What is Degaussing? Secure Data Destruction Explained.

In today’s digital age, data security is a paramount concern for businesses. Yet, in the realm of IT asset management, one crucial step often gets overlooked—the retirement of hard drives and magnetic media. When it comes to eliminating data from these storage devices, degaussing reigns supreme. But what exactly is degaussing, and why is it so critical in the realm of data security? Join us as we explore the fascinating world of secure data erasure through degaussing.

Degaussing Explained

To truly grasp the concept and effectiveness of degaussing, it’s crucial to understand how data is stored on hard disk drives (HDDs).

HDDs, as storage devices, consist of platters where data is stored by magnetically encoding 1’s and 0’s on the platters’ surfaces. The HDDs’ read/write heads detect these magnetic patterns on the spinning platters and convert the 1’s and 0’s into readable information, ultimately displaying the data on your screen.

To thoroughly and effectively destroy all data from end-of-life (EOL) HDDs, the goal is to obliterate these stored magnetic patterns – those 1’s and 0’s. This is precisely where degaussing, or demagnetizing, comes into play. When performed correctly with an appropriate degausser, the degaussing process completely destroys these magnetic patterns, leaving no trace of the data they once held.

Recommended Read: How To Select the Right Degausser? A Comprehensive Guide.

What is Degaussing? Degaussing obliterates the magnetic field patterns on a hard drive's platters, where data is stored. Once degaussed, all data is 100% irreversibly destroyed.
Long view of the hard disk drive platters under magnetic microscope
Image showing hard disk drives platters under microscopic view before and after degaussing

The Why Behind Degaussing

Now, let’s delve into why degaussing is the preferred method for data destruction:

Speed and Irreversibility

Degaussers are swift and merciless. In a mere 1/10th of a second, they annihilate all data, on working, non-working, and damaged hard drives. Once the HDD is subjected to degaussing, any data it previously contained becomes irrecoverable, making your storage media safe for recycling or disposal.

Degausser is swift and merciless. In 1/10th of a second, degaussing destroys ALL data.

Recognized Security

Degaussing is not just a run-of-the-mill data destruction method. It’s officially recognized by esteemed organizations such as the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) as a secure means of data destruction. This recognition underscores the effectiveness and reliability of degaussing in safeguarding sensitive information.

Degaussing is officially recognized by the NSA/CSS as a secure means of data destruction.

Garner’s TS-1XT stands as a shining example of excellence. It proudly holds the distinction of being on the NSA Evaluated Products List for erasure of Top Secret Data. Additionally, the TS-1XT can be equipped with IRONCLAD, Garner’s exclusive proof-of-erasure system that provides verifiable data destruction assurance.

IRONCLAD works seamlessly to generate an erasure report. This report isn’t just any report; it includes a visual image of the hard drive and records the serial number, along with the unique identifiers for each drive as it undergoes the degaussing process.

Now, let’s talk power. The TS-1XT is the newest, fastest, and lightest capacitive discharge degausser available on the market. At only 105 lbs. and a 20,000-gauss field, the TS-1XT NSA EPL-listed degausser takes data destruction to new heights. In a mere 15 seconds or less, it completely obliterates all data on hard drives and tapes.

What’s more, it is also incredibly simple to use – no skilled operator required. Just insert the media; upon closing the drawer, the TS-1XT automatically activates the degauss cycle providing effortless yet secure data destruction.

See: Garner Product’s NSA EPL-listed TS-1XT Degausser with IRONCLAD Verification System

Alternatives and Their Shortcomings

Why should you choose degaussing over other methods of data sanitization? Let’s look at some alternatives and their shortcomings.


Overwriting involves writing a random pattern of 1’s and 0’s to every part of the drive, typically multiple times, and it requires a skilled operator to ensure its correct execution. While it overwrites existing data, the underlying data remains susceptible to recovery. Moreover, overwriting cannot address non-functioning sectors of the drive; in cases of damage, the overwriting process will fail to overwrite any damaged parts of the drive, leaving you vulnerable to potential data breaches.

Due to these limitations, it falls short of the stringent standards set by organizations like the NSA and DoD and comes at a higher cost in terms of time and electricity. Nearly 5X the cost of degaussing!

Fact #1: A Blancco study in 2016 showed a staggering 67% of used hard disk drives and solid state drives sold on the resale market contain recoverable personally identifiable information (PII).

Fact #2: The National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) report in 2017 showed 40% of electronic devices resold on the secondary market, including used hard drives contain recoverable PII.

Recommended Read: The Dangers of Overwriting Part II

Physical Destruction

Physically destroying a hard drive might seem like a surefire method, but it has its own set of caveats. Damaging the media doesn’t guarantee data obliteration; the data still lingers. Hard drive fragments, as small as 2mm, can harbor an astonishing amount of data—equivalent to 500,000 pages!

Best practices dictate that degaussing should precede physical destruction for a comprehensive data security approach.

Graphic showing how much data is on a hard drive fragment

Best Practices: Degauss Before You Dispose

To ensure your data is beyond recovery, always degauss your hard drive with a degausser boasting an appropriate magnetic field strength. This approach ensures a 0% chance of data recovery, as the data is forensically unrecoverable.

In a world where data security is non-negotiable, degaussing emerges as the ultimate guardian of sensitive information. With its speed, irreversibility, and recognition by top-tier security institutions, it’s the gold standard in secure data erasure. When you’re ready to dispose of your hard drive, remember the golden rule—degauss before you dispose, and your data will be gone for good!

Recommended Read: How to select the right degausser? A comprehensive guide.

The Golden Rule of data destruction. Degauss before you dispose. Your data will be gone for good.

About Garner Products

Garner Products designs and manufactures premium equipment that delivers complete, permanent, and verifiable data destruction. For over 60 years, Garner has provided the education, systems, and support that enable customers worldwide in all industries to securely destroy data.

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