Tips for Destroying Old USB and Flash Drives

Thursday, March 23, 2023 11:11 am, Posted by Absolute Destruction

USB drives and flash drives are fantastically compact, portable storage devices; they’ve revolutionized the process of storing and transferring data and backing up files for tech users across the globe. But what do you do with USBs and flash drives when you no longer need them?

You may have used a USB and a flash drive to store a wide variety of information, including:

  • Photos.
  • School work or applications for schools.
  • Assorted business files.
  • Financial documents, including pertinent information for tax season.
  • Papers for visa applications or passport renewals (which may include scans of ID).
  • Vaccination records.
  • Job applications.
  • Receipts.

Keeping USB and flash drives safe while in use is essential, but it’s also vital to destroy them effectively once they’re no longer needed. Ineffectively destroying common electronic items — like USBs and flash drives — can leave you open to an electronic data breach and identity theft.

Information stored on the device could be used against you to commit:

  • Financial Identity Theft: Where a criminal uses someone else’s identity for financial gain.
  • Medical Identity Theft: Where a thief poses as someone else to receive medical treatment.
  • Tax Identity Theft: Where someone uses your information to file a tax return and get a refund.
  • Criminal Identity Theft: When someone uses your information when caught committing a crime.

Unfortunately, simply moving files to the trash on your computer doesn’t destroy them. In fact, files are still readily retrievable. Below are other tips for destroying old USB and flash drives and their files.

Formatting or Sanitizing the Device

Before disposing of your storage device, try formatting it. The specifics on how to format will vary based on the device. Usually, right-clicking the USB or flash when it’s on the desktop should provide the option to format it.

However, formatting doesn’t clear the data completely. While it can’t be accessed by the operating system, it’s still held on the device. Cybercriminals will have no trouble recovering this data if it hasn’t been overwritten by new files or data. In fact, a study by the University of California found that in some cases, 67% of the data could be retrieved.

You can invest in a software erasing or sanitization program to clear all files from USBs and flash drives. However, these cost money, and running them involves some tech know-how to ensure the data has been successfully cleared.

Breaking It Open

Wearing safety goggles and gloves, use a screwdriver to pry the device open. Throw away the outer case and focus on destroying the circuit board and the flash memory chip. Use a hammer, pliers, or a drill to crush the data-holding components (like the circuit board) into powder.

While this process is effective, it’s messy, inelegant, time-consuming, and somewhat dangerous, with tiny microplastics pinging into the air and covering the floor.

Submerging It in Water

Contrary to belief, water will only sometimes destroy technology. Yes, if a USB is plugged in and gets wet, it will be damaged. However, if a USB is submerged in water, salvaged and dried out in good time, the device may still be operational, as most memory chips are designed to repel and withstand water.

How Absolute Destruction Can Help

Unfortunately, deleting files or reformatting a device like a USB or a flash before you throw it in the garbage isn’t sufficient to protect yourself against identity theft or cybercrime.

And while sanitization programs and physically destroying hard drives, USBs and flash drives at home might be effective — but they also might not be. It’s hard to know with certainty once the device is in pieces whether or not parts of it are salvageable. And physically destroying devices comes with safety issues.

To destroy old USB and flash drives safely, securely, and efficiently, connect with us to learn about our data destruction service. In addition to USB and flash drives, we can also destroy:

  • external tapes and drives,
  • laptops and tablets,
  • cell phones,
  • memory cards from printers,
  • and much more!

Protect yourself, your family — and your business — from an electronic data breach by trusting us to physically destroy your USB and flash devices. Contact us today to learn more.

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