Resolved Question

Dead HDD - erase?

I tried to submit this question to MacFixit, but the "Submit" button never worked:
The internal hard drive in my MacBook died. It was verified dead by a nice "genius" who also didn't put it back when he was done to make it easier for me to return it under warranty. That set me thinking. If I have to return it in order to get a replacement, how do I erase it, or at least get rid of sensitive information on it? I personally may not be able to retrieve such information from a dead drive, but I have heard horror stories. I worry about physically destroying it before I send it. They may not honor the warranty if I do that. What do I do?

Former internal drive: Hitachi 5K320-320 Model HTS543232L9A300
I also have a SuperDuper! backup on a firewire external Maxtor, which is what I'm running off right now to the horror of a friend of mine who cautions that I might destroy it too and not have any backup to transfer to a new drive. What? Destroy? I wasn't doing anything unusual when the drive died. Besides, I also have a another external drive (but USB) with a somewhat older CCC backup. The BootCamp partition with Windows on it is a different story...

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Best Answer

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You don't

You don't. If this is a drive you bought and had put in the system, or the system is out of warranty (which seems likely given its age), then don't worry about it. Just have some cathartic fun, smash it with a hammer or something. Of course you will lose any and all warranty claims you may have with the drive if you do that.

And your friend's fears are unfounded. I have a test drive at work that I use for running diagnostics off of on systems, and it also has my known good OS for testing. You're not going to hurt a thing doing what you're doing, though it's really not a good long term solution for a number of reasons.

But if the drive was recently purchased and is under some kind of manufacturer's warranty then you have to decide which is more important. Saving some money exercising your warranty rights, or ensuring that there's absolutely no chance of anyone getting the info on that drive.

That all being said, I can tell you that despite the horror stories picked up by the media, 99.999999999% of people won't give two craps what's on your drive. I work on customer systems all day, and honestly it gets to the point where you really don't care. It's just another system. Unless I see something like kiddie porn right on the desktop, which I'd be obligated to report, I'm generally not going to go rifling through people's stuff. And you have to figure yours will probably be one of a couple hundred bad drives that come in every day. Even if someone were inclined to go through them, the odds of them picking your drive are probably pretty small.

So, the choice is yours on what you want to do, but you can safely ignore your friend on this.

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Magnetic thanks.

Thank you, Jimmy Greystone, for putting my mind at ease regarding temporarily running off the backup on the external drive. No matter what I end up doing with the dead internal drive it looks like it's going to take a while to get a new one.

I think I feel better about my passwords (encrypted, as well as Keychain stored ones) as well. After all my attitude is pretty much the same - why bother looking at other people's personal stuff. Especially if you have to work at it. It's a dead drive so you'd have to use some pretty sophisticated methods to get at it. (Which is why the suggestions in the How to forum wouldn't work - they require a functioning, OS-readable drive.) However, there's some old work related stuff on there as well... Fortunately, the really important data in that regard was/is on the desktop where I used to work. The MacBook is my personal computer, so the drive doesn't have all that much work stuff, but I'm remembering a couple of things in particular. You'd better believe I'll secure erase those before I put this backup on a new drive. Interestingly enough, my former boss didn't mention any of this when I emailed him that the dead drive was still under warranty and that I thought I'd have to send it in to get a replacement.

Anyway, that's mainly why I was asking. And, would a strong magnet do it?

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Maybe, but I would imagine they don't sell magnets that strong to just anyone. On account of if you got your hand or something between two of them, they attract with enough force to crush anything that gets between them. Also, if you used some kind of a strong magnet on it, odds are it would
scramble more than the drive's data, and they would probably be able to detect
that, and then would likely void the warranty. You have to realize that these companies have been doing this for years, and have probably seen just about every possible trick people can pull to try and get a replacement drive when they aren't necessarily entitled to one. People far more clever than the both of us put together have probably tried and failed. And I'm not saying you're trying to do anything dishonest here, but Hitachi is trying to run a business. Warranty replacement units are an expense that eats away at their bottom line. They'll grab on to any and every excuse they reasonably can to avoid giving out replacements under warranty, so don't give them any is my advice.

I honestly just wouldn't worry about it, but the choice is yours. Take your chances with the data on there and save some money, or pay a little extra for another drive to have the peace of mind that no one can possibly get at the data on that drive.

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If you have a look at

your helpful reply to another poster in the How to forum, you will see a couple more replies there that might help you with your problem.

In particular, this one;

But in any case I have sent out an SOS to Pete, MrMcfixit, to call in.


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Not a Mac user

Just in general.
If the unit is "flat dead" then I don't see any way to use software to erase it.
If the unit "kind of works" then hook it up external and see if you can format it.

Dban is a bootable disk wipe util.
It's free.....give it a shot.....worst it will do is gag.
Might be a good idea to unhook all other HD's before using Dban.....just in case you or the prog gets confused.

Destroy it or send it back for warranty......choose can't do both.

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The price of security or privacy is cheap here.

Since most drives run less than 99 bucks to replace, if the drive is dead the secure method is to hit with a hammer and pay the price of the new drive in the name of privacy.

There are makers that offer some solace but you seem to not trust them. More at those maker web pages but all erase the drive contents when they test the drive.

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