Ohh, storage! You always seem to be running out of it, whether to store the cutlery in your kitchen or the movies on your computer. While it is pretty tricky to really increase your space in real life, increasing the space on your computer is as easy as getting a bigger hard drive or solid-state drive.
Which brings us to the question: what should you do with the old device once you have installed a new one? And, being a responsible human, you are not going to chuck your old SSD or HDD into a trash can so that it can end up in a landfill someplace where it will forever leak toxic heavy metals into the soil.
Right. Now that we are on the same page about not doing to the environment what Donald Trump did to the USA let’s see how we can recycle SSDs. Or, if it is an HDD, you can check out our guide here.
But first, let’s learn a bit about solid-state drives themselves and how they differ from their older cousins, the hard disk drives.
Solid State Drives vs. Hard Disk Drives
Hard disk drives have been the only option for computer storage for the last 50 years or so. They are a well-known and well-understood technology and have constantly evolved. However, HDDs have their shortcomings.
They store data magnetically on spinning disks called platters. These disks rotate at speeds ranging from 4200 to 7200 rotations per minute and are read by actuator arms.
A controller chip tells the actuator arm where the data is stored so that it can move into a position to read or write the data.
All these moving parts mean that HDDs are slower, heavier, and more energy. They are also more prone to damage- a jolt or fall can displace a platter or arm and render the whole HDD useless.
Solid-state drives, on the other hand, use what is called a NAND chip to store your data. A NAND chip is the same thing that USBs use to store data, and it has no moving parts and uses the presence (or absence) of single charges on the chip to store data.
Single data is stored and retrieved electronically and does not depend on any moving parts. SSDs are far faster than HDDs, and they are also lighter and more energy-efficient.
The only thing that SSDs don’t have going for them is that they are pretty expensive compared to HDDs. But that is rapidly changing, with cheaper and cheaper SSDs entering the market every year.
And even SSD can become obsolete and eventually stop working, which means you need a new one, which means you have an old SSD you want to get rid of. But before getting rid of your SSD, you need to do one essential thing.
Check out this post to know how to recycle old HDD in detail.
Destroying the Data on your SSD
Data security is a significant concern in today’s world. We are increasingly storing sensitive data on our devices because of how easy it is to access, increasing the risk of someone else finding that data.
Though cyberattacks and hackers get all the attention, data left in discarded storage devices like SSDs are also a big part of the problem.
If you are recycling or selling an SSD that is still working, the only thing some shady guy needs to do is plug your SSD in, run some data recovery program, and have access to all your data.
Even SSDs that have stopped working are not safe. As long as the data is there on the chips, someone can still steal that data with the intent and know-how.
Bonus points for them if you have sensitive information such as social security and credit card numbers saved on your device.
With that in mind, let’s look at how to destroy the data on an SSD, which methods work and which don’t.
Disk Erasing Tools:
There is a bunch of software promises to erase the data on your solid-state drive.
However, these just don’t work. The reason is that wiping data on your SSD just relocates it to some other block on the chip and marks it to be overwritten. An advanced data recovery tool can still recover this data.
Reformatting the SSD:
Reformatting your SSD will also not correctly destroy our data, and advanced data recovery tools can still retrieve data from the drive.
Erasing the data then reformatting the drive:
This method is only slightly less ineffective than the previous two.
Degaussing the SSD:
Degaussing refers to the use of strong magnets for destroying storage media. While it is a well-known method of destroying hard disk drives that store their data magnetically, degaussing just doesn’t work on SSDs.
Solid-state drives store data as single charges on the memory chips and are impervious to the effects of magnets. Even HHDs nowadays are pretty resilient to magnetic damage.
Smashing or drilling holes in the SSD:
This is also one method that primarily works with HDDs, given that HDDs have moving parts that can be damaged, but smashing or drilling holes into an SSD is not a foolproof method of data destruction.
The problem is that you might damage only some of the memory chips, leaving the others intact.
Encrypting the SSD:
Encrypting your SSD is the best way to ensure that your data is unretrievable. When you encrypt an SSD, it locks the SSD with an encryption key or passphrase without which any program cannot retrieve the data.
You can encrypt your SSD by using software such as Windows’ Bitlocker or Apple’s Filevault. This, however, requires your SSD to be working and connected to your computer.
For an extra layer of security, format the SSD after you encrypt. Repeat the process a few times if you feel like it.
Opening the SSD and smashing the chips inside:
You can open your SSD and manually smash the memory chips inside to destroy any data on the drive physically.
For this, you will need a Torx screwdriver and a flathead screwdriver to open the SSD. Using the Torx screwdriver, remove all the screws on the SSD case.
Then using the flathead screwdriver, pry open the case to expose the memory chips. Use the memory chips to relieve any stress you have.
Shredding the SSD:
The safest method of ensuring that no one will ever be able to access the data on your discarded SSD is to shred it.
Shredding might be your only option if your device is dead or if you have a large number of SSDs and don’t want to encrypt all of them manually. Since shredders usually come at about a few thousand dollars, you are probably better off looking for shredding services near you.
If you decide to use a shredder, it is essential to note that not all shredders can safely destroy an SSD.
An office shredder used to shred paper will get jammed up and may even be damaged, while the shred width on a wood chipper is too big to destroy the memory chips properly. The shredder you use should have a shred width of around half and half-inch or less.
Laptops with integrated SSDs:
Some Apple laptops come with integrated SSDs that you cannot take out and destroy physically, short of shredding the whole circuit board. In that case, your only option is to encrypt and reformat the SSD before you send it for recycling.
Recycling the SSD
Once you have made sure that the data on your SSD is properly destroyed, you can recycle it.
Reuse the SSD:
If you are upgrading to a better system and your old SSD is in a working condition, you might consider turning it into external storage.
All you need is an external USB hard disk enclosure, which you can buy inexpensively on Amazon. Plug your SSD along with the case inside the enclosure, and you can use it to backup your data or as extra storage.
Give away or sell your SSD:
You can give away or sell your SSD away if you find someone who needs it. Consider passing it down to someone in your family or donating to institutions like schools.
Needless to say, the SSD should be working- it would be sadistic to donate a broken SSD. Also, ensure that the SSD has been properly encrypted and formatted before you let go of it.
Take your SSD to a recycler:
To recycle your SSD, you need to take it to a recycler or send it to the manufacturer if they have a recycling program.
Most recyclers accept SSDs but are sure to check with them beforehand. If you want to send your SSD to the manufacturer for recycling, check their website to learn about their recycling programs.
Many manufacturers accept their SSDs for recycling, and some offer free shipping labels so that you can send them to them free of cost. Some manufacturers will even give you perks such as discounts if you use their recycling services.
Sending your old SSD to the manufacturer for recycling is safer as they will take care of data security for you. Still, it is a good idea to destroy your data before you send your SSD for recycling.
At the recycling plant, SSDs are shredded down to small pieces. Then the different materials are separated using magnets. These pieces are then melted down into constituent materials, which can be reused for making new products.
This is how you can properly recycle your old SSD. Encrypt it, throw away the encryption key, or shred your SSD to ensure no one can access your sensitive data. If your SSD is working, you may want to hold onto it by turning it into portable storage or give it away or sell it to someone else.
Not only is recycling good for the environment, but it also helps save resources and makes you change! Win-win for everyone.