Physically Destroying a Hard Drive
Physically destroying a hard drive is by far the most effective method for the average person to ensure the safety of their data. However, please wear protective glasses and other gear if you decide to physically destroy a drive yourself. It can be a dangerous activity that I don't recommend to everyone. Also, as a precaution, wrap the hard drive in a towel so the parts don't fly off and do more damage.
Whether its smashing the hard drive with a sledgehammer, drilling holes into the drive, tearing the drive apart and destroying the platters, shredding the drive, or other methods your sensitive data will be safe.
For the most security, I recommend doing as many of the above procedures (wiping the drive, degaussing it, and destroying it) as you can. If a drive is wiped, degaussed, and destroyed the chances of recovering the data is almost nil.
So I was going to have to open it up and find the hard drive.
I noticed on the back where my son had labeled (or had gotten me to) all the key connections so we could plug things back in right if they came out. Thanks J1!
It wasn't much to unscrew the case and slide it off.
I'd always been a little intimidated about going inside here. I did find a bit of dust, so there probably is a reason to go in - just to clean it. It was really easy, and knowing I didn't have to put it together right meant I could fiddle around. Pull out connection ribbons, twist off this, and that. Thanks M for that suggestion.
And I found the hard drive. I looked online for images of hard drives to be sure this was the right thing.
They're really sneaky. See that silver label with the green "Quality Control Accepted"?
The smaller print says, "Do Not Remove."
So I removed it.
When you pull it off it leaves the silver on the case with those VOID stencils. Sneaky!
Then I went to the garage and smashed it with my little hatchet. Lots of fun.
So, there really wasn't anything of interest on there anyway, but this should keep whatever there was a mystery forever. Then my son sent me a link to this video of disk destruction.
[I'm trying out two YouTube opitons here - one is a privacy option that restricts their cookie monster a bit, and the other uses iFrame and uses HTML5 sometimes which will eventually then be viewable on iPhones. I'm not promoting these, just experimenting AND letting you know.]
Then today I called a friend to see if he had any electronic stuff to recycle, since the carload was $25 including up to two monitors for today. He had lots and we took it to Total Reclaim where we filled almost a whole box - mostly with his stuff. That's the guy who worked there in the picture. All this stuff gets shipped to Seattle he said.
[UPDATE: See also the new Annie Leonard video "The Story of Electronics."]