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4 Interesting Facts About Degaussing a Hard Drive

By Randy Green September 06, 2022

Degaussing is the only data destruction method that destroys the software of a hard drive using a machine.

It’s the most effective way to ensure data from your disposed hard drives is unrecoverable.

The rise of data protection laws requiring organizations to permanently destroy data before disposal necessitates foolproof ways of doing so. Degaussing is one such method.

It not only meets compliance standards from the National Security Agency (NSA) but is also one of the methods used by the Department of Defense (DOD) to ensure classified data isn’t leaked.

Let’s delve deeper into degaussing and learn:

  • Four interesting facts about degaussing
  • Some of the best degaussers on the market
  • Where to find a degausser that fits your needs

Fact 1 - Degaussing Completely Destroys Data on a Hard Drive

hard disk drive circuit board

Degaussing removes the magnetic field in hard drive devices by destroying its software makeup and, therefore, rendering the data unrecoverable.

To understand how degaussing works, let’s first go over how information is stored in a hard drive.

A hard drive has a thin magnetic layer with tiny magnets on which information is spread out and recorded in binary form. To successfully save the data, the magnets must remain in a very specific order and direction.

The hard drive will always retain information on it as long as the magnets remain in the exact order. This is the reason that simply deleting or emptying your recycle bin won’t destroy the data stored in your hard drives.

When you delete a file on your computer, you only reallocate the information on the hard drive, making it harder for the average person to retrieve the file. But experts, like IT professionals, can recover the files as can cybercriminals.

But when the order and direction of the magnetic layer are distorted, the data is completely erased. Degaussing randomly changes the precise alignment of the magnetic layer by eliminating the magnetism of a hard drive, which destroys all the data.

Other data destruction methods don’t completely erase all data but ensure it’s difficult to access or read it.

  • Shredding destroys the hard drive physically by running it through a shredder that cuts it into tiny unrecognizable pieces that can’t be reassembled.
  • Crushing drives a hole through a hard drive, damaging it irreparably so that it can’t be read on a computer.
  • Overwriting runs a software program on a properly functioning hard drive to jumble the data until it is unreadable.

Degaussing is foolproof because it wipes out your hard disks so that there’s nothing left behind.

degaussing removes the magnetic field

Fact 2 - Degaussing Uses a Machine to Destroy the Software of a Hard Drive

hard drive degausser

Hard drive degaussing is performed using a degausser.

A degausser is a machine that uses powerful magnets to demagnetize, realign, and jumble the order of the magnetic layer in hard drives; leaving all the information in them destroyed and unrecoverable.

This will leave the storage mechanism on your hard drive that relies on magnetism damaged irreparably. But you can’t physically see the difference between a degaussed hard drive and a functioning one as the hard drive remains physically intact.

It is easy to assume that since a degausser uses magnets, ordinary magnets can destroy data on a hard drive. However, the effectiveness of the degausser depends on the strength of its magnets.

The magnetic field produced by a degausser should be at least 1.5 times greater than the hard drive’s magnetic intensity. Your fridge magnets can’t produce such a strong magnetic field and will therefore not erase any data.

Though overwriting also destroys the software of a hard drive, it isn’t as effective as degaussing.

The table below compares overwriting and degaussing methods of data destruction.

Degaussing Overwriting
Uses a machine to destroy the hard drive Runs a software program on the hard drive
Can be used on functioning and defective hard drives Can only be used on properly functioning hard drives
Completely erases data on a hard drive Overwrites the data by adding 0 and 1 leaving the data unreadable
Takes no more than five minutes to complete Takes at least 8–12 hours to complete

Fact 3 - A Degaussed Hard Drive Is Easier to Recycle

close-up of open hard disk

Degaussing alters the magnetic layer inside the hard drive but leaves the hard drive physically intact. Once you feed a hard drive into a degausser, it comes out looking the same way it did when you put it in.

