Data Destruction: Recover Neodymium Supermagnets by Disassembling Old Disk Drives

sphen

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I like to disassemble spinning hard drives to destroy the data. My true motive is to salvage the neodymium "supermagnets" from inside those drives. Nearly all spinning hard drives have two flat, crescent-shaped, neodymium magnets inside. They are useful for crafts, projects, repairs, tools, etc. I have a small jar of them. Here are a few helpful notes and hints:
  • DANGER! KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN!
    • If swallowed, those powerful magnets can injure or kill a child.
    • They can easily pinch off skin. No joke. When two magnets come together it happens fast.
    • To separate two of them, rotate them while stuck until they repel each other or you can slide one off.
  • WARNING! GLASS DRIVE PLATTERS WILL SHATTER ... TAKE CARE TO CONTAIN THE SHARDS!
    • Drive platters can look like metal, but they are glass that can shatter and fill the air with razor sharp microshards that spread to every corner of any room, maybe up to the size of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Use caution and care.
    • I take the platters to the outside trash can, put them in a heavy thick plastic bag and then flex them from the outside of the bag to contain the shards in the bag.
    • WEAR EYE PROTECTION!
  • Separate, Bend and Scratch Metal Platters
    • If the platters are metal, they will bend and not break.
    • Be sure to take them apart into separate individual platters, then bend and scratch them with pliers.
      • -> Separation is important; do not leave the platters bundled together.
    • Once multiple platters are separated, bent, and scratched, the threat is essentially zero. In that state you can safely put them in the trash unless your security officer has briefed you otherwise.
  • A set of Torx ("star") drivers is essential.
    • FYI: Some screws are hidden under stickers.
Do a few, and it won't take much time the next time. When you are all done, you will have two powerful neodymium magnets in your hands. They are usually shaped like flat crescents (slightly curved). They are brittle, so do not try to pry them off their frames. Instead, take two pliers and bend the metal frame away from the magnet, and it should pop off. Wear eye protection. I have a jar of them in the garage and use as needed. They have many uses. Small bits can handle the job of holding those annoying adjuster allen wrenches (hex keys) to the tool that they adjust. They can find staples and nails in wood before you cut it. Sometimes it is the simple uses that make things work. (Do not try them as refrigerator or oven magnets. They are too strong and will scratch the paint or metal surface when you try to remove one.)

I have encountered situations where a room was full of drives and it was not sensible or practical to take them apart for the magnets. In those cases, I brought a small benchtop drill press and some old "fat" "throwaway" drill bits to work. I put five holes randomly through the platter sections of metal drives, and can hear the broken glass that happens when you drill that first hole on the drives with the glass platters in them (most old laptop drives). Be sure to drill through all the platters in the drive, and remember to contain the broken glass platters that will leak out the holes on the smaller drives. Wear eye protection!

I have also used hard drive shredders. You put the drive in a chute (like a post office mailbox) and watch the machine slowly grind your drive into tiny metal filings. Sometimes the drama itself hammers home the proof of data destruction.
 


I have a kind of amusing magnet story...

The last time I needed magnets of this type, I just ordered them on a slow boat from China.

Before you laugh, I spent like $1.27 (literally) for three of them (I only needed one) and I'm positive that it was more than that just to ship them to me. They literally shipped from China, complete with Chinese postage on the envelope. They took months to arrive.

The reason I wanted one was because a buddy had bought a lovely (and costly) knife. However, the sheath that came with it was less than lovely and the knife would fall out. So, I ordered a small but powerful magnet and hot glued it to the sheath. It was good enough so that he could turn the sheath upside down and the knife wouldn't fall out.

I considered it a safety issue. For starters, he was going to wear the knife while hunting and he really wasn't the most graceful of people, to put it mildly.

Anyhow, I found it by using Google. I searched for 'neodymium magnets +free shipping' and paid the asking price.

And so ends my magnet story.

... Unless we want to discuss lyrics from a horrible band that's confused about magnets and doesn't understand how they work.
 
I have a kind of amusing magnet story...

The last time I needed magnets of this type, I just ordered them on a slow boat from China.

Before you laugh, I spent like $1.27 (literally) for three of them (I only needed one) and I'm positive that it was more than that just to ship them to me. They literally shipped from China, complete with Chinese postage on the envelope. They took months to arrive.

The reason I wanted one was because a buddy had bought a lovely (and costly) knife. However, the sheath that came with it was less than lovely and the knife would fall out. So, I ordered a small but powerful magnet and hot glued it to the sheath. It was good enough so that he could turn the sheath upside down and the knife wouldn't fall out.

