Hard Drive Recycling — What Is It and How Does It Work
Disposal involves drying, shredding, plating and crushing the hard drives to recover usable components. Remarketing includes reusing or reselling the hard drive within the same general product line.
While typical hard drive recycling is based on electronics, there is a growing movement to recover magnetic media as well. Magnetic storage media include rotating hard drives and optical disks. Recovery could involve using a neodymium magnet to expose the magnetic media surface and recover data. Remember, you cannot reuse transparent or transparent magnetic media due to its strength and magnetism.
To recover data, researchers use a method called magnetohydrodynamics. They pour a thin layer of ferric chloride into an oil bath. The solution becomes liquid at a low temperature and is pumped through a ferromagnetic material (called a mandrel). It is driven around a magnetic surface (unbalanced ferromagnetic arms) creating a belt that travels back and forth across the ferromagnetic material at a constant speed. It absorbs the magnetic field and re-emits it, creating a digital readout. This process is repeated a number of times creating a heat map of the magnetic areas and their position relative to each other on the magnetic media. The readout can be converted to binary code which can be used to identify the individual data bits.
This process has limitations however because it does not take into account the growth of the magnetic bits on the ferromagnetic material. This causes degradation resulting in decreased read performance, and therefore it is not recommended for use in portable devices.
Recovery of data can also be done using a technique called pulse-width modulation (PWM). This incorporates crystals that respond equally to a broad range of alternating magnetic fields, with a period equal to the square root of the number of cycles per second. Two or more crystals can be used to form a circuit. The system is energized by a power supply, and the electrons of the crystals travel in a particular pattern over a set cycle-length. The frequencies used are determined by a digital algorithm, creating a pulse in the digital domain. The user would audio these pulses and acquire each waveform as a series of data.
Constructing a pulse that reliably identifies individual data bytes, writes the data to the appropriate portion of the storage device, and also has the ability to identify and write only certain portions of the storage device to certain devices without replaying the entire sequence. The creator would implement the pulse as a DMA controller, that is why the slow access memory area can be safely discarded. Another method used is GD32 VF103 and GD32 VF103VF19 pulse generators.
Partial drive recycling is used to recapture the mechanical and electrical parts that have been resold or deleted from a hard drive. For example, if you plugged your Apple drive into a computer, the drive would be formatted, and pre-installed with operating system software. The operating system software would provide several partitions for temporary storage, and data would be written to permanent storage locations on the optical drive. The drive would then restart as normal. Hard drives that have been deleted are resold, and their residual parts are used for another computer. This process is fairly efficient at recovering usable hard disks.
Recoverable parts include the motherboard, SCSI controller, hard disk drive (HDD) actuator and spindle, hard disk drive (HDD) head, HD recorder, CD/DVD ROM chips, RAM modules, SCSI expansion cards, printers, scanners, video cameras, and serial communication chips. Sometimes, if the drive will not boot or run, the whole drive will need to be destroyed and the data must be deleted from it.
Compact flash, solid-state drives and SD/SDHC memory cards also can be recovered using this process. A small chip containing burned-in information is removed from the memory card or flash drive. The tiny embedded chips are referred to as flash chips or flash memory. Burnt-in information is still readable by a basic data recovery utility, but cannot be used to recreate the original data.
Recycling optical discs (CDs, VHS tapes, Blu-ray movies or Recorded TV) is completely optional. Disc recycling is a fast and cost-effective way to obtain valuable CD and DVD media without the need for additional preparation. Net weight ranges from about 0.01 to 0.13 pounds. The discs can be ground to powder while still in a plastic sleeve and re-used for future re-sale or recycling. Local Covid-19 orders will discount the price of discs.
There are a number of ways to physically disable a hard drive. You can turn the drive over on its side, try to jam the drive with something, or physically jam the drive into a piece of metal. If you can’t jam it, scoop it up with your bare hands or use a dremel. If physical removal is not an option, you can punch a hole in the casing and attach a crimp ring, with some heat (325°C to 600°C is optimal). The process destrains the drive and provides a convenient place to store the drive while it erases its data.
Some people re-purpose their dented drives as a storage drive for tapes, DVD ROMs, RAM memory cards, CDs, tapes, or standard DVD and MP3 players.
Hard drive recycling is, besides hardware, sustainable and protects valuable metals such as gold, which are mined from rare earths, such as neodymium and tellurium.
Adobe has their ReUse program. Another name for this program is recycled media. In short, the program allows you to reuse your CDs, DVDs, and, for the first time, your magnetic storage media. The extracted data from media is transmitted wirelessly via USB, and back to your “old” media devices. Unfortunately this requires the program to be installed again on your PC afterwards. This will require then some additional configuration on your end. Luckily there is a downloadable ISO file of ReUse MD that you can use which is becoming better as time passes.
There is also a software available called LosslessRecoveryPlus. According to Adobe this is a less invasive way of recovering data, you will find is even more compact, thus, a more harmless procedure for your hard drive. Hard drive recycling is a great practice that is also environmentally sound and maintains a safe distance during transport between the raw materials and the final delivery of the services.
It’s a good idea to learn about what drives are used in your space and make the part you have a part of. Befriend your local recycling center. While early initiatives were oriented towards IT peripherals, mainly disks, the program is expanding its focus more and more to computer hardware as well. If you have an old drive you would like to donate or sell, — consider this an energy-efficient option that can extend the life of the battery you have.