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Posted on August 14th, 2009 by Mike Jennings

Meet Bustadrive, a home-made hard disk destroyer

The Bustadrive with two of its victims If your job involves having to destroy hard disks and make sure that their data is impossible to recover, you’ll know that it can be an expensive business: properly disposing of each hard disk can cost between £5 and £10 and, when you’re managing the IT affairs of potentially large businesses, these costs can mount up.

One IT Manager has had enough, though, and taken the matter into this own hands by creating the Bustadrive, a machine that uses a powerful “hydraulic punch” to physically deform a hard disk, rendering it virtually unreadable.

The Bustadrive is a product born out of the many frustrations of Ross Waterton, who spent “years decommissioning PCs” and handing hard disks over to destruction companies in a “readable state” but only being given a certificate to let him know that his disks had been destroyed and the data on them hadn’t been accessed – but that wasn’t enough for Waterton, who would have preferred a more water-tight solution.

Waterton built the prototype to use with his own firm’s hard disks but also lent it to friends within the industry – “who all suggested that [Waterton] manufacture and sell the unit”, especially when competing hard disk crushers were “expensive in comparison” to the Bustadrive.

The Bustadrive\'s weapon of mass destruction

Opinions were mixed when the device arrived in the PC Pro office, though – while I loved the machine and could see exactly where Waterton was coming from, other members of the team doubted that the bent platters of our pair of test disks were actually unreadable. To verify Waterton’s claims, we contacted data destruction companies to get their take on the Bustadrive.

Richard A. Tanfield-Johnson, from ITGreen Computer Recycling, said that “simply chopping the platter in half wouldn’t remove the data” and confirmed that it could be recovered – but the costs of retrieving any remaining information “would be prohibitive”. That’s because you’d need “something along the lines of an electron scanning microscope” to read the data from the remains of the platter – and those currently sell second-hand for at least £40,000.

Tanfield-Johnson also confirmed that, once you’d cracked open a hard disk to extract the platters within, recovering any data would become even more difficult, because you’d need “the same model and make of [circuit] board” to access each track of data on the disk. So, unless you’re willing to spend tens of thousands of pounds, it looks like your data is safe.

The damage inflicted by Bustadrive

Andrew Speedie, a security controller for Secure IT Disposals Limited, concurred, and explained that there are two ways to generally recover data from hard disks – keyboard recovery and laboratory recovery.

Keyboard recovery is only effective when the disk is “mechanically undamaged” and the disk can be plugged into a PC and software can recover the data – and the Bustadrive certainly doesn’t leave disks mechanically undamaged.

Laboratory recovery, meanwhile, “requires specialist equipment” to read disk platters and sometimes has to be conducted by hand, which can take a huge amount of time “depending on the level of damage”. It’s fair to say that laboratory recovery will be beyond the scope and budgets of those looking to recover data from the average hard disk, with Speedie unable to give names of the specialist organisations who can perform such tasks.

The result of a Bustadriving.

The Bustadrive, then, looks like it’ll thwart all but the wealthiest and most determined of hard disk hackers – and, costing just £200 to buy and with a £75 hiring option being considered, it’s far cheaper than both competing products and other services that offer to shred, crush and destroy hard disks. If you destroy a decent number of disks then the Bustadrive could pay for itself within weeks.

Waterton claims that if you invest in the Bustadrive it’ll become “as essential as a screwdriver” – so, if you’d like more information on this unique product and would like to find out more, visit Bustadrive’s website.

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76 Responses to “ Meet Bustadrive, a home-made hard disk destroyer ”

  1. John Says:
    August 14th, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Why not just use a log splitter, and dispose of the disc fragments separately, as I’ve done for years.

     
  2. David Szabados Says:
    August 14th, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    The data disposal issue for data center drives is one of the reasons why Seagate developed self-encrypting drives. It’s not as much fun perhaps as physically destroying each individual drive, but simply delete the key at the end of the drive’s/system’s life cycle, and the information is rendered unreadable.

