A Thorough Job of Hard Drive Data Destruction

Scrubbed hard drive platters
Scrubbed hard drive platters

What’s wrong with this picture?

A friend rides herd on a college data center and reports that one of the hot spares in a drive array started complaining about errors. By the time he got to it, things had gone from bad to worse to worst: the drive was spinning, but its data was gone.

He removed all the head frippery before giving me the carcass, but the platters are exacty as they were when he ripped through those “Warranty Void If Removed” stickers.

Even though disk platters are now made of glass in order to achieve adequate flatness tolerances, you’re not supposed to be able to see through the things. There’s a bare millimeter of untouched plating on the inner and outer rims; everything else is finely ground glass.

Evidently the drive suffered a head crash or some part of the plating peeled off, after which the debris acted as grinding compound under the heads on the rest of the platters. Eventually the internal filters clogged and the ensuing dust storm scrubbed the glass platters clean.

He said the inside of the drive was filled with impalpable silvery dust. Another friend deadpanned “Oh, so all the data was still in the drive, right?

We decided that sorting all those dust grains into the right order would tax even Iranian “students”.

More than you likely want to know about hard drive platters resides there.

Vanquishing the Power Vampires

Every gadget comes with its own battery charger wall wart, every single one of which dissipates a watt or two even when it’s not charging. Add ’em up, multiply by $2 per watt per year (check your electric bill; that’s closer than you think!), and realize that you could afford some nice new tools just by unplugging the things between charges.

But that’s too much trouble and, really, AC outlets aren’t meant for that many mate/unmate cycles. I had one contact fall loose inside a power strip a while ago and the carnage was spectacular.

What to do?

Recharging Corner
Recharging Corner

Find an otherwise unoccupied flat spot (or build a shelf near an outlet), buy two or three Power Squid adapters (you don’t need surge suppression for this assignment, so get ’em on sale cheap), plug all your chargers into the Squids, and turn everything off with a single switch when you’re not charging anything.

Bonus: You certainly have some low duty cycle power tools that always have dead batteries when you need them. Plug ’em into the Squid you use most often for other batteries. That way, they’ll get a boost whenever you charge something else, which should keep ’em up to speed.

I set this tangle up before Power Squids existed, so I just plugged a bunch of Y-splitters into an ordinary power strip. It makes for a fearsome tangle of cords, but at least it’s out of the way atop the never-sufficiently-to-be-damned radon air exchanger in the basement.