View Full Version : Hard drive safety

May 29th, 2012, 01:34 AM
Hello all, I'm a US photographer. 2 years ago I took some 'playful' photos of a high-profile client, but he/she immediately asked them to be discarded after the shoot. They were stored on a hard drive, that I smashed onto the floor some times (the hard drive bended, but did not break) and left outside, it was rained on. LAter I tossed the hard drive in the trash, thinking the data would be destroyed. Today I was talking to a programmer who said the data was probably still intact on my drive. I'm now paranoid about it and think I might have goofed! What do you think the chances are that the sensitive data could be recovered? I've been told that dumpster divers look for hard drives and can recovr deleted data on them. If these photos were posted on the net it woiuld ruin my job.

May 29th, 2012, 07:54 AM
Always encrypt your hard disks.

May 29th, 2012, 08:10 AM
It depends on how hard you break the drive. If it looks really messed up, most people wouldn't care anyway. However, there's a small chance some people might be curious and try their hardest to recover data, but your drive was slammed on and left outside the rain, so the chance is slim. Slim, but possible if they are determined enough.

Your best chance right now would be... pray to God that drive will end up in a really really dark corner of the Earth and never been found ever, ever again...

... and remember to encrypt your drive next time.

May 29th, 2012, 08:13 AM
If I were looking at it from your perspective, I would probably be a little paranoid too. But I've got a different point of view. first of all, if I were a dumpster diver looking for a hard drive I would probably pass up any that looked smashed. Second, if the case is smashed/bent, then the magnetic disc is probably bent as well which, from my understanding, would make it unusable and the data unrecoverable. If the disc were still intact, it would have to be VERY CAREFULLY removed from the case, placed into an identical case with an almost identical logic board for the disc to be usable. If it sat out in the rain, the bent case probably let in some amount of moisture, potentially damaging all the data on the disc. But back to the dumpster, I would say it's a pretty slim chance that anybody even notices the thing.

Bucky Ball
May 29th, 2012, 08:17 AM
A bottle of scotch, a good lie down, then try and forget about it and get on with your life as you have no choice ... that drive was pretty beat up but that is no guarantee. Do the trash collectors know what you do for a living? If so, that HDD might be 'catch of the day'. You can probably get a good night's rest in a month when the possibility the trash collectors have managed to boot it and have made big money with their find has passed.

As the others have said, Encryption. I would add that in your line of work it is a must (unless you intend to hang on to your dead hard drives forever).

The other possibility is to wipe the drive before trashing but they're usually dead which is why you trash 'em ... think I would have wiped that one before leaving in the rain and throwing it about, just to make absolutely sure. Take 'em apart and investigate until you know they're screwed!

May 29th, 2012, 08:27 AM
Agree with other users, the change are very slim.

Anyway, put a part encrypt your data, you can easy solve similar issue (when you want destroy an hdd) using a magnet for demagnetize it.

May 29th, 2012, 08:58 AM
Forensic Data recovery can be used to retrieve data from even disc fragments . If you wish to be sure when disposing of a HDD zero the disc with at least 26 passes then send it to an industrial furnace.

May 29th, 2012, 10:38 AM
I would not be to worried. In your scenario the drive was pretty banged up from your description, if someone was that desperate to recover data from a arb hard drive they found in a dump they would have to take it to a specialist recovery company to remove the platters (if intact) which would cost them a pretty penny. 99.99% of people coming across a damaged drive would not bother with it.

In future just use the drives own internal ata secure erase feature. You can access this via hdparm in linux or via a dos utility,


Alternatively just remove the top cover and break the platters apart. And if you are still uncertain burn the platter remains in a fire.

May 29th, 2012, 11:39 AM
Most probably nothing to worry about.

If it had been me, and my hard drive was not already encrypted, I would have zero'ed the hard drive a couple of times; assuming the Feds weren't looking for the contents of the disk, that should be fine.

If I wanted to be sure, and didn't mind losing a perfectly-good hard disk, I'd open it up afterwards, subject it to a magnet, smash the platters completely and then burn them in a bucket. I'd feed the remains into trash cans in different locations, or into my own slowly over the course of a couple of weeks.

You say that you disposed of the disk two years ago? Well, no scandal has errupted, so I'd say the disk is sitting at the bottom of a landfill and will never be rediscovered. If somebody had salvaged the disk and got their hands on the data and deemed it worthy of selling or sharing, then it would have been all over the news by now.

In short, don't worry about it. It may have been possible to reconstruct the data, but it obviously hasn't happened.

May 29th, 2012, 11:57 AM
As said before, the equation is:

who is going to profit from it and is it going to be worth the high cost of recovering the data.

May 29th, 2012, 12:18 PM
As said before, the equation is:

who is going to profit from it and is it going to be worth the high cost of recovering the data.

v the risk that they think the disk is worth a punt.