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Destroying Data on CD or DVD

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Do you need to dipose of data recorded on CD or DVD?  I read somewhere that a 5 second burst in a microwave would destroy that data. This is not necessarily correct. The photo (the CD was scanned not photographed) below shows the result of microwaving a CD for 5 seconds on full power.

CD microwaved to destroy data

It might look very attractive and one could hardly believe that data could be retrieved from this CD but not so! consider this:

How to Destroy a CD or DVD

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Don't just throw away old discs with personal info. Identity thieves flourish on discs like that. Annihilate them.


  1. Shred them. There are several office cd shredder machines, that operate much like common paper shredders. The least expensive are around $40.
  2. Cut them up. If you don't kill enough CDs to justify a shredder, a heavy pair of scissors can easily cut through a cd or DVD. The reflective foil will crack and flake at the cut line, making a clean splicing impossible. Be careful, as cutting the disc is tough.
  3. Erase them. If you have many discs and don't want to go through the hassle/danger of cutting up or breaking them, the eco-friendly Disc Eraser is available for about $15 online at Use the Disc Eraser on the label side of CDs to destroy the metal layer. You can not destroy the metal layer on a DVD with the Disc Eraser because it is sandwiched between two layers of plastic.
  4. Break it. If you are a thuggish sort and want to have a bit of fun, try smashing the offending disc! Wrap the CD or DVD in a towel and then break or crack it with a firm kick or heavy hammer. The towel will protect you as CDs tend to shatter into sharp pieces. Place the broken CD bits into the trash while wearing safety gloves.
  5. Nuke it. (Potentially harmful to the nuker.) If you feel kind of crazy, you could place the CD or DVD into a microwave and nuke it for 5 seconds, or until you see sparks along the surface of the disk. When you pull it out, it'll have a spiderweb pattern of cracks. However, this can be dangerous and destroy your microwave (see the warnings below), so it is not recommended.
    • Do not try this without adult supervision.
  6. Inflict severe damage to it. Put several strips of duct tape over the top of the CD. Once the tape is firmly attached, rip it off. The foil lining should come off and you will be left with a transparent CD. This trick does not work on all CDs, and it does not work at all with DVDs.
  7. Cut them with a knife. Some CDs, especially burned ones, have the data layer unprotected by plastic. In this case, take a table knife to the label and start scraping shiny flakes into a wastebasket.
  8. Sand them. For the more DIY approach a belt sander on the label side. This is quite messy, little flakes all over, so do it in an area that is easy to clean.
  9. Destroy them with the computer.If you have the technical background, you could do us all a favor and simply write CD burner software and/or firmware that a) ignores previous data on the CD, and b) writes an entropy file over what was there.
  10. Erase them with the computer. Some versions of Nero have a built in CD/DVD eraser. If you have a DVD or CD drive on your computer,You can erase the data on the disc. (This may only work on burned discs.)


  • Some microwaves could be damaged by a cd. CDs and DVDs contain a small amount of metal. Damage may be avoided or lessened by placing a glass of water in the microwave with the CD.
  • The data on the CD or DVD can still be retrieved after microwaving it, but it would take a professional with a lot of resources.
  • Nuking a CD or a DVD even for 5 seconds can produce a very bad odor.
  • The vapors or fumes released from most DVD's and CD's while microwaving them are TOXIC. Do not do the above unless you have a spare microwave, as the fumes can attach to the walls of the microwave, or cling to your food.
  • Blow torches are dangerous and the vapors are TOXIC. Stay as far from the cd as you can while you burn it and avoid inhaling the fumes. Wear gloves and safety goggles and have a bucket of water handy just in case.
  • Due to the nature of some methods, children and irresponsible adults should not attempt to destroy a disc.
  • People with professional tools may still be able to read fragments of CDs, so be sure to damage the surface, not just shatter the CD.

Things You'll Need

  • The CD or DVD you want to destroy
  • Towel
  • Scissors
  • Knife
  • Safety Glasses
  • Gloves
  • Hammer - Optional
  • Blow torch - Optional
  • CD Shredder - Optional
  • Microwave Oven - Optional

Related wikiHows

Article provided by wikiHow, a collaborative writing project to build the world's largest, highest quality how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Destroy a CD or DVD. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.


Possibly the safest method to destroy your sensitive data is to physically rub the CD on the ground. A DVD is harder to damage. I think that is is incredible that material could be retrieved from the above pictured CD. To destroy data on a DVD is even more difficult.  The metal layer of a DVD is enclosed by plastic on both sides and is even harder to damage. I don't think I would recommend using a microwave oven to destroy data - the fumes are very obnoxious (even if they are not toxic). I did try another CD and placed it in water. The crackled effect was less marked and the sparks were hardly evident.

However, playing a DVD or CD to see music or video is another matter. It is easy to spoil music and video by mishandling the media. Many photographers are copying digital files to film as they do not trust the media on which their images are recorded. Always print your favourite digital photos and store them carefully. Only use manufacturers ink cartridges or send your images away to be printed by a recognized photo processing company on archival quality paper.

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