This makes degaussed hard drives ideal for e-waste recycling. With the data erased, other valuable parts of the hard drive can be retrieved and recycled, such as:

  • Aluminum
  • Magnetic tapes
  • Plastic

Meanwhile, shredding and crushing leave the hard drive mangled into thousands of fragments. This makes it difficult to sort out the valuable parts from the fragments of the crushed and shredded hard drives.

Thus, they can only be thrown away or melted; both of which release contaminants into the environment.

Fact 4 - A Degaussed Hard Drive Can’t Be Reused

With the hard drive’s storage system destroyed beyond repair, a degaussed hard drive can’t be used again. There are no software or hardware devices that can realign back the magnetic layer on your hard drive and salvage it.

The degaussing process also destroys a hard drive's specific servo information, which it uses for the read/write function.

This means that if you try to read a degaussed hard drive using a computer, it won't even be detected.

Expert Tip: To avoid confusion with working hard drives, place a “ready to recycle” sticker on a degaussed hard drive.

The Best Degaussers on the Market

It is imperative that your organization has a data destruction policy that protects data in disposed hard drives from falling into the wrong hands.

Purchasing a degausser will ensure that you irrevocably destroy information on hard drives before you dispose of them, and avoid the hefty fines from non-compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

A degausser will also destroy data on other magnetic storage devices, including:

  • Floppy disks
  • Magnetic tapes
  • Optical tapes 
  • Reel-to-reel tapes
  • Video cassettes

These 3 degaussers will help you sanitize data from all magnetic storage devices you own.

1 - Proton 1100 Degaussing Wand

Proton 1100 Degaussing Wand

The Proton 1100 Degaussing Wand will completely erase all magnetic traces in all magnetic disk storage devices.

It has a field density of 5,000 Oersted (Oe), which is the measurement of the magnetic field. An Oe of 1,800 or higher is effective to erase data on floppy disks, magnetic tapes, and video cassettes that have low magnetic intensity.

Features of the Proton 1100 Degaussing Wand

  • Requires no power to operate
  • Comes with a protective shield to ensure safe storage
  • Complies with security regulation of HIPAA
  • Degausses both longitudinally and perpendicularly up to 5,000 Oe

2 - Proton T–5 Degausser

Proton T–5 degausser

The Proton T–5 degausser is listed by the NSA and complies with DOD standards of destroying classified information.

It has a more powerful magnetic field than the degaussing wand, with a field strength of 20,000 Gauss.

Features of the Proton T–5 degausser

  • A light and portable design for table-top or floor operation
  • An LCD screen that reports the magnetic field strength of each cycle
  • Permanently destroys confidential and classified information
  • Sanitizes both longitudinal and horizontal hard drives, as well as media with higher oersteds

3 - MBM DESTROYIT Degausser


The MBM DESTROYIT Degausser not only erases data permanently on hard drives but also punches a hole through the drive, discouraging attempts to retrieve data.

It has a magnetic field strength of 8,700 Oe, which ensures that the data is completely erased and unrecoverable.

Features of the MBM DESTROYIT Degausser

  • Has a collection bin that stores destroyed hard drives awaiting disposal
  • Degausses hard drives in a 60-second cycle
  • Has a digital indicator that shows field strength during operation
  • Automatic reverse on punching die prevents jams
  • Extremely quiet during operation since no parts move

Find Your Degaussing Solution With Armadillo Industrial Supplies

Armadillo Industrial Supplies provides data destruction solutions to help protect your company from losses that arise from data breaches.

Our customer management service will guide you in choosing a degausser that suits your needs and will remain in contact until your product is delivered.

The support from the sales guys is the best in the industry. I have to mention the President, her customer service exceeded my expectations. Jacob Stowell, Armadillo Customer

You'll also save money as there is no sales tax for purchases made outside Texas, plus free shipping within the US.

Contact us, and we’ll be happy to answer all your queries.

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