I considered it a safety issue. For starters, he was going to wear the knife while hunting and he really wasn't the most graceful of people, to put it mildly.

Anyhow, I found it by using Google. I searched for 'neodymium magnets +free shipping' and paid the asking price.

And so ends my magnet story.

... Unless we want to discuss lyrics from a horrible band that's confused about magnets and doesn't understand how they work.
That was an interesting story. A long time ago I bought a couple of RITZ cracker sized neodymium magnets from a surplus store, and decided to play with them. Bringing the magnets close together, they pulled right out of my hands and smashed into each other, with so much force, that sparks flew and the magnets shattered into pieces! Yes, you can get seriously pinched playing with the larger magnets.
 
Yes, you can get seriously pinched playing with the larger magnets.

If you start getting into what I'll call 'serious magnets', they'll take your fingers. They'll take your whole appendage if you're not careful. They have some pretty serious safety rules if you want to play with them. (There are some great videos on YouTube.)
 
If you start getting into what I'll call 'serious magnets', they'll take your fingers. They'll take your whole appendage if you're not careful. They have some pretty serious safety rules if you want to play with them. (There are some great videos on YouTube.)
My stack of ferrite magnets.
 

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I like to disassemble spinning hard drives to destroy the data. My true motive is to salvage the neodymium "supermagnets" from inside those drives. Nearly all spinning hard drives have two flat, crescent-shaped, neodymium magnets inside. They are useful for crafts, projects, repairs, tools, etc. I have a small jar of them. Here are a few helpful notes and hints:
  • DANGER! KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN!
    • If swallowed, those powerful magnets can injure or kill a child.
    • They can easily pinch off skin. No joke. When two magnets come together it happens fast.
    • To separate two of them, rotate them while stuck until they repel each other or you can slide one off.
  • WARNING! GLASS DRIVE PLATTERS WILL SHATTER ... TAKE CARE TO CONTAIN THE SHARDS!
    • Drive platters can look like metal, but they are glass that can shatter and fill the air with razor sharp microshards that spread to every corner of any room, maybe up to the size of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Use caution and care.
    • I take the platters to the outside trash can, put them in a heavy thick plastic bag and then flex them from the outside of the bag to contain the shards in the bag.
    • WEAR EYE PROTECTION!
  • Separate, Bend and Scratch Metal Platters
    • If the platters are metal, they will bend and not break.
    • Be sure to take them apart into separate individual platters, then bend and scratch them with pliers.
      • -> Separation is important; do not leave the platters bundled together.
    • Once multiple platters are separated, bent, and scratched, the threat is essentially zero. In that state you can safely put them in the trash unless your security officer has briefed you otherwise.
  • A set of Torx ("star") drivers is essential.
    • FYI: Some screws are hidden under stickers.
Do a few, and it won't take much time the next time. When you are all done, you will have two powerful neodymium magnets in your hands. They are usually shaped like flat crescents (slightly curved). They are brittle, so do not try to pry them off their frames. Instead, take two pliers and bend the metal frame away from the magnet, and it should pop off. Wear eye protection. I have a jar of them in the garage and use as needed. They have many uses. Small bits can handle the job of holding those annoying adjuster allen wrenches (hex keys) to the tool that they adjust. They can find staples and nails in wood before you cut it. Sometimes it is the simple uses that make things work. (Do not try them as refrigerator or oven magnets. They are too strong and will scratch the paint or metal surface when you try to remove one.)

I have encountered situations where a room was full of drives and it was not sensible or practical to take them apart for the magnets. In those cases, I brought a small benchtop drill press and some old "fat" "throwaway" drill bits to work. I put five holes randomly through the platter sections of metal drives, and can hear the broken glass that happens when you drill that first hole on the drives with the glass platters in them (most old laptop drives). Be sure to drill through all the platters in the drive, and remember to contain the broken glass platters that will leak out the holes on the smaller drives. Wear eye protection!

I have also used hard drive shredders. You put the drive in a chute (like a post office mailbox) and watch the machine slowly grind your drive into tiny metal filings. Sometimes the drama itself hammers home the proof of data destruction.
I do the same thing except I save the platters for those doing art work. The nice mirrors are something many look for. The magnets I have a wall full of them and when aircraft fly overhead they lose all compass direction for a few seconds. (just kidding about the compass). I give the magnets away if people need them and I use some. One holds a drop leaf counter up.
 


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