What is Degaussing?
If you’re familiar with the data storage industry, there’s a chance you’ve come across the term degaussing before. Most people associate this funny little word with erasing data, and they wouldn’t be wrong. But degaussing is more than just erasing data, it’s rendering it irretrievable for any future use. Follow along as we go more in depth into the degaussing process and reveal more than you might know.
By definition degaussing is technique used to permanently delete data stored on a magnetic media such as hard disk, floppy disk, and magnetic tapes. Degaussing ensures the rapid eradication of information from media where it is not possible to apply overwriting erasure software due to hardware failure.
A degausser is the machine that is used in the degaussing process to eliminate data by randomly changing the alignment of magnetic domains on the medium. Data is stored on magnetic media by making very small areas called magnetic domains change their magnetic alignment to be in the direction of an applied magnetic field. Degaussing magnetic media leaves the domains in random patterns with no preference to orientation, thereby rendering previous data unrecoverable. This process is effective in a range of industries including video, audio, computer, broadcast, and data security.
How does a Degausser work?
A degausser works as a belt drive that passes magnetic storage media through powerful magnet field rearranging the polarity of the particles. By passing the magnetic media through a strong magnetic field, all previously recorded data is completely removed. Although the degaussing process seems fairly simple, it’s actually very complex. With several different types of magnetic storage media and magnetic densities available, a successful degaussing process is quite difficult to achieve.
Different magnetic storage media formats require specific magnetic field strength for each type. The coils that generate the magnetic field also change depending on the requirement. A coil in a degausser should have two to three times the energy rating of the storage medium being degaussed. A more intense magnetic field can be attained by using more than one coil in multi-axial orientation, producing a more effective degaussing field. By rotating the coils or the media during the process, even better performance can be achieved.
By exposing magnetic media to degaussing, the magnetization arrangement of the Weiss domains generated when writing the data is no longer organized. The magnetized domains are forced into one direction, erasing the data on the storage media. The difference between using overwriting erasure software and using a degausser is that a device subjected to a degausser is no longer reusable.
What Types of Media can be Degaussed?
A degausser can securely eradicate data from all magnetic storage devices including:
- 5 ¼, 3 ½ or 2 ½-inch hard disk drives
- Digital magnetic tapes of all popular formats: LTO, DLT, etc.
- 5 ¼ and 3 ½-inch floppy disks
What are the Benefits of Degaussing?
The act of overwriting magnetic storage media doesn’t entirely erase data. Degaussing is the only thing that can remove data 100% and ensure that confidential data is securely and completely erased. Here are some key benefits to using a degausser for data security:
- Confidence that all hypersensitive data is permanently erased
- Discards confidential data fast, securely, and on-site
- Significant cuts in operating expenses
The benefits of degaussing are significant. Users of magnetic data storage experience greater efficiency due to noticeably reduced "error rates". Degaussing is used by every industry, allowing users to achieve considerable cost savings by being able to confidently reuse again and again media previously discarded.
Many data managers who don’t utilize degaussing, dispose of storage media that if degaussed, could have up to four times the life extended to it. Magnetic media is actually very difficult to dispose of. When burned it produces toxic fumes, and can’t be buried, because it is not biodegradable. By re-using magnetic storage media as many times as possible, an organization can be more socially responsible.
The vast amount of magnetic storage media used by It departments around the world has resulted in users determined to find higher quality, efficiency, and lower overhead storage costs. By degaussing magnetic media, users find that recorded data, can be eliminated completely from tapes. The success that this method of erasure achieves far surpasses that of any other type of erasure.