5 Good Reasons To Save Your Old Hard Drive From The Trash

Most of us have our data spread across several devices, storage media, or services. Storage capacities continue to expand at affordable prices, digital devices diversify, and as a result we are increasingly moving data to the Cloud. Do you even have a use for your old hard drive anymore?

Once you understand how a hard drive works, you realize you’d be better off storing your data on something more reliable than an old HDD. It is a fact that hard drives eventually fail and sometimes warning signs precede the end of their lifetime. Or maybe your hard drive is dead already. But wait! Don’t trash it just yet. First, hear what I have to tell you about old hard drives.

It Might Still Work Perfectly Fine!

Did I scare you with my introduction? Well, not every hard drive is bad just because it’s old. As long as you don’t use it to store critical information or at least maintain a backup of important data, you should be fine. Meanwhile, make sure you notice the signs of a failing hard drive and maybe run some maintenance tools that can predict and potentially prevent hard drive failure.

HD Tune Hard Drive Maintenance

As long as your hard drive is working well, there is no reason to trash it!

Maybe It’s Not Entirely Dead!

So you think your old hard drive is dead? If you have data on it that you wish you could recover, you should diagnose and potentially fix your seemingly dead hard drive before properly disposing of it. Maybe you are lucky and it’s not all that dead, after all.

hard drive platter

In case your hard drive shows unexpected vital signs, be prepared to immediately back up your data, something you should do regularly to start with. If the hard drive just wouldn’t boot your operating system, but is otherwise working fine, you will probably be able to copy the data with relatively simple methods, for example using a Linux Live CD / USB.

Ubuntu Live CD

If you have reason to suspect that your hard drive has bad sectors and corrupted data, you might want to try a professional tool like SpinRite to recover your data.

SpinRite Data Recovery

It Might Still Be Useful!

Are you sure you no longer need the hard drive? If it’s still working fine, there are many cool things you can do with it, either for the sake of having tried something new or to add a cool feature to your home setup. Check out these cool ways to breathe new life into your old hard drive!

Install Linux

It Contains Personal Information!

Maybe you can’t be bothered to dig into old hardware and search for usable data, but what if someone else can? Oh, you formatted your hard drive? Well, unless you performed a non-default low level formatting, your data is still there and waiting to be harvested.

What you need to know is that due to how the Windows file system works, simply deleting a file or formatting the drive won’t actually delete the information! The only way to make sure the average geek will find it impossible to recover the files, is to overwrite them; multiple times.

If the idea of someone else getting access to your files makes you nervous, you better look into ways to wipe your hard drive to permanently delete sensitive data. Of course this doesn’t guarantee that some intelligence agency won’t still be able to read the data or that the NSA didn’t somehow manage to gather a copy for their own PRISM backup.


In case you can no longer access your hard drive with software, you can always destroy it physically to prevent data recovery.

It Should Be Recycled!

Unless your hard drive is still functional and can be donated for re-use, it should definitely be recycled!

Electronics contain a lot of precious materials that cost huge amounts of energy and caused a lot of damage and pollution to be extracted from the Earth’s crust. To not recycle those materials means we will be causing more destruction, as well as increasing ecological, social, and economical damage.

The Digital Dump

In this day and age, wasting resources is not an option! You can contribute to the conservation of natural resources by consuming (buying) less and reducing the amount of waste you create. The latter means you have to recycle.

In most European countries, electronics stores and manufacturers have to take back their old devices. If you are in the US, check out the homepage of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for resources on electronics donation and recycling.

Take Home Message: Old & Broken Hard Drives Aren’t Automatically Useless

Whether your old HDD still works or not, there is still a lot of value in it. You might still be able to recover your data, start a cool project and learn something new, or a recycling company might salvage rare metals from it. Really, the worst you can do is to trash it and send it to the landfill. Your (grand) kids will not approve!

What have you done with your old hard drives? And can you think of other reasons to keep them? Please share your ideas in the comments!

Image credit: HDD by Kamil Porembinski via Flickr, The Digital Dump via GOOD