Should You Sell Used Hard Drives: Ultimate Guide

Have old, used hard drives lying around and are not sure what you should do with them?

Selling them for extra cash might seem like an obvious idea. However, what if the buyer can recover the sensitive data previously stored within the hard drive?

You might be surprised that according to a pretty recent survey by CompariTech, 59% of used hard drives purchased in the US and UK contained data of the previous owners.

So, Is selling your hard drives actually safe? Should we just destroy the hard drives instead?

You’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’ll discuss how safe it is to sell your used hard drives, whether physical destruction is ideal for your situation, and how to securely wipe the stored data to ensure it’s unrecoverable. 

To Sell or Not To Sell Your Hard Drives

Let’s first address the elephant in the room: do you actually need to sell your hard drives?

Data storage space is a very valuable commodity in the 21st century, so, wouldn’t it be best to keep using or re-using the old drives rather than selling, or worse, physically destroying the drives?

Basically, there are several key factors to consider:

1.    Maximizing the drive’s ROI

It’s natural for digital equipment, including hard drives, to devalue in price, while at the same time, sooner or later you’ll need to upgrade these drives to ones with newer technologies and/or bigger storage spaces.

Thus, to maximize the Return on Investment (ROI) of these drives, timing is key. You’d want to sell the old hard drives when their value is still relatively high, but at the same time, the price of the replacement drives should have gone down a bit so it’s not too expensive.

Finding the right timing is important so that the hard drive is not old enough that it’s too low in value, and 2-3 years is typically a good time for most hard drives.

2.    Future plan

What is the short-term and long-term plan for the hard drive? Could an upgrade benefit you at the moment (both from a performance and/or ROI perspective)?

There may be situations where leaving the hard drive as it is will be the better overall investment, and there may also be situations where you won’t get too much profit selling the drive and destroying the drive may be the better option.

3.    Sensitive data

Is the hard drive storing any sensitive and/or regulated data? If yes, you should plan secure data destruction before you sell the drive, or else you’ll risk legal repercussions and/or reputational damage.

Secure data deletion may translate into additional costs (if you don’t do it yourself), and so may lower the profitability of selling your hard drive.

How To Sell Used Hard Drives: Step-By-Step

If after you’ve considered all the three factors above you are still determined to sell your hard drive, here is the step-by-step guide to getting your used drives sold securely and quickly:

Step 1: Identify your drives’ details

The first thing to do is to figure out exactly what your hard drive is so you can get the most of it.

If you are selling more than one hard drive, you can create a spreadsheet for this purpose, and list the following details:

  • Brand
  • Type (SSD, HDD, NVME, etc. )
  • Model type or serial
  • Storage Size
  • Connector type

Also, take photos of the hard drive’s condition, which may help you in finding buyers.

A key thing to consider in this step is, to be honest. If your hard drive has a physical scratch, mention it and take photos of the imperfections when possible.

Step 2: Secure data wiping

If the hard drive does not contain any sensitive or regulated data, then you may not need to take extra measures to securely wipe your data. However, keep in mind that your privacy is also at risk, so it’s always best to perform a secure wipe on your hard drives before selling/throwing them away.

First, check whether your hard drive is a traditional HDD with a physical spinning disk, or a solid-state drive (SSD).

If it’s an HDD and you happen to use a Windows computer, we’d recommend using the free DBAN utility tool to securely wipe the drive. Alternatively, you can use Windows’ built-in Disk Manager and format the HDD (not quick format) three times.

If you are using a Mac, you can use macOS’ Disk Utility, found in the ‘Utilities’ folder (press Apple+Shift+U), select the drive, and click ‘Erase’. Erase the drive three times to be sure.

For SSDs, however, things can get more complicated. Typically your SSD’s manufacturer (i.e. SanDisk, Samsung, Corsair, etc.) have their own disk management software to help you securely wipe the SSD. However, if you can’t find such software (or you don’t know your SSD’s manufacturer), you can use tools like Gparted (free) to do the job.

Keep in mind, however, that if you sell to a specialist ITAD company, like Big Data Supply Inc., then you can use their decommissioning service to ensure a very secure hard drive data destruction, and you can also get a Certification of Data Destruction for your drive.

A Certificate of Data Destruction may be a legal requirement in your industry if your drive contains regulated data, so keep this in mind if you are in a regulated industry (medicare, banking, etc. )

Step 3: Finding potential buyers

Essentially, you have two main options to sell your hard drive: finding your own buyers, or through a specialist ITAD company.

You can find your own private buyers or list your hard drives on marketplaces like eBay or Amazon. The main benefit here is that you can set your own prices and have more freedom in selling your drives, but you have to do all the work yourself (including secure deletion of data).

If you sell through a specialist ITAD company like Big Data Supply Inc., however, the company will virtually handle everything including secure data deletion, and while you can’t set your own prices, you’ll get a fair market price based on the condition of your drives.

Step 4: Packaging

Once you’ve found a buyer, you now need to package and ship your used hard drives. It’s crucial to package the hard drives correctly, or you may end up damaging your drive and lose money. If you are selling multiple hard drives, make sure to include a packing list on each package.

Also, it’s best to invest in insurance on your packages, even after the hard drives have been packaged correctly.

Wrapping Up

When performed correctly, selling your used hard drives for extra cash can help you maximize the ROI of each device.

If you securely wipe the used hard drive before selling it, then it is 100% safe to sell the drive, but there’s also an option to sell your used hard drives to bulk-buying companies that will also securely wipe your data for you.

Author: 99 Tech Post

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