     
  3. Steve Says:
    August 15th, 2009 at 11:57 am

    But surely there’s more fun in smashing it to eentsy-weentsy tiny pieces with a 7lb lump hammer and a cold chisel?
    Or seeing how red you can get it using a blowtorch. Angle grinders can be fun too!!

     
  4. Simon Says:
    August 15th, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    What’s wrong with an Angle Grinder?

     
  5. Charlie Beasley Says:
    August 15th, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    I used to work on MOD sites where classified disc drives had to be destroyed from time to time; I was told that a cutting torch was to be used. This seemed reasonable; the temperature of the flame would destroy the magnetic patterns even if the fragments could still be read by some method!

     
  6. David Says:
    August 16th, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    I find a sledgehammer is generally quite effective!

     
  7. Tim_Wn Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Wouldn’t it be good if we could have one of these at every public rubbish tip!

     
  8. benny peebles Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 9:11 am

    I think Tim has something there – a hard drive destroyer at the local rubbish tip would be great

     
  9. Paul Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    The link at the end of the article, to the Bustadrive website, is missing a “http://” prefix.

    ReCAPTCHA: Thomson cocooned

     
  10. anon Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    One word:

    Shotgun

     
  11. David Bayon Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Link now fixed, thanks

     
  12. anonymouse Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    #

    # anon Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    One word:

    Shotgun

    one more word: PULL! :)

     
  13. john Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    August 17th, 2009 at 1:42 pm
    Link now fixed, thanks

    Well it would have been better if the link hadn’t been fixed. It’s been slashdotted.

     
  14. steve Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    We save them up until a box is full, and then line them up and knock’em down execution style. I prefer the NATO 308 round myself!

     
  15. -=Wes=- Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    I take mine en masse to the local scrapyard and have them use the electromagnet at the end of the crane. Destroys the heads and the data simultaneously.

    they do it for free. They think its funny to watch the drives fly up towards the magnet about 10ft above.

     
  16. Gadgetsteria » Keep your data extra safe with Bust-a-drive Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    [...] Slashdot, PC Pro Discover and [...]

     
  17. Noghar Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Just to be pompous and buzzkilling – it’s a shame more people don’t just use a good powerful disk-wiping program and then send their redundant hard drives to the Third World rather than filling up landfill with toxic waste. I speak as a total hypocrite of course – yesterday afternoon I smashed three HDDs with a hammer rather than remount them and wipe them. But I did feel bad about it.

     
  18. Rick Stanley Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Simply use a degausser (Thoroughly and correctly!) then a drill press or a handheld electric drill to destroy the drive, drilling through the platters and the circuit board.

     
  19. Tako Kipkorn Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Check out this machine that was demonstrated last week at a hacker conference. http://www.security.nl/artikel/30648/1/HAR_Video_-_Harde_schijven_shredden.html

     
  20. Beard Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    3 words. High Velocity Rifle.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8kdzkCqCks

     
  21. Fred Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Thermite is more fun and less expensive :)

     
  22. Bobo the Hobo Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Captcha: “605-mile nereid”

     
  23. PCLI Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I use .22 for 2.5″ and .45 for 3.5″ and if the data is critical a 12ga slug works wonders

    Rod

     
  24. riffraff Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    My preferred method:

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3235/2673139572_fd082d868a_b.jpg

     
  25. cmdr_k33n Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    If you punch through the spindle, and leave the platters intact, the data is in fact not destroyed, only the mechanism that reads them. Any hard drive recovery place can just take the platters out and read the data. I’d use DBAN or something first, then use this thing 7 or 8 times in various places. Personally, I use a spot welder on the platters.

     
  26. WasteOfMoney Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Just hit the drive with a hammer and move on with your day. What a stupid invention

     
  27. Joe Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    You should make a new version of this machine that also forces 2 prongs into the platters and then runs 10 amps through them. This should take care of the magnetic stuff.

