Slashdot had an interesting article today about how to destroy hard drives. It’s a commonly asked question, but deserves a bit of time every once in a while. Of course there are the usual physical destruction options, from the humble hammer and screwdriver, to more exotic (and dangerous) techniques like a propane furnace.
For most purposes we still advise that a simple zeroing of the whole disk is a pretty safe bet. *
Failing that, then as long as you totally destroy the platters, you are good to go. That means taking the disk apart and grinding, bending and scraping the disks to bits.
* During normal use, a hard drive will get occasional bad sectors, which are then mapped out and prevented from being used. When that same sector is requested again, a new spare sector is used from another part of the disk. With the right knowledge, it is possible to access this list of remapped / bad sectors and see if there is any useful data within them. The chances of finding anything useful in these sectors is slim, but you never know.