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What is a Certificate of Data Destruction?

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Certificate of Data Destruction - Hard Disk
Steve Thompson
Steve Thompson
July 9, 2021

Getting rid of old electronic equipment is not a simple task, as many waste management and junk removal companies will not accept them due to containing toxic chemicals. It's up to you to take your old computer equipment to a recycler or firm that collects old equipment. Many people, even business owners, are unaware of this process and might ask: what is a certificate of data destruction? Here's an explanation of what it is and what it's used for.


Sample of Certificate of Data Destruction

A Certificate of Data Destruction is a formal document that verifies a piece of computing equipment or data was destroyed on a specific date in compliance with security laws such as NIST 800-88 specifications. The certificate should summarize all the devices and digital media such as hard drives, USB drives, and magnetic tape that have been destroyed. It should also cite the method of destruction and the entity that did it with its address.

Be sure to choose your data destruction vendor carefully, as no entity exists as a certifying authority when it comes to data destruction. That means the legitimacy of the certificate comes down to the provider's reputation. You may need to present the certificate if your business is investigated for a cybersecurity breach. The certificate alone does not provide absolute proof of data destruction, as you further need backup verification from the firm destroying the data. It's best to use a comprehensive data destruction checklist when deciding on a partner or vendor to destroy your data.


Hard Disk Closeup

Disposal of a hard drive must be done according to regulations, as there are specific actions to avoid. You should not, for example, try to burn the device in a fire, which can unleash dangerous chemicals into the air. Nor should you try to destroy the item by putting it in a microwave oven, which could itself be destroyed in the process. Drilling holes in the drive will not remove all the data. Learn about secure hard drive disposal before attempting any destruction methods on your own.

It's possible to destroy data by overwriting it with new data, although the original data may still be available to hackers. A more reliable way to eliminate the data is using the free tool called Darik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN). This software solution is suitable for a home computer with a single drive but is inefficient for businesses with multiple hard drives.

Another key to permanently blocking access to the data is to ensure the hard drive platters are no longer capable of spinning. Achieving this state will require carefully taking the platters apart then degauss (demagnetize) them. Applying sandpaper to the platter can help destroy the remaining data, then the item should be given to a recycler. You can learn more about best industry practices for data destruction from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) and the Recycling Industry Operating Standard (RIOS).


Obtaining a certificate of data destruction helps your company resolve multiple problems surrounding e-waste. At some point, sensitive data must be destroyed, and old equipment must be given to an experienced recycler. Contact us at West Coast Computer Recycler to learn more about how you can clear out old technology and contribute to a cleaner environment.

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