Degaussing Technology: How Magnetic Media and Data is Destroyed

Vanguard’s data destruction processes are designed to ensure that all data storage media is destroyed securely and compliantly in accordance with the highest industry standards. As a result, Vanguard offers our clientele the peace of mind that comes with absolute data destruction.

A degausser generates a magnetic field of varying intensity that effectively serves to demagnetize an object thereby reducing it to a magnetically neutral state. As a result, when degaussing technology is applied to LTOs, HDDs, and other magnetized storage media and hardware, the magnetically written information that appears on data storage tapes and hard drives wiped and erased.


Although there are a multitude of degausser models available on the market, there are three common forms of degaussing technology that are widely used for erasing magnetic media. This degaussing technology includes the following:

  1. Coil Technology: A coil degausser utilizes copper wire configured around a steel core to generate an electromagnetic field when powered. Due to the amount of heat that this degaussing method generates, the processing capacity of these models can be limited to smaller scale operations because of the potential for overheating.
  2. Capacitive Discharge Technology: A capacitive discharge degausser utilizes capacitors to store large amounts of energy. When the capacitors have reached their storage capacity, the energy is released and generates a powerful electromagnetic pulse to destroy magnetized data storage media. This degaussing method is beneficial because the short pulse bursts prevent these models from overheating thereby allowing for larger scale operations to be performed.
  3.  Permanent Magnet Technology: Permanent magnet degaussing does not rely upon coils or other conduits to generate a magnetic field. As a result, these models can be utilized 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because this technology prevents these machines from overheating. These models are ideal for performing large scale data destruction events on a regular basis.


Degaussing: A Measured Approach to Data Destruction

The effectiveness of a degausser can be determined by its maximum magnetic field strength rating. The measurement system that the degaussing industry relies upon to rate the maximum magnetic field strength of a particular degausser model is referred to as oersteds. Different magnetic media, including LTO tapes and HDDs, require different oersted levels for data erasure and destruction (click here to see Vanguard’s Oersted Matrix for the different levels required to destroy data storage media). Therefore, the type of degausser used for a destruction event will be determined by the type of media being processed for erasure.
Vanguard uses the most advanced degaussing technology and approved machines to ensure that all data storage media can be securely processed and effectively destroyed. However, to not only ensure that all sensitive data is irretrievable and completely destroyed, but ensure that an organization is compliant with the following regulatory regimes: HIPAA, GLBA, FACTA, FISMA, PIPEDA, Sarbanes-Oxley and NISPOM, Vanguard recommends that all organizations both degauss and physically destroy sensitive media to be fully compliant with all recognized standards.