     
  28. Roland Smith Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    On a modern drive, overwriting with random numbers should be good enough. Peter Gutmann who wrote a seminal paper on secure deletion for the 1996 Usenix conference has since expanded on it with the following [see http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/secure_del.html: “Any modern drive will most likely be a hopeless task, what with ultra-high densities and use of perpendicular recording I don’t see how MFM would even get a usable image, and then the use of EPRML will mean that even if you could magically transfer some sort of image into a file, the ability to decode that to recover the original data would be quite challenging.”

     
  29. Luiz Sudbrack Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    I work for a computer reburbishment nonprofit. Physical destruction of drives along with defective and failed units creates a major shortage of usable drives for our business. These computers go mainly to poor individuals and poor organizations. Please just use DBAN or wiper of choice as the last official act of any system (before retirement).

     
  30. J Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    I thought that most people use random overwriting software when possible, at least I do. However, there are many situations when the hardware is busted, and the drive cannot be written to. But that does not mean the data is no longer on the drive, and that’s when these methods are useful.

     
  31. Major Variola (ret) Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    The un-nameable folks who can recover the data are NSA types.

    “Yes, they can”

     
  32. Stuart Millinship Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Luiz Sudbrack – you want disk drives if you can give a service that guarantees no data on those disks will be recoverable (NSA, electron microscopes etc, etc excluded) I’m sure you would have loads if you have there trust for them to give them to you! But a hammer does take doubt out of the argument.

     
  33. Sproggit Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda && dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/hda && dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda

     
  34. 0ryn Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Sproggit: How old is your hardware and or kernel???
    Most of use use /dev/sd* even for pata drives.
    personally I’d just do cat /dev/urandom >/dev/sda or sdb (because I’d not want to kill my root fs, hang the drive to be wiped as a 2nd drive) then dd if=/dev/zero bs=512 count=64 to stop partitioning software going nuts. No need to fill the drive up with zeros again just let the os do that as it needs to. Where drives are physically faulty I just take them apart, the platters make great bird scairers, last years runner bean crop was protected by seagate platters :)

     
  35. Jocklim Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Sproggit has the right idea. Just wipe with random data using DD and call it a day. Takes 30 seconds to boot from a Linux CD to run DD.

    I suppose there is a time/place for physical destruction, but most requirements for physical destruction come from the types of people who want to feel “bad-ass”, the same types of people who feel tough while wearing their Captain America underwear.

    Lame is lame. DD the drive, repartition, reformat, and give it to charity.

     
  36. monkeyship Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    I always enjoy using the foundry method, melting and casting the platters into some other useful device.

     
  37. Sheldon Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    I find shred simpler to use than DD

    shred /dev/sda

     
  38. LoadWB Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    dd will work for Windows, too. On random days I have drives to wipe I connect them via USB or eSATA and set dd loose. The one I use supports pseudo-devices (for compatibility, I suppose) including /dev/random and /dev/zero. Works quite well.

     
  39. MEDOIX » The Home-Made Hard Disk Destroyer Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    [...] With 0 comments Barence writes “All businesses have sensitive data they need to destroy when they replace PCs, but disposing of hard disks properly can be an expensive business. This has led one IT manager in the UK to come up with his own, home-made solution — Bustadrive. It uses a powerful ‘hydraulic punch’ to physically deform a hard disk, rendering it virtually unreadable, and requires nothing more than a pull of the lever on the front — similar to a drinks-can crusher. PC Pro tested the Bustadrive, and also sought the opinions of data destruction companies as to whether the device was really as effective as hoped, or just a fun way to mangle a hard disk or two.” [...]

     
  40. Mikko Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    why not use thermite?

     
  41. Geeky Nerd Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 12:17 am

    I could use one of those at work!

