Drive Crushing

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Hard drives that have failed Bad Blocks (software overwrite) have their circuit board removed and then have their platters dented/crushed. We use a custom-made lever with a big red tooth; it's entirely human powered and relies on ancient Greek technology for its effectiveness.

This station is a favourite amongst many volunteers.


  • Drive crushing should happen away from all other volunteers/stations. If volunteers are crushing towards the aisle, shrapnel can fly at passers-by. If volunteers are crushing away from the aisle, but adjacent to it, it is easy to elbow someone or get bumped into while move vigorously or back and forth.
  • Volunteers must not use the crusher as a brute hammering device. This could have nasty consequences for their joints and the tool itself, which is not designed for such a task. Providing instruction about ergonomic crushing technique, and a thorough demonstration will prevent this. Also, the instructor should stand by and let them crush a few to ensure that they have understood the instructions. This is time well spent.
  • Volunteers must be told that they do not need to break the hard drive in half; it needs to be articulated specifically that a dented platter is sufficient, and that some drives are particularly hard and will not crack. They also need to be warned to avoid futile crushing attempts on the spindle.
  • Gloves and safety glasses are mandatory for drive crushing. Regular eyeglasses are insufficient protection as bits can get in the open sides of the lenses. It is not enough to instruct someone on attire and then walk away. Show them where it is, or walk them there. Be sure that they have put it on before they start. Also, when demonstrating, you should be wearing glasses and gloves as well.
  • When the crusher is not in use, it must be put away. It should never left on the floor out in the open as a tripping hazard. It's got a big horizontal handle that sticks out -- which is grey and blends in well with the concrete floor. This type of tripping hazard is worse for older folks or people with visual impairment. The crusher's home is currently under the build fodder pallet racking. When someone is assigned crushing make sure they know to report to staff when they are done, so we can make sure they get help to put away the crusher. It is not good to assume that they've put it away -- staff needs to check.
  • The crusher should not be carried by one person, or without wearing gloves. It's ungainly. Metal slivers. 'Nuff said. Pulling it by the handle is ok for one person to do.
  • Hard drives are not to come down from the drive wiping station unless they are ready to be crushed. Until they are crushed they still contain unscathed data.
  • Volunteers doing drive crushing need to be checked on regularly. Doing rounds is important, to check that they are still wearing their gear, and to make sure that they do not have questions. It's good to make sure they get breaks too. This will also ensure that occasional disempowering situations do not occur, like when unasked for, Volunteer Y takes over drive crushing from Volunteer X (because they perceive Volunteer X to be too weak). While their intentions may be good, it can reinforce stereotypes and disempower the volunteer. Drive crushing does not take excessive strength if it is being done correctly, with leverage.
  • Volunteers should also be instructed in ergonomic lifting, and be instructed not to overfill tubs of crushed harddrives in preparation for transport to the white bag.