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Destroying Solid State Drives

The Tip of the Night for March 25, 2022, mentioned that the data on solid state drives cannot be degaussed because such drives do not use magnetic fields to store data. A USB flash or thumb drive, and most smartphones will use a solid state drive. A SSD stores data on individual microchips. Even if physical damage causes some sectors on the SSD to become inaccessible, data may still be retrieved from other sectors. A hard disk drive has spinning platters on which data is stored magnetically. The data on the new HAMR (Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording) drives introduced by Seagate recently, can also not be effectively destroyed with a degausser.

In order to render the data on a solid-state drive permanently inaccessible, it's necessary to cause thorough physical damage to the device. Drilling holes, or hammering a nail several times through a drive is not the worst approach, but some companies market machines which will more effectively puncture the drive. On the cheap end, a manual puncher like this model sold by Media Duplication Systems will take out several sectors on a SSD if the drive is reinserted for multiple hits. But can you really make all sectors of a SSD inaccessible with such a puncher?

Garner Products markets its PD-5 Hard Drive Destroyer with a 'Solid-State Destroyer' accessory that spikes 90 holes in a SSD.

However, the same company also sells a shredding device which can tear up a drive into multiple pieces.

A company based in Massachusetts, SEM, manufacturer 'SSD disintegrators' which shred drives into bits that are less than 2mm squared. It's necessary to use a different machine to physically destroy hard disk drives. These shredders are large, production copier sized machines, which can shred dozens of drives in an hour.

Even when a solid state drive has been broken into pieces no more than two inches across, it may still be possible to recover data, since the chips they use may be smaller than this. Securis, a company based in the D.C. metropolitan area, aims for a minimum shred size of 0.5 inch:

. . . but also offers shredding machines which grind drives to less than 2 millimeters - which is a specification required by the National Security Agency. See section 8.1 of the NSA's NSA/CSS Requirements for Hard Disk Drive Destruction Devices.

The residue that is left looks like dust.

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