Can a Magnet Really Erase a Hard Drive?

 In Magnets, Magnets and Science

At one point or another you’ve probably been warned to keep magnets away from your electronic devices. That magnets can erase or damage hard drives. It seems a little farfetched that something as powerful and advanced as today’s computers could be destroyed by a fridge magnet. So where did that idea come from and is there any true behind it?

Magnets & Electronics: The Myth

The advice to keep magnets away from electronics likely stems from the fact that some old electronic devices were incredibly susceptible to magnetic fields. These included CRT monitors used in old TV sets. They were so susceptible to magnetic fields that a person standing too close to them could interfere with their function. Degaussing coils, which are used to reduce the effect of the Earth’s magnetic field on ships, needed to be installed for them to work.

It is possible to erase data from other types of older magnetic storage with neodymium magnets.  These include the magnetic stripes on credit cards as well as audio cassettes and VHS tapes. So, what about hard drives? Can they withstand the world’s strongest magnets?

Can a Magnet Destroy a Hard Drive?

In theory, a magnet could be used to corrupt data on a hard drive. However, your average magnet, or even a relatively strong one, would not be strong enough to have any effect on a hard drive. You would need to bring an extremely powerful magnet into contact with the magnetic platters of a hard drive. This could corrupt the data, possibly rendering it unusable, but it is still extremely unlikely for a number of reasons.

1. Need an Extremely Strong Magnet

You don’t need to worry about a fridge or promotional magnet, or even most industrial magnets coming into contact with your computer. Most magnets are simply not strong enough to have any effect on the hard drive. You need at least 450 pounds of force which eliminates almost all magnets except for some of the strongest neodymium magnets. And most people don’t have them lying around their home or office.

2. Coercivity of Hard Drive Platters

Manufacturers keep finding higher coercivity materials to use for hard drive platters.  Which means the platters surrounding the hard drive are getting better and better at withstanding magnetic force. 450 pounds of force may have been enough in the past, but that may no longer be true for today’s hard drives.

3. Dangerous

The strength of magnet you need is actually quite dangerous. Anything with a pull force of 7 pounds or higher is enough to pinch your fingers. Something strong enough to corrupt the data would likely destroy the hard drive, along with everything else in the room, before it would have a chance to corrupt the data.

4. Hard to Know if the Data is Really Gone

Just because the hard drive no longer works, doesn’t mean the data was erased. Unless you have some serious data recovery skills, it would be hard to determine with any confidence whether the data is really truly gone or if the hard drive was just destroyed.

Buy Neodymium Magnets Online

At US Magnetix, we’re here to help you with all your magnetic needs whether you are looking to test a magnetic theory or need help finding the right magnet for your project or design. We carry a variety of promotional magnets and industrial magnets, including neodymium magnets that are theoretically strong enough to erase a hard drive. Shop our online magnet store now or reach out to us online. We have years of experience and expertise in helping you decide which magnetic product is right for you.


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