Selling Used Hard Drives: Ultimate Guide in 2022

With data increasingly becoming the most valuable commodity in the world and the advancements in various forms of technology, the amount of data created and stored globally is also increasing rapidly by over 5000% between 2010 and 2020.

Global data creation is projected to reach more than 180 zettabytes by 2025, meaning we'll need more and bigger hard drives.

However, as we know, hard drives have a relatively short life span of just three to five years. SSDs can last longer than standard HDDs, but their life cycles are still somewhat limited.

At some point, you'll need to retire old hard drives and replace them with new ones, and the best way to maximize their value is to sell your hard drives for extra cash (and hopefully, help finance the upgrade).

Yet, is it safe to sell your old hard drives? Can the buyer recover your wiped data and use it for malicious purposes? 

In this guide, we will answer those questions (and more) and discuss all you need to know about how to securely sell your hard drives while maximizing their value. 

By the end of this guide, you'd have learned about: 

  • Selling VS repurposing VS recycling hard drives.
  • Is it safe to sell your hard drives? 
  • Why sell your old hard drives?
  • When to sell your used hard drives to maximize their value?
  • A step-by-step guide to securely selling your hard drives
  • Tips for selling specific brands of hard drives (and how to ensure you'll get the best price)

Also, keep in mind that we'll cover all forms of hard drives in this guide: traditional HDDs with motorized disk platters, SSDs (Solid State Drives), and even hybrid drives.

Without further ado, let us begin:

Selling VS Repurposing VS Recycling: Is Selling Your Hard Drives Your Best Option?

First things first, is selling your hard drive the best option at the moment? 

Each hard drive is unique, and to answer this question, you'll need to first consider several different factors:

  • The age and condition of the hard drive, whether the drive can still function properly
  • What's the resale value of the hard drive? Obviously, the newer and the better the condition, the more expensive it will be, but brands and models also matter.
  • If you are planning to get a replacement drive (upgrade), what's the price of the replacement drive? Is the gap with the old drive's resale value too big?
  • Whether the drive contains sensitive, confidential, or regulated data

Basically, with your used hard drives, you always have three main options:

  1. Recycling: in this approach, your hard drive is totally destroyed (whether via secure data eradication or physical destruction) and then recycled. Recycling is the approach to take if the resale value of the hard drive is already too low or if the drive contains sensitive/regulated data and the risk is just too significant.
  2. Repurposing: this is the option to take if your drive is still in a pretty good condition, but the resale value is too low. You can use the hard drive on other devices or repurpose it as an external drive.
  3. Selling: If the resale value of the hard drive is still reasonably good and you are confident about secure data wiping (or if you sell to a reputable IT asset disposition company), then you should sell your hard drive. If you plan to replace the drive, then selling your used hard drive can also help finance the upgrade.

Also, if you are a data center, then selling your hard drives may be a core aspect of your data center decommissioning process.

When Should You Sell Your Used Hard Drives?

Since we'd want to maximize the resale value and ROI of each used hard drive, the timing of selling your hard drive is very important. 

Obviously, the older the hard drive (or the worse its condition), the lower its resale value will be.

However, unless you are not planning to get a new, replacement hard drive (i.e., if you are retiring the whole data center or company), selling your hard drive too soon can also lower its ROI. 

You'd want to find the sweet spot between when the old drive's resale value is still relatively high, while the price for the replacement (newer) hard drive has gone down a bit, so the upgrade is not too expensive. The right timing can vary depending on the hard drive's (and the replacement's) model and other factors but in general, selling when a drive is 2-3 years old is a good time. 

How Much Is My Used Hard Drive Worth?

The resale value of an old/used hard drive can vary greatly depending on many factors, and here are some of the most important ones:

SSD VS HDD VS Hybrid Drives

Understanding the exact type of your hard drive is very important if you want to maximize its value. Nowadays, hard drives come in many different types and sizes and may feature various different technologies. 

We can group most hard drives available in the market into three main categories: standard HDDs, SSDs, and hybrid drives.

Standard Hard-Disk Drives (HDDs)

HDDs are characterized by how they feature motorized, quickly rotating magnetic platters. These rotating platters are equipped with a head that travels over the surfaces to either record or read data. There are two types of HDDs based on the platter's rotation speed: 5,400 RPM HDDs and 7,200 RPM HDDs. The faster the rotation, the faster the hard drive can retrieve and record data,

This technology is obviously quite old by today's standards, and since traditional HDDs are entirely mechanical, they are typically slower and more fragile than SSDs and hybrid drives. Yet, they are also much more affordable.

However, that doesn't mean HDDs are already obsolete. Today's newer HDDs are very reliable with massive storage spaces (there are now 20TB HDDs, although they are still costly.) There are also plans and experiments that aim to make these traditional HDDs even faster and more efficient.

Today's HDDs are connected via SATA IIII (Serial ATA III) interface, that despite being very reliable, is slower than other connectivity technologies. HDDs are very affordable and are the best option if you want bigger storage space, but it isn't a great bet if you are looking for data transfer speed.

Solