Getting Rid of 3 1/2″ Floppies (Somewhat Safely)

A few months ago I wrote about getting rid of old hard drives safely, by destroying the data contained on them. I was going through some more old stuff recently, and came across some relics — 3 1/2″ floppy disks. None of them really contain anything sensitive or that I’d want to keep, but at the same time, I’d sleep better at night knowing that no reasonable person would be able to access any of that data again.

I didn’t find much helpful information through a quick Google search — a somewhat dubious eHow article that advocates stabbing the media through its retractable cover, an article that mentions shredding and degaussing (two options that are not available to me, given that I don’t want to spend any money on this), and a technology columnist who recommends shredding as well as “a large hammer and a stake.” Granted, I could slap each disk in and overwrite it according to security sanitizing standards, but that could take a very long time.

Instead, I decided to investigate simple physical destruction of the magnetic recording material. I was pleased to discover that you can quickly disassemble a disk, separate the recording surface from the hub of the disk, and then shred the recording surface in any ordinary office shredder. Here’s how:

  1. First, lift up the metal shutter on the bottom part of the disk. It may be slightly easier to grab the edge of the shutter if you bend the disk slightly.
    Lift up the shutter
    Lift up the shutter
  2.  Next, you can slide the shutter over slightly, and then rotate the shutter out of its normal track.

    Unseat the shutter by sliding it over slightly, then lifting
    Unseat the shutter by sliding it over slightly, then lifting
  3. Pulling the shutter off may also release the spring mechanism that normally keeps it in place. If not, you can grasp the edge of the spring and pull it out, or simply wait until the floppy has been split open to remove the spring. Discard the shutter and spring.
    The shutter and the spring that holds it in place.
    The shutter and the spring that holds it in place.
  4. You can then pry open the floppy disk using the groove (normally covered by the shutter) indicated by my finger here. You can just use the tip of your finger — you don’t need to use a screwdriver or anything special.
    Pry here
    Pry here
    What it looks like when you begin prying the disk apart
    What it looks like when you begin prying the disk apart
  5. When you have pried the disk open, you will be able to take out the actual media platter. Once you’ve done this, you can throw the rest of the disk into the trash.

    The media platter, removed from the split disk
    The media platter, removed from the split disk
  6. Finally, you can remove the media ring from its metal hub by simply peeling it off. The adhesive should break very easily, leaving you with just the magnetic media itself. You can then feed the media into a shredder, or manually cut it into pieces.

    Peeling the media platter from its hub
    Peeling the media platter from its hub

This process takes about 30 seconds to accomplish in total, which is pretty reasonable for the relatively small volume of disks I need to destroy. Cutting or shredding the media isn’t 100% reliable, as you can still read data from the individual pieces, but it’s certainly good enough for my purposes.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.