Hard Drive Destruction Plan


[Wolf] emailed us to show us his Self destructing Hard Drive tutorial. He’s using thermite, like we did, but he’s put a little more effort into the delivery system. In the video, you can see a huge spray molten iron. This is because his “jet”, the block of wood hollowed out to focus the thermite on to the hard drive didn’t hold a seal at the top. Not too bad for try #1. He could probably build this to be more contained, but even then it will most likely turn into “entire self destructing office” if it were to actually be used. A little common sense goes a long way here folks, this is molten metal and is extremely hot and dangerous.

56 thoughts on “Hard Drive Destruction Plan

  1. DC, lol, or put this case inside a fireproof case,air tight and full of some inert gas… it’ll blow up, burn for a bit, use all available oxygen and extinguish itself.

    unfortunately thermite burns hot. I don’t really know materials well, but I’d imagine that it’s possible to find some way to set that up.

  2. @wokka
    I’m no expert, but I believe that thermite contains its own oxidizer. You cannot extinguish it by placing it in an airtight container because it does not require air to burn.
    This is actually a lot more dangerous and stupid than it appears at first glance.

  3. Actually, you can’t extinguish thermite by removing oxygen – it generates its own oxygen, so will burn no matter what. The only other options are to let it burn out, or to somehow remove the heat faster than it’s generated (and considering how much heat thermite puts out, that’s pretty unlikely.)

    Matlo, crawl back under your bridge.

  4. @r_d
    Thermite works on the energy produced by moving oxygen atoms from iron oxide to metallic aluminum. However, wokka was probably referring to the fires started by the thermite, and not to the thermitic reaction itself.

  5. Bit of a waste of a case and materials, and even a HD out of the case has lots of good stuff, magnets, motors, metal parts usable for projects, it’s a waste really, you should only rig it that way if you think your system might be confiscated, by the apple gestapo for instance because you wrote an article on an unreleased product.

  6. wouldn’t a great big degausser be better, then you could do a low level format if it was a false alarm, and you would have just used a little electricity instead of setting a fire.

  7. For those complaining about the fire, obviously this would be located somewhere safe, like underground. Imagine a small data server a couple meters down, with a big geothermal heatsink to keep it cool, and a load of thermite for emergency self destruct. People standing above might not even notice.

  8. In case anyone missed it, there’s a build log on my site: http://www.wolfsprojectfiles.com/projects/HDDSelfDest3.php

    To answer some of the comments. My first 2 tries (which aren’t up yet) were with much more reasonable quantities of thermite. I did this last one mainly to dispose of some extra thermite before it got too oxidized. The descriptions on my project list chronicle it a little better: http://www.wolfsprojectfiles.com/projects/projects.php

  9. Or, you know, people do this because it’s really fun to play with thermite. I don’t think many people who build thermite hard drive destruction rigs actually use them in their computer.

  10. I can appreciate a good explosion as much as the next guy, but there’s an easier way to keep your hard drives from falling into the wrong hands, don’t get rid of them, do a zero-fill, reformat, repartition, put them in a box, destroying things is easy, get a hammer, this is overkill. wolf, you want to do a good hack, figure out a way to heat proof the case so no thermite escapes the enclosure, make it safe to set off indoors, THAT would be a really nice hack.

  11. Nice explosion, european companies are so dumbfucks they dont even delete files from their rolled out servers. You can buy them on ebay.de then 0wn their asses but our friend Wolf here has a way better method to disintegrate his home made pr0n movie collection :)

    “Bit of a waste of a case”
    You can buy old computers for kilogram nowadays srsly. You could buy a container of old shit for shipping + 100$ :)

    I was always contemplating on coding a pam module for unix which going to self destruct my computer if the root pass didn’t entered correctly 3 times.
    The only thing keeps me from doing it is that I wouldn’t like to sit next to a fucking bomb which can go off any time :D

  12. With due respect to Wolf, this is not “self destruction”, sorry. Self destruction is when it destroys itself, without, when preset parameters are meet. As when a certain time elapse like the tape in the Mission Possible TV series. For a hard drive that would self destruct after a certain number of failed log in attempts or a stolen computer after receiving a destruct command wirelessly or if a certain dis-assembly sequence hadn’t been performed. There may be legal ramifications if a destruct method harms person or property, so thermite may be out of the picture for self-destructing hard drive.

    Nice fireworks to be viewing on the 4th of July though. I to recommend a garden hose on had to better cool off the metal quickly.

  13. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t bending the platter sufficient to make a HDD completely useless and unreadable. Anyhow nice way to destroy your old outdated HDs on the 4th..

  14. there has to be a way to distroy your hd in a quick and effective manner like in the movies when the FBI is kicking in your door and they press a keystroke and it wipes the whole HD anyone know a program like that ?

      1. no. once it has been overwritten it is unrecoverable.
        cover it with zeros, one pass.
        the only thing that causes the military to want multiple passes is because their original overwriter had a messed up algorithm and left some data recoverable.
        if you have a good algorithm, covering it in zeros makes it unrecoverable.

