Do degaussers and the science behind data destruction make your head spin faster than a hard drive? We promise it's not as confusing as it may seem. Read on to learn more about how degaussers operate.

 

WHAT ARE DEGAUSSERS?

Degaussing is a way of demagnetizing your media when you are getting rid of them, so they will be unreadable to hackers. Degaussers work on any device that uses a magnetic charge to store memory, such as hard drives, floppy disks, VHS videocassettes, and more. Degaussers work by exposing the magnetic part of the media to a very strong, fluctuating magnet. This works by changing the magnetic fields in the hard drive to a neutral state, which renders the data on the media useless.


COMMONLY USED TERMS

When researching, you will probably come across a few terms that you’ve never heard of when referring to degaussers. Even if you are familiar with degaussers, trying to remember the difference between gauss, oersted, tesla, and kiloamp can be confusing. Breaking it down to most simplistic terms, gauss is the unit of magnetic flux density, while oersted is the term for magnetic field intensity. These two terms can be easily mixed up. Sometimes degaussers are described in terms of magnetic fields (Oe) and sometimes they are described as magnetic flux (G). In air, these terms are numerically equal, which can lead to confusion of the differences between the two when referring to degaussing.

To put this in perspective, the NSA requires a magnetic flux density (gauss) of three times more than the magnetic field intensity (oersted). So, 10,000 gauss is approved to erase 3,333 oersted of magnetic media, not 100,000 oersted as might be misinterpreted. Avoid misunderstandings when degausser shopping by requesting both, magnetic flux density (gauss) and magnetic field intensity (oersted) measurements.

Tesla and kiloamp are both another way to measure gauss and oersted. For reference, 1 tesla unit is equal to 10,000 units of oersted and gauss. 1 kilo amp unit is equal to 12.54 gauss and oersted.


HOW DO THEY WORK?

Hard Drives are designed with a round platter and spindle, similar to a record player, which are both coated with iron oxide or chromium dioxide. Electric pulses are then passed to the hard drive platter and binary code is written in a series of ones and zeroes as magnetic memory.

When the hard drive has reached the end of it’s life, the degausser comes in and generates a magnetic field so strong, that it randomizes the originally recorded magnetic data, rendering the drive useless and irrecoverable.

The degausser generates a magnetic field so strong, that it randomizes the originally recorded magnetic data, rendering the drive useless and irrecoverable.

WHAT HAPPENS WITH DEGAUSSED DRIVES AFTERWARDS?

After a drive has been degaussed, it’s important to remember that no information can be extracted from it. However, some companies and organizations like to take drive destruction an extra step and physically destroy their drives. Many machines come combined with both degaussing and physical destruction options. Hard drives are unable to be used after the degaussing process has been performed. This is because the start-up files from the manufacturer that came on the drive have been randomized along with the other written files.


BENEFITS

  • Save on operating cost when you purchase your own degausser

  • Available to meet NSA specifications for hard drive destruction
  • Peace of mind knowing that your information is irretrievable

  • On-site destruction of materials means no third party company is putting their hands on your drives or removing them from your sight

WHY IS DEGAUSSING SO IMPORTANT?

With so many federal laws and regulations in place, carelessly discarding of a hard drive would be irresponsible and dangerous. With regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), improperly discarding your hard drive can lead to monetary fines and legal troubles. Keep your peace of mind and degauss your magnetic media.