How to “EFFECTIVELY” Clean and Dispose of your legacy computer systems

June 1, 2014 at 4:57 pm by SEM

The weather is finally getting better (at least in the DC area). The snow and cold is a horrible memory. We are all looking forward to the warm weather and doing things outside. Most of us use this weather to start doing things we put off all winter…….. like cleaning garages, basements, bedrooms and just the normal spring cleaning. We walk around our homes, driveways, attics and garages and see the clutter. It is very visual and we take those visual clues and feel compelled to do something about it.

But what about our offices at work? Sure we keep them clean and tidy them up in case the boss comes by but what about the areas that are not so visual… our Personal Computers. Just like our attic or garage, our PCs can get cluttered as well and when it’s time to upgrade or change them, what do we do to clean them…especially those PCs that hold classified or sensitive information. You can’t just delete files because although you can’t see them, they are still there. So what do we do?

Offices and agencies upgrade computers quite often. As I referred above, you can’t just delete classified files. They must be destroyed by approved methods. These approved methods are controlled by the National Security Agency (NSA). For guidelines on how to effectively delete data on all forms of media, the NSA publishes a list of equipment that has those capabilities. This list, known as the NSA EPL (NSA Evaluated Product List) specifies which device is approved for effective deletion of Classified Data that resides on paper, optical disks, hard drives and other related media.

When offices upgrade their computers, most don’t know how to effectively dispose of them. They typically take the “out of sight/out of mind approach” and put them into a safe, closet or some other “secure” area for the “next guy” to worry about. Well, you were just notified of a VIP visit coming up soon and it’s time for a “spring clean-up”. Guess what? You happen to be the “next guy” and now it’s your responsibility to dispose of these systems and the classified data that resides on the Hard Drives. Perhaps you are new and you are pressured to get rid of these classified drives ASAP. Never fear, SEM has the knowledge and equipment to get rid of those pesky drives.

The first thing you have to do is “Degauss” them. You ask yourself “what the heck is a degausser”? Simply put….A degausser is a very powerful magnet that erases “magnetic media” (i.e. Hard Disk Drives). For destroying classified hard drives, the degausser must be approved and tested by the NSA and be on their Evaluated Products Listing (EPL). Once you procure an approved degausser (like those found at SEM Degaussers), you must physically destroy this drive. This can be done using a drill press, or even a sledgehammer. However, easier and more effective options would be to purchase a hard drive crusher or a hard drive shredder. Both are available at

Now that you have the hard drives taken care of, what about the boxes of paper you have stored up in the vault? You obviously will need a paper shredder. However, be aware that not all paper shredders are created equal. A shredder that was  made for classified destruction isn’t the same as a standard paper shredder you may have at home or purchase at an office supply store. A classified shredder, just like a degausser for classified hard drive destruction, must be approved and tested by the NSA and be listed on their EPL.

Now that you have taken care of your hard drives and paper, you can dispose of the rest of your computer and monitor. You can consider donating them to a local charity. If they are too old to donate, please dispose of them through your local recycler.

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