How to Dispose of External Hard Drives and USB Drives

How to Dispose of External Hard Drives and USB Drives


Cybersecurity expert Bryce Austin of TCE Strategy shares an extremely helpful monthly newsletter with a round-up of cybersecurity tips. If you don’t already receive it, you can subscribe here.


A number of my clients have recently asked about how to safely dispose of their personal laptop computers and storage devices, both from an environmental standpoint and a security standpoint. It just so happens that Bryce Austin shared important information about disposing of external hard drives and USB drives just a few weeks ago, so I thought I’d forward this to you:


“Cybersecurity Tip of the Month


Spring Cleaning: Safely Disposing of External Hard Drives and USB Drives

With the first day of Spring finally arriving tomorrow, many of us will surely have the “spring cleaning” bug very soon. If you come across old USBs or hard drives that you decide to get rid of, please keep these things in mind before you do.

When selling, donating, or disposing of old USB drives or hard drives, many people think they can simply delete the files and they will be safe. This is not true, however. Third-party data recovery software programs can often restore these files, meaning that any sensitive documents or data on these drives could be exposed or fall into the wrong hands.

There are several different ways you can securely wipe these devices:

Formatting an external device: Windows and Mac operating systems come with built-in format options for erasing hard drive data. You can follow a few simple steps to initiate this method which performs a write-zero pass, filling the storage space with zeros. To see more detailed step-by-steps for Windows and MacOS, visit this article.

-Erasing data on external drives using an app: There is no shortage of apps, paid and free, that will perform a data erasure service for you. Some of these are described more in depth here and include:

-Android: Secure Eraser, Shreddit
-Windows: CCleaner, Eassos PartitionGuru, MiniTool Drive Wipe
-MacOS: StellarWipe Mac, Mac Washing Machine Secure X9
-Windows and MacOS: AweEraser, Super Eraser
-Windows, MacOS, and Linux: WipeDrive

-Erase hard drives using Darik’s Boot-and-Nuke (DBAN) software: DBAN is a free data destruction program used to completely erase all the files on a hard drive. This is a great free program but will erase EVERYTHING on the hard drive, including applications, personal files, and operating systems, so it needs to be used carefully and intentionally. These articles give some very helpful tips and steps for using DBAN:

Using the cipher command: Cipher.exe is a built-in command line tool in the Windows operating system that can be used to encrypt or decrypt data on drives and can be used to securely erase the free space on a drive, meaning you must first format the drive so it is all free space. A short tutorial on using cipher can be found here.

If you are disposing of a USB or external hard drive for any reason, be sure to do your due diligence. Double check what data is on the drive, determine how sensitive it is, and decide on the best way to ensure it is erased from the drive. And if in doubt, a good old fashioned hammer will always get the job done.”


If you don’t already get advice and updates from Bryce Austin, consider browsing his website at  TCE Strategy and/or subscribing to his monthly updates: subscribe here. His advice can definitely help you save time through prevention as well as recover more quickly if these incidents happen to you.



For recommendations related to saving time and preventing issues, check out The Inefficiency Assassin: Time Management Tactics for Working Smarter, Not Longer.


About Helene Segura, M.A. Ed., CPO®

As The Inefficiency Assassin™, Time Management Fixer Helene Segura empowers professionals on the go with the tools to slay lost time. Personal inefficiency at work leads to increased stress levels, lower morale, higher absenteeism, more turnover – and rising spending on employee health care and hiring. Why not improve productivity, decrease stress levels, and increase profits instead?The author of four books – two of which were Amazon best-sellers – Helene Segura has been the featured organization expert in more than 200 media interviews. She has coached hundreds of clients to productivity success and performance improvement by applying neuroscience and behavioral modification techniques to wipe out destructive, time-wasting habits.Helene turns time management on its head by sharing both client case studies and pop culture examples to teach her mind-bending framework for decreasing interruptions, distractions and procrastination so that companies can spend more time generating revenue.

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