Your 5-minute guide to Physical Data Destruction Vs Data Erasure

Laptops on shelves being data wiped by special software

All businesses, large and small, must properly take care of redundant assets holding data. Through using services such as physical data destruction and data erasure, companies keep their sensitive information safe from infiltration. 

Furthermore, some businesses will even have specific data destruction policies in place which they abide by. As part of these policies, it is often detailed which method of data destruction, physical or digital, is performed on old data-bearing devices.

To determine which would be the most effective option for your business, we’ve created a guide to help you decide in just 5 minutes.

The basics of physical data destruction

Physical destruction is perhaps the most well-known form of rendering data irretrievable. The process involves shredding the physical asset which harbours the digital information so it cannot be retrieved.

In other words, by slicing an HDD or SSD to a certain level, you render it unusable and the data can’t be accessed. This is often the cheaper option to data erasure, but if not done correctly, can leave data vulnerable. This is why ‘smashing up’ a device doesn’t make the data on it safe, as it is impossible to be sure that asset is thoroughly destroyed without the use of specialist equipment. 

specialist shredder machine

IT Asset Disposal companies (ITADs) offer their services to businesses looking for a permanent form of destruction. Using specialist machine shredders for physical data destruction, assets can be destroyed down to 2mm strips, securing the data. 

When should physical destruction be used?

With any kind of IT service, how a business chooses which is right for them depends solely on their needs. 

Often physical destruction is opted for instead of data erasure when a business:

As we know, destruction leaves the asset unusable. This renders the data irretrievable and, for extra peace of mind, is sometimes used in conjunction with data wiping for organisations wanting top-secret level data security.

The basics of data erasure

Data erasure is a non-destructive process to remove information on a device while leaving it intact. This is often a popular option for businesses wanting to reuse their assets and prevent the need to purchase replacements.

Laptops on shelves being data wiped using Blancco software

Furthermore, data erasure is incredibly quick compared to physical data destruction. When faced with a large number of devices for data destruction, physical destruction is not always the preferred option.

For time-sensitive jobs, erasure via software is much quicker. As data wiping software developers Blancco states, ‘Physical destruction is time-consuming and often manual, particularly when tracking the sanitization of thousands of devices.‘ 

When should data erasure be used?

As we’ve mentioned, what service is best for what client depends on their needs. Instances where data erasure is often used, is when:

  • A business wishes to reuse the assets internally after the data is removed.
  • Assets are to be sold on or donated to third parties outside of the business.
  • Erasure and physical data destruction are used together for top-secret level security.

In contrast to physical destruction, erasure leaves the asset intact. This provides more options for reuse or recycling in the future, should the need arise.


If your business has redundant data-bearing assets, contact a friendly member of our team for advice on which option is best for you.

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