     
  42. Paul Downs Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 12:35 am

    This doesn’t seem like the correct path of investigation to me. Surely the test is to send damaged drives to data recovery companies and see what they’ll threaten to charge or whether they’ll say no chance unless you’re in law enforcement. ;)
    In the last year I have had cause to recover a few 100GB off a USB HD due to damage from dropping. It made a horrible noise and failed to spin up despite my attempts, including trying to repair it myself.
    To cut a long story short the recovery cost ~400ukp all in. Including strip, rebuild, image, recovery and a brand new 640GB usb drive to have the data on. I won’t name the company here as I don’t want to advertise but the service was amazing with constant contact and I was kept informed of the charges being added whether I wanted to continue and what was being done. All in all it took 2 weeks including postage of each way. All data was recovered.
    I appreciate this isn’t the same level of damage but I’d like to know what a dedicated recovery firm would say.

     
  43. Xeroline Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 12:39 am

    Oh, I really like the thermite idea. We should all think about placing thermite above our disk arrays in case hackers breach the DC.. Just a thought.

     
  44. Arus Balik + Bustadrive – Penghancur Harddisk Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 12:46 am

    [...] piringan harddisk (recover) (kalo di Indonesia kayaknya bisa deh he he he ). Untuk lengkapnya baca disini dan disini. [...]

     
  45. bill Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 1:08 am

    Overwriting the data with zeroes? with /dev/random? What happens if the drive doesn’t function–the circuits are dead but the platters are fine?

    I prefer using a combination of a pickaxe to punch the platters then a 10 lb sledgehammer to curl them for good measure.

     
  46. Devin Null Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 5:14 am

    If it’s that critical – open the drive, remove the platter(s), and the magnet. Rub the magnet all over the platter, then use your shoe to rub the platter on rough concrete till it’s destroyed. Cut the platters into a few pieces.

     
  47. Stephen Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 5:41 am

    open the drive remove the platters and grind it into the concrete? If you worked for a large company replacing hardware that could take weeks of non-stop HD destruction. The bustadrive serves a purpose just a very limited one.

     
  48. Pablo C. Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 6:41 am

    Nobody has mentioned Secure Erase?

    Sure it’s fun to bust up some hard drives, but what a waste in a long run.

     
  49. GNC-2009-08-18 #503 New Cameras for Live Show - Geek News Central Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 8:15 am

    [...] Seeks relief on Word injunction! Comcast comes swinging at the FCC! Portable Nuclear Power Station DYI HD Crusher! District 9 did you see it, should I go see it? Newspapers have no one to blame but themselves. [...]

     
  50. Freegadget News » Bustadrive — domowy sposób na niszczenie HDD Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 10:00 am

    [...] [Za: pcpro] [...]

     
  51. nickcardwell Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    why not use a hammer?
    Same job at the end of the day?

     
  52. Delicious Magnets Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Bustadrive + Industrial demagnetizer mounted above it = win.

    http://www.magnetics.com/product.asp?ProductID=49

     
  53. GNC-2009-08-18 #503 New Cameras for Live Show | Everything about everything Says:
    August 20th, 2009 at 6:51 am

    [...] Seeks relief on Word injunction! Comcast comes swinging at the FCC! Portable Nuclear Power Station DYI HD Crusher! District 9 did you see it, should I go see it? Newspapers have no one to blame but themselves. [...]

     
  54. GNC-2009-08-18 #503 New Cameras for Live Show | Everything about everything Says:
    August 20th, 2009 at 6:51 am

    [...] Seeks relief on Word injunction! Comcast comes swinging at the FCC! Portable Nuclear Power Station DYI HD Crusher! District 9 did you see it, should I go see it? Newspapers have no one to blame but themselves. [...]

     
  55. PC Pro’s top 10 hard disk destruction methods | PC Pro blog Says:
    August 20th, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    [...] appears that our investigation into the Bustadrive, a home-made hard disk destruction device, has unleashed the latent violence that lurks among the [...]

     
  56. Mike Russell Says:
    August 20th, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Nobody has mentioned a bucket of hydrochloric, or sulphuric acid.
    Quite a few drives will die before it becomes too weak. Take the labels off and soak them overnight – outside, of course :-)

     
  57. JH Says:
    August 20th, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    I don’t think £200 is a good investment when surely an industrial office shredder with a powerful magnetic field at the entrance would do the same, if not better.

