Hard Drive Degausser

Data stored on hard drives, magnetic tape, and other magnetic storage devices is technically called magnetic media. Documents, videos, and other media types create uniformly magnetized regions (magnetic domains) within magnetic materials that align with the applied magnetic field. Once data is magnetically imprinted on a hard drive, disk, or tape, it can be easily retrieved unless it is completely erased with a degausser.

Originally, degaussers were placed on WWII naval ships to detect magnetic mines dispersed by enemy ships. Consisting of electrical cables encircling a ship’s hull, maritime degaussers could detect a magnetic mine and deactivate it before it blew up the ship. Merchant ships were still using this type of degausser just a few decades ago to protect them from getting blown up by leftover WWII magnetic mines.

Modern degaussers cleanly and permanently erase data from floppy disks, hard drives, and tapes. This erasure process involves a degausser altering the magnetic domain by disrupting the uniform direction of the magnetic field. This makes the data absolutely unreadable and inaccessible.

More About How a Degausser Permanently Erases Data

Degaussing is one of the best methods for ensuring all hard drive data can no longer be recovered by unethical actors. Many companies routinely degauss hard drives following a data center decommissioning project before having them destroyed by a certified recycling center like Potomac eCycle.

By scrambling magnetic domains into undecipherable random patterns, degaussing converts sensitive data into unrecoverable data. However, companies should be aware of a phenomenon called remanent magnetization (remanence) involving specific domains that may not be impacted by degaussing. Subpar degaussing machines could leave enough magnetic alignment behind that would allow sophisticated data recovery hackers access to data. If a degausser generates insufficient magnetic field energy, complete data erasure is not guaranteed.

A permanent magnet degausser contains rare earth magnets made from various rare earth metal alloys. Producing strong magnetic fields exceeding 1.4 Tesla, rare earth magnet degaussers do not require electricity to erase data from storage media. Consequently, their mobility allows recyclers to degauss a hard drive onsite.

Magnetic Fields Measured in Oersteds

A term of measurement used to evaluate the strength of a hard drive’s magnetic field, an oersted (Oe) rating gives companies an idea of how powerful a degausser needs to be for erasing data on magnetic media. For example, modern magnetic tapes have Oe ratings exceeding 1800. Alternately, state-of-the-art hard drives can retain well over 4500 oersteds.

Coercivity of Magnetic Storage Devices

Similar in meaning to oersted, coercivity measures the coercive (forceful) value attributed to the magnetic field strength of hard drives. In other words, coercivity indicates how strong a degaussing machine should be to permanently erase magnetic domains. The terms oersted and coercivity are sometimes used interchangeably in technical descriptions of degaussers.

Which Companies Would Benefit from Degaussing Magnetic Storage Devices?

The U.S. Department of Defense currently employs degaussing methods to erase top-secret data that hostile actors would love to access. Other organizations that always rely on degaussing include:

  • Data storage business
  • IT departments
  • Close-circuit TV operators
  • Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions
  • Hospitals
  • Higher education institutions
  • Local and state government agencies
  • Law enforcement departments
  • Credit card companies
  • Retail/service sector industries
  • Manufacturing facilities concerned about unethical competitors

Benefits of Degaussing Magnetic Storage Media

  • Permanently erases sensitive and classified data
  • Meets requirements established by the National Security Administration (NSA) or sanitizing sensitive information
  • Prevents all known methods of exploiting data retrieval techniques from being successful
  • Minimizes the volume of sensitive data stored onsite
  • Ensures satisfactory completion of any decommissioning project
  • Eliminates a company’s risk of suffering reputational and revenue loss due to retrieved (stolen) data remaining on discarded storage media.
  • Complies with HIPAA guidelines regarding removal of data from magnetic storage devices

Potomac eCycle provides degaussing of hard drives and other data storage components as well as digital equipment shredding and electronic waste recycling services. Call today to learn more about our company.

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