  15. Nice way to get rid of evidence for those who are in a hurry, but the stuff is too volatile and can eat through a cast iron skillet. I’ve had thoughts about this kind of thing and was thinking along the lines of a small EMP device.

  16. @bill Sadly, not possible as it takes several hours to zero fill a modern drive. Obviously it is the cheapest option tho, as tools which do this such as ultimatebootcd can be had for free. You just pay for the electricity to power the PC for those hours.

    The quickest option is to degauss the drive, but that’s expensive to do reliably whilst not damaging anything around it.

    Sandblasting is another (messy) option.

  17. Use an inline realtime encryption board, with an explosive cap inside the NV-RAM chip which contains the encryption/decryption keys. That way the data on hundreds of hard disks can be made inaccessable in under a second.

  18. A couple of things:
    -Saying this is bad for the environment is pretty alarmist. Focus your indignation on something actually matters, like the Gulf oil spill or a local landfill. A small-scale thermite reaction like this is far too insignificant to have any effect on the environment.

    -It’s only destruction of evidence if it’s in the possession of authorities and they recognize that it has some evidentiary value. They can’t just call something evidence and charge you with its destruction unless they’ve had an opportunity to examine it and prove that it contains incriminating data. Unless they had a warrant specifically calling for the hard drive and the specifics of the data on that hard drive, you would merely be destroying your own property – which you have every right to do. (That’s the way it’s SUPPOSED to work, of course. Judges are notoriously sympathetic to prosecutors, so you might get screwed over anyway.)

    -It’s not arson unless it fits one of the following parameters: if it were someone else’s property, if you had insurance on it and tried to collect, or if you did it in a way that harmed somebody else and you should have known it would harm somebody else. (That last one includes a slough of highly-subjective culpability factors. Good luck convincing a judge you weren’t negligent if you have to defend yourself in court.)

    -As always, those of you who piss and moan about the quality of links on HaD can suck a big bag of dicks. If you don’t like the links, submit your own or stop visiting the site. The links can only be as good as the links they find, and the rest of us don’t want to read your unproductive, self-righteous bitching. Learn to be appreciative of the hard work the HaD crew puts in, and keep your ignorant, self-important criticism to yourself.

  19. “Use a screwdriver, take the disc platters out, scratch them with a nail.
    Now separate parts and keep aluminum, for melting in your furnace.
    recycle & upcycle”



    Please IRS agent, wait over here while I take apart my HDD with a screwdriver and start scratching it.

    Feel free to grab a magazine to read while you wait.

  20. @NFN_NLN

    Taking a nail to the platter doesn’t necessarily render the data inaccessible. I’m sure someone has created software that will read defective platters. Assuming that’s possible, there are literally bazillions of little zeros and ones still readable.

    Better to completely destroy the platter somehow. May I suggest thermite?

  21. Assuming you are not going for performance you might as well just encrypt it all. That way you only have to kill the first couple of sectors on the encrypted volume to kill the entire volume.

  22. truecrypt performance is almost not noticable for normal use. The problem with any protection system is that it’s often too late for switching off or otherwise make the data inaccessible. So that’s another reason to use firewalls :P

  23. My problem with thermite HDD destruction is not that it’s dangerous (which it obviously is) but that it’s not necessarily effective. I’ve seen a lot of techniques for scorching a platter, and this is probably the best one yet…but it STILL didn’t destroy the whole platter. Theoretically, some FBI tech could pull data off of the warped piece that was left over. I think you’d see more of these (possibly even some commercial applications) if it truly was 100% effective.

  24. Most drive platters are glass anymore. Just built a spring loaded punch to shatter the platters. You don’t have to melt the platters anyway. Just heat them enough to make the magnetic layer non-magnetic. So even if the thermite reaction didn’t render the platters to slag, there’s a really good chance the data is gone anyway just from the heat.

  25. lol, might need a little less thermite for a working model, eh? if thermite isn’t your gig, maybe a solenoid driven pair of metal spikes/nails attached to a big honkin’ capacitor would work? maybe if a hidden switch isn’t flipped, or a program that starts if certain files are accessed without the right password, the spikes drive into the HD platters and the cap fries the whole thing?

  26. Nicco, I really like the capacitor idea. Two questions:

    How much of a zap would you probably need to fry the data?

    Would you be able to build that system into the hard drive in a nondescript way? My only concern is that a smart investigator would notice the system attached to the hard drive and disable it before it could work. Perhaps a dummy battery wire to act as a sort of dead-man’s switch?

  27. @Jayson

    Nice way to get rid of evidence for those who are in a hurry, but the stuff is too volatile…

    -thermite? no, it’s not volatile in the chemistry (tendency to vaporize) or pyrotechnic (ease of [potentially accidental] ignition by shock for example) sense.

    …and can eat through a cast iron skillet. I’ve had thoughts about this kind of thing and was thinking along the lines of a small EMP device.

    Posted at 11:50 pm on Jul 4th, 2010 by Jayson

    -cool story, bro

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