. Also, the “Wiping” needs to be performed on the entire hard drive not just segments of the hard drive.

Special software is required to perform the “Wiping”.

Another method is called Degaussing. This is when powerful magnets are used to jumble up all those “1’s” and “0’s”.

Remember that fact about how information is transferred and stored magnetically on the hard drive.

There are machines on the market that perform this degaussing function.

However, the magnets hanging on your home refrigerator won’t cut it! You will need some heavy duty magnets or an actual degaussing device.

The third and final method for getting rid of hard drives is Physical Destruction. And as you might have guessed, this involves getting physical with your drive!

I’ve researched a few different ways. Some seem extremely stupid and hazardous to your health; Some seem potentially practical.

First some of the ridiculous:

Dissolve your hard drive in Hydrochloric Acid. This might work very well, but if you’re like me, you don’t have hydrochloric acid just laying around and moreover, like me, don’t know where in the world to get enough to dissolve an entire hard drive

Even if you had some around the house just waiting to get used, how do you get rid of it when you’re done?

But most important, do you really want to be messing around with acid?

Burn your hard drive with Thermite:  Why anyone would even recommend this is ridiculous. Again, this might work well for destroying a hard drive but if in the process you kill yourself, someone else, or burn down the entire neighborhood in the process – is it worth it? (That’s a rhetorical question by the way!)

Along with burning it with Thermite, I pretty much also include using a welder, blow torch, or plasma cutter. That’s great if you have one of those things and know how to use it, but for the rest of us…

Now we get to various other tools that include: Sledge Hammers, Hacksaws, Drills, & Grinders.

All these things would seem to work once you put on your safety gloves and goggles and invest enough elbow grease.

Here’s the thing, like I said before, hard drives are really sensitive. Remember the highly polished platter part.

Typically things that are not out in the open for people to see but nonetheless are highly polished – trust me it’s like that for a reason. Just a little bit of dust or putting one deep scratch on the surface could really foul things up.

So if you have the time and desire, grinding hard drive platters down to dust will do the trick.

Using a hack saw to cut the platters into pieces would also seem to work and along with drilling holes into them, beating them with sledge hammers and other forms of mutilation.

You might lose a finger or put out an eye in the process, but I guess that’s better than the potential outcome from mishandling hydrochloric acid or thermite.

After all, dropping a nuclear bomb on a hard drive might do the job also but let’s think about the collateral damage for a second!

The absolute safest, fastest, affordable, and most secure method of destroying hard drives I have found, by far, is shredding.

What I mean by this is simply throw your hard drive into one end of the machine and at the other end you get pieces.

That’s it – no hammers, explosives, acid, or anything else…

And if you could do that quickly, let’s say in about 30 seconds, so you could watch everything take place while you wait…

Ding, Ding, Ding… I think we have a winner!

The only thing about this method is that, well, the hard drive is done. Goodbye. No More Work.

With the “Wiping” and “Degaussing” methods mentioned above, you can use the hard drives again.

But in reality, who’s getting rid of great hard drives?

The hard drive that was great three years ago is no longer big enough to run the latest version of windows much less anything else.

So who wants your old hard drives, not many… Especially when you consider how affordable new ones are.

So I went out looking for a shredding solution where the proof of destruction was irrefutable.

I didn’t want a machine that worked some sort of “degaussing” or “wiping” magic on your hard drive.

You want proof! You want your hard drive reduced to pieces!

Once your hard drive, especially those platters, is in pieces, it is virtually impossible to pull information off the pieces.

It would literally take upwards of $50,000 to $100,000 dollars, an electron microscope, and hundreds of painstaking hours to pull information off a hard drive platter that is in multiple pieces.

But before you get too excited… I do have one piece of bad news…

Although my hard drive shredder is on order, it won’t be here until March 22nd. As of writing this, that’s just less than four weeks away.

So please, I beg you, put away the hydrochloric acid, the thermite, or any other dangerous technique you’ve devised to obliterate your hard drive.

Four weeks really isn’t that long – I PROMISE!

While we’re waiting for the new hard drive shredder to arrive, feel free to check out the new Total Secure Shredding, Inc. Hard Drive Web Page and let me know what you think.

It’s under construction; nothing is final (including prices). So what you see today could be completely different by March 22nd.

I look forward to your comments.

Until Next Time,

Keep Totally Secure,

Mike

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