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Information Technology

Hard Drive & Magnetic Tape Destruction

About Hard Drive & Tape Destruction

UMass Amherst Information Technologies (UMass Amherst IT) provides departments, faculty, and staff with a convenient, no cost way to destroy and dispose of hard drives, backup tapes, and other magnetic media that contain sensitive or confidential information. This service is designed to help University departments comply with state and federal laws (e.g., FERPA, HIPPA) and University policies.

Using this service, departments, faculty, and staff:

  • Get a free and convenient way to destroy and dispose of hard drives, backup tapes, and other magnetic media.
  • Mitigate the risks of unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information due to improper handling of media.
  • Help the University and its staff comply with University policies, and federal and state regulations.

Who can use this service?

The Hard Drive & Magnetic Tape Destruction service is currently available to UMass Amherst departments, faculty, and staff. Departments are encouraged to designate a representative who will work with UMass Amherst IT in this area (e.g., the 'data security' contact in your department). Individual faculty and staff can contact their departmental representative to have magnetic media destroyed.

Students who need to purge data from their computers can use digital shredding software (e.g., Eraser) or Disk Utility (Mac OSX only), or stop by the IT Help Center (A109 LGRC Lowrise, M-F, 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.) for help.

Why should I destroy my storage media?

Many departments and organizations at UMass Amherst possess a variety of sensitive information (e.g., student records, health records). This information is often saved on hard disk drives, backup tapes, and other forms of magnetic media.

To comply with University policies, and state and federal law, the University and its employees are required to properly and securely dispose of magnetic media containing sensitive information.

My department has many unused hard drives and backup tapes. Which ones should we destroy?

It is critical that departments properly dispose of all storage media that contain ‘sensitive information.’ The University considers the following types of data ‘sensitive information’:

  • Students’ academic, personal, and financial information.
  • Personally identifiable information pertaining to an individual’s physical or mental health.
  • An individual’s name in combination with a Social Security Number, driver’s license number, state identification card number, financial account number, or credit/debit card number.

Departments can also dispose of media that contain information not strictly defined as ‘sensitive information.’ This includes information of confidential nature (e.g., research data) or data that must be destroyed under the terms of a grant.

What types of storage media will UMass Amherst IT destroy?

UMass Amherst IT will destroy and dispose of hard disk drives, backup tapes, floppy disks, zip drives, streaming tapes, and other types of magnetic media. Note: UMass Amherst IT will not remove hard disk drives from computers. Please remove hard disks before handing them to our team.

How do I get started?

If you have magnetic media that you would like destroyed, please fill out the Request Form (pdf, 164k), sign it, and fax it to 413-545-4196. Forms can also be scanned (after signed) and emailed to UMass Amherst IT will contact the departmental representative listed on the form to schedule a pick-up time.

If you have further questions, concerns, or comments, please email

What is UMass Amherst IT’s process for erasing and destroying media?

After UMass Amherst IT receives a completed Request Form (pdf, 164k), UMass Amherst IT staff will:

  1. Schedule a pick-up time
    A UMass Amherst IT staff member will contact the departmental representative  listed on the Request Form to schedule a pick-up. Pick-ups are typically scheduled on Fridays between 10 a.m. and Noon.
  2. Pick up the media
    A UMass Amherst IT staff member meets the departmental representative at the scheduled time and location. At this time, the UMass Amherst IT staff member and departmental contact will:
    • Verify that the magnetic media count, type, and serial numbers match those listed on the form. Note: When submitting a hard disk drive for destruction, please remove it from the computer first. UMass Amherst IT will not remove hard disks from computers.
    • Load the magnetic media destined for destruction into a container.
    • Close and apply a tamper-proof seal to the container.
    • Sign and date the form.
    • Copy the completed form for UMass Amherst IT records.
    • Give the original completed form to the departmental representative.
  3. Deliver media to UMass Amherst IT offices & place it in secure storage
    A UMass Amherst IT staff member delivers the container (with tamper-proof seal intact) and a copy of the form to a designated UMass Amherst IT manager. The UMass Amherst IT manager ensures the seal is intact and places it into secure, locked, limited-access storage.
  4. Degauss media
    A UMass Amherst IT staff member retrieves the container from limited-access storage, breaks the tamper-proof seal, validates the contents against the form, and immediately degausses all magnetic media in the container.
  5. Physically destroy hard disk drives & CD/DVDs
    If the media to be destroyed is a hard disk drive or a CD/DVD, UMass Amherst IT physically destroys it in addition to degaussing it.
  6. Bring destroyed media to the Intermediate Processing Facility (IPF)
    UMass Amherst IT staff brings the destroyed media to the University Intermediate Processing Facility (IPF), or, at the departmental representative's request, returns it to the departmental representative for validation of destruction.
  7. Document the media destruction
    UMass Amherst IT notes the name of the person who destroyed the media and the date when it was destroyed or returned, and files the completed form.

What is degaussing?

Degaussing is a process used to remove magnetic media’s magnetic field, rendering them unreadable and inoperable. Degaussing is performed using a degausser that produces an intense and fluctuating magnetic field to reset the magnetic field of the media, in effect erasing all its data.