February 13, 2018 at 6:38 am #3709
I’m really having a problem with all of the bad advise being offered up on the internet regarding E-scrap! I’m not sure if the writers of these articles figure that since most people have no clue about e-scrap they can just say anything they want or if they really think that they “have it together” and believe all the nonsense they are writing, Surely they aren’t that out of touch with reality, are they?
In my article regarding RAM computer memory modules I mentioned that there was some really bad information regarding HDD’s on the internet. The problem seems to be that the majority of these articles are being written by scrap yard owners or their employees. Most scrap yard owners have it together when it comes to recycling scrap metal but when it comes to e-scrap, very few have a clue. Even though e-scrap has been assigned to the scrap metal industry, it is nothing like scrap metal and most yard owners continue to try and apply what they know about scrap metal to e-scrap. They just naturally assume that their tried and tested rules , methods, and standard business practices they use for scrap metal will work for e-scrap. Nothing could be further from the truth!
IMHO it was a mistake to try and fit e-scrap into the scrap metal industry in the first place. They are nothing alike and even though some materials do overlap (to some degree) the vast majority of the materials that are generated in e-scrap just don’t fit into a “scrap metal” classification. They are just as alien to the scrap metal industry as marshmallows are to the surface of the moon. The first time I asked a yard owner if they bought tantalum caps he gave me this puzzled look and asked me what are they and where would you find them. Without saying yes or no he definitely answered my question!
Most scrap yard owners know scrap metal but, for whatever reason, they have not taken any steps to educate their self about e-scrap. Either they think that because they know the scrap metal industry there is really nothing they need to learn about e-scrap … they already know it all .. OR they figure that as time goes by they will figure it out eventually so no need to invest their time to research and become educated in this new industry .. OR they really have no interest in e-scrap and fail to see the big picture and the very bright and profitable future that is destine the e-scrap industry.
E-scrap is NOT scrap metal! They are nothing alike! The materials are different, the places you find e-scrap is different than where you normally find scrap metal and the knowledge that one needs to make money with scrap metal is nothing like the knowledge needed to make money with e-scrap. Scrap metal (when compared to e-scrap) is kindergarten and e-scrap is a 4 year college degree. I know that statement will probably piss a lot of people off but all I can tell you is… GET OVER IT!
One of the articles I recently read regarding HDD’s was written by a very large scrap metal recycling company with multiple branches scattered across the USA. In that article they made the statement ,
“The best way to make sure the information on your old hard drive is secure is to have the drive shredded, in fact the ONLY way to make sure no one can access that information is to have the Hard Drive shredded”.
Excuse me, what was that they just wrote? Did they really say “the only way”?
For the life of me I could not understand why anyone would make such an erroneous statement. As I continued to look their site over I suddenly came across the answer to my question. This company had a fleet of mobile shredders (I’m talking more than 10 trucks) and their only function was to go from site to site, office to office and shred HDD’s. With that much money invested in mobile shredders they had to make everyone believe that all old, discarded HDD’s must be shredded to protect your personal information. Did not matter that they were not being truthful with everyone, truth was irrelevant, they had to keep the fleet up and running!
Fact is there are a lost of different ways to secure the data on your old HDD’s other than shredding! IMHO telling someone to have their HDD shredded is not only irresponsible (from an e-scrap prospective) but it’s just plain bad advice. Makes a lot more sense to tell them how to properly scrap a HDD by disassembling it and turn a profit, then it does to tell them to shred the HDD and make nothing!. Not only do you have to pay for the drive to be shredded but once shredded, it has no e-scrap value what-so-ever!
In this article I’m going to share with you why shredding makes no sense at all. If an HDD is scrapped properly and all of the various components and metals properly sorted and saved there is the potential for increased profit and no risk of anyone ever accessing your personal information from that drive. I’m also going to give you a rundown on all the different components that go into making a HDD and the value those components have as far as e-scrap is concerned.
You need to understand that any and all data on an HDD is magnetically written and/or stored on the HDD platters. Best way to explain a platter is to tell you they look just like a CD or a DVD disc, only difference is the material they are made of and how they are made. Any personal data that is still on the HDD has been magnetically written to the platters. If data security is a concern then there are a couple of different things you can do to insure that no one can access that data other than shredding or punching an HDD. You can either break the platter in half or take a utility knife and cut heavy groves on both sides of the platters, then save them as scrap platinum OR you can just keep the platters and destroy then in some other way.