     
  58. shredder Says:
    August 21st, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Many years ago at a university I saw the results after a grounds crew foreman accidentally dropped his Motorola radio in the compost shredder. Something similar would probably work for hard drives.

     
  59. Ways to destroy old hard drives | Security Fight Club Says:
    August 21st, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    [...] fine folks over at PC Pro had reviewed a device called the “Bust A Drive“.  Apparently this led to a massive firestorm of comments including may ways to destroy a [...]

     
  60. PC Pro’s Top 10 Hard Disk Destruction Methods « technichristian.net Says:
    August 22nd, 2009 at 4:40 am

    [...] Pro’s Top 10 Hard Disk Destruction Methods It appears that our investigation into the Bustadrive, a home-made hard disk destruction device, has unleashed the latent violence that lurks within the [...]

     
  61. Steve Says:
    August 22nd, 2009 at 5:01 am

    My daughter invented this last winter, hydraulic punch included.

    http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/dailystar/283776.php

     
  62. Karl Says:
    August 23rd, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    I hate to rain on this parade, but this tool is useless as a means of protecting data. Unless the platters are completely destroyed or rendered unreadable in another drive, the data is still retrievable. Although it would take more time, a cheaper alternative would be military grade erasure software. So there you have it. Either rewrite over all of the bits a minimum of 7 times or completely destroy the platters. Anything else is folly.

     
  63. UK Computer Disposals Says:
    September 27th, 2009 at 8:49 am

    I thought that most people use random overwriting software when possible, at least I do. However, there are many situations when the hardware is busted, and the drive cannot be written to. But that does not mean the data is no longer on the drive, and that’s when these methods are useful.

     
  64. Alexa31 Says:
    December 19th, 2009 at 5:20 am

    That takes hard exertion and time to complete the thesis samples just about this post, thence, we choose to look for the dissertation service to receive the PhD degree.

     
  65. domain kayıt Says:
    December 30th, 2009 at 6:14 am

    thank you for this article. Ive looked at the end.

     
  66. Phil Says:
    January 13th, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Data destruction need not be expensive, if using a degausser can be onsite and the user can test to show the data has been removed. Certified degaussers are out there and is alot quicker than software overwrites. Data Destruction

     
  67. Luiz Sudbrack Says:
    June 22nd, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    It is pointless for 99.99% of people to physically destroy drives. The equipment, expense, required to get information off a drive wiped with a single pass of zeros means you are only at risk if you are doing something very illegal. Ask yourself this question: why would someone use a few million dollars in equipment and a handful of PhDs to get my data? Would it be worth it to them? For nearly everyone, the answer is no. There was a standing challege for $1000 for anyone to get data off a drive that had been erased with a single pass of zeros: http://www.root777.com/unix-linux/the-great-zero-challenge/ and after several years, not one person/group took the challenge. If you are still paranoid, we use a small sledge … your neighbor may have one. I have also used a heavy hoe to great effect. But please don’t destroy perfectly usable drives without a very good reason.

     
  68. Kermit Revelli Says:
    October 11th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    @above me .lol Do you have another idea about my comment

     
  69. jeff Says:
    October 13th, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Cheapest option would be to use a bolt cutter – same effect but from an item that only costs £20

     
  70. Chris Says:
    April 19th, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    why not take a moment, unscrew it and use it to make art or just scratch them. It takes like what, 5 mins to kill it?

    http://www.foundshit.com/recycled-computer-motorcycle/

     
  71. Dylan Says:
    April 20th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    OR, instead of destroying them, we use DBAN. I don’t think anything survives 32 pass deletion.

     
  72. IT Rush Says:
    April 24th, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Hmm, what’s the use of this file shredder software? There’s a lot of them free of charge, just make some good decoration with the hard drive itself and display it anywhere you want after wiping the data. :p

     
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