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Degaussing FAQs

What is a Degausser?

Essentially, a degausser is a machine that changes the magnetic domain of magnetic data storage devices, like hard drives, and disrupt where the data is stored. Other examples of magnetic storage devices include backup LTO and DLT tapes, VHS tapes, cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes. Compact Discs (CDs) are not considered magnetic storage because the data is stored on the disc with optics. When the degausser is applied to magnetic domains the information is scrambled into random patterns. This process renders the data that was stored in these magnetic domains unreadable.

Some generic magnetic storage devices can be reused after the degaussing process has taken place. Reel-to-reel tape and VHS video cassettes and older media types are examples of these kinds of devices. However these items are so old that saving them or reusing them is generally not a common practice because of the very limited storage capabilities.

For other forms of newer data storage like server hard drives and some backup tapes, degaussing renders the media completely unusable because of permanent damage to the storage system. This happens because of damage to the special servo control data that is written onto the media at the factory by the manufacturer.

Once a servo track is damaged, it cannot be corrected. Degaussing removes not only the stored data on the device but also removes the servo control data, and without the servo data the device is no longer able to determine where data is to be read from or written to on the magnetic media.

Why Is Degaussing Necessary?

Physical destruction of a data storage device alone technically does not remove the data. It just makes the device (tape or hard drive) unusable and the data unreasonable to retrieve.

This means that even though the item has passed through a shredder, it still has data on the little pieces that can be recovered. Many recycling and shredding firms claim that after shredding the data is not recoverable. This is a possibility, albeit unlikely, depending on where the shredded hard drive was sent.

After shredding a hard drive, most computer experts would not be able to retrieve data from the shredded pieces. However, there are some people/places/countries that would indeed be able to retrieve the information.

How is this possible?

If you take a magnet and smash it on the ground, the magnet will break into small pieces, but each of these pieces is still magnetic. Hard drives work the same way. Because the hard drives or tapes store the data using magnetics, even a small piece of the device retains its magnetic properties, and therefore can still be read.

hard drives for degaussing

When Is Degaussing Required?

Most of the time, degaussing is the only way to satisfy Virginia and federal requirements related to the sanitization and destruction of clearance-level information like “Classified” or “Top Secret.” In an attempt to protect the country’s classified information, several different federal agencies have standards and procedures that have been written on how to handle the destruction of sensitive data. Those standards involve the use of a degausser followed by physical destruction of the unit.

How Is Your Service Licensed? What Is the Cost Model?

Our services are customized based on each client’s quantity, frequency, and desired level of security. With on-site and off-site availability throughout Virginia, we can accommodate your business’s needs.

Do You Provide This Service On-site or at Your Site?

The degausser is internally mounted and powered by our 26’ box truck so that the service can be provided at your site in Fairfax County, Loudoun County, and Arlington County and surrounding counties. However, we also have the capability to degauss the drives off-site at our secure, NAID-certified facility. This is typically done once or twice a week. For maximum data security assurance, we recommend onsite degaussing followed by onsite shredding.

degausser for magnetic hard drive erase

Doesn’t the Degausser Need Periodic Calibration?

Yes, monitoring of the magnetic fields is done via a program we use called FieldCheckR. Our degausser is verified before every degaussing process to ensure that it is properly functioning. Not all degaussers have the ability to be tested using our digital read-out system with the FieldCheckR program.

Can You Degauss Solid State Drives?

Solid State Drives (SSDs) do not store data magnetically, so they cannot be degaussed. However, we do offer a certified data destruction process for handling SSDs.

What Is the “Degaussing” Equivalent or “Absolute Best Practice” of Data Destruction for Solid State Drives?

Secure data shredding with a controlled, smaller shred width and particle size is the most secure method for solid state drives. We can discuss your SSD destruction in Virginia both at your site or at ours.

If Degaussing Is the Best Way to Destroy Data, Why Would I Shred My Hard Drives Too?

Shredding is an added redundancy to ensure the absolute destruction of data. Due to the fact that a degaussed drive and a non-degaussed drive physically do not look different, it is a best practice to shred drives after they are degaussed so none are ever missed.

What Types of Companies Should Use Degaussing?

Organizations with zero tolerance for any leaks who want to be totally risk free and can rationalize the cost. Typically data that is sensitive or proprietary, such as mission critical data, financial information, private health records, or personal identifying information, should be considered for degaussing. Most organizations today consume some type of sensitive data, whether its employee bank account information, social security numbers, or even HR records.