If a HDD is scrapped properly and all of the various components and metals properly sorted and saved there is the potential for profit, when you shred a HDD you make nothing. HDD’s are loaded with valuable metals and other components. Once you have disassembled a few HDD’s you’ll find in only takes a few minutes (less than 5 once you get the hang of it) to break the HDD down into its basic parts. These parts are worth far more than you can get for selling an intact HDD as a complete unit to any scrap yard. If you actually have the HDD shredded you end up with nothing (no profit) for your troubles AND you have to pay someone to shred the HDD.
Before we talk about what HDD’s are made of let me first make this clear, there is no industry standard as far as HDD’s go. For instance even though the majority of HDD manufacturers use Stainless Steel for the top cover of the drive and Stainless Steel screws to secure this cover to the drive, there are a few of the “cheaper” drive manufacturers that use regular steel for the cover and screws, so make sure you use your magnet to check this item.
Another thing to watch out for are the drive platters. Originally HDD’s all used aluminum as the base metal for the platters. On top of the aluminum a layer of nickle was deposited and a layer of platinum was deposited over the nickle. As technology advanced some manufacturers started replacing the aluminum with glass and/or ceramics for the platter base material. The nickle and platinum plating remained the same. It’s pretty easy to tell if the base metal used for the platters is glass or ceramics as opposed to aluminum, just make sure you check.
One other point, this article is only covering 5.25” HDD’s like you find in Towers or Desktop computers. The smaller size drives use slightly different materials in there manufacturing process.
Materials used in Desktop/Tower Hard Drives:
1. Stainless Steel (top cover plate and cover screws)
2. Aluminum (base/body of HDD)
3. 2- Neodymium Magnets (these are the strongest magnets made)
4. 2- Permalloy Magnet Brackets (Permalloy is a super-alloy and is 80% nickle.)
5. Data Platters (depending on age and type of HDD may contain any of the following – aluminum/glass/ceramic base platter with a platinum plating)
6. Circuit Board (HDD Circuit boards are loaded with precious metals and considered to be premium grade PCB’s. They can either be broken down into their various components or sold as is to a refiner for PM recovery. Following are some of the components they are made of)
**7. ICC’s (gold wiring)
**8. MLCC’s (palladium)
**9. Gold (pins in the data cable connectors)
**10. Tantalum Caps (tantalum)
**11. Silver (assorted places)
**12. Drive Pin Jumpers (gold)
Shredding an HDD is old school scrap metal thinking; disassembling an HDD is new school e-scrap thinking. Scrap Metal and E-scrap are two different industries and the materials encountered in each industry are different. Not only are the materials different, but the places these materials are sourced is also different.
Different industries, different materials and different material sources. Why would anyone believe that the logic used for scrap metal is the same logic you use for e-scrap? With so many differences, why would the only similarity between the two industries be the logic?
That’s like the difference between fishing and hunting ducks or geese. A rod, reel and some hooks works great for fishing but if you tell someone to use a rod, reel and hooks to go hunt some ducks they might just ask you what in the heck have you been smoking!
Now you have all the information, you decide for yourself what makes more sense, paying someone to shred an HDD or dismantling them for e-scrap and turning a negative cash flow (cost of shredding) into a positive cash flow.
Instead of taking money out of your pocket and handing it to someone else, you’re putting more money in your pocket! Personally I think it’s a “no brainer”!
February 18, 2018 at 3:47 pm #3720
I’ll follow up a bit here since I have long specialised in tech. First note: I believe you meant 3.5” drives. 5.25” drives haven’t been in standard circulation since the late 80s.
Second. Oh I hate this topic.
punching and or shredding a drive may be safe for a consumer. But you have done nothing to the data on the platters. You’ve just made it very difficult to recover. If you NEED to have ZERO data there’s only two methods that will permanently remove data from a disk. First is melting the platter. Which is why shredding is so popular. They simply sell it as steel fees stock. Again as above shredding is terrible for recycling from a recovery of materials outlook.
The other is magnetic erasure followed by demagnetisation. With this method all the various metals can still be properly recycled without information concerns.
I get so angry every time I see messages and articles and reports telling people to punch a hole in their drives. If your a big business with secrets on those drives a competitor can easy bay a few hundred dollars (to a few thousand), for a specialist to recover the majority of the data. small amounts of cost on multi-million-dollar expense reports.
Finally, great informative write up. I see we share the same hatred of escrap misinformation.
February 19, 2018 at 11:50 am #3725
Agree 100% that shredding HDDs of any size is not an optimal solution and makes the recycling process exponentially more difficult. I do have issue with the repeated statement that HDD shred is worthless. You complained repeatedly about metal scrap yard operators spreading misinformation and then you did it yourself!! HDD scrap has a widely published price per pound – currently in the .30 range. Not great but definitely not worthless or $0
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