A hard drive is the electronic memory storage center of a computer. This is where all of a computer’s program files and documents are stored. Digitally stored information is difficult to delete; even after deleting files using a computer’s operating system, residual data remains unless it is overwritten or if the drive is physically destroyed.
A hard drive shredder combines the effectiveness of jagged, crushing rotors with assembly line efficiency. Though programs exist that allow for the complete erasure of data from a hard drive, clients like the United States military and large companies weigh the potential waste and environmental degradation caused by electronics pollution against the peace of mind that hard drive shredders afford.
No data survive passage through a hard drive shredder. In order to smash through plastic and metal computer parts, hard drive shredders are be especially powerful. They often feature saw tooth hook cutters or rotary blades that cross-cut vertically and horizontally. The products of this shredding process are shards of metal, some of which are toxic, and none of which can be legally disposed of in landfills.
Though shredded hard drives would be difficult to reuse, some of the materials left over can be recycled once shredded. Hard drives are composed of significant amounts of aluminum and magnetic materials. Many varieties of electronic waste, as well as some hard drives, can contain trace amounts of gold, silver, lead and other elements, all of which are valuable if harvested. However, recycling efficiency of the trace elements found in computer circuitry is low, and new developments in reclaiming them are not fully developed.
Despite the challenges to recycling shredded hard drive parts, hard drive shredding is the most effective and sustainable method of hard drive disposal compared to other methods like incineration, which precludes recycling and in extremely rare cases does not ensure data destruction. Hard drive shredding services are not as common as document shredding services, though they are gaining prominence as stories about identity theft and corporate espionage flood news headlines. Mobile hard drive shredding services have emerged as a result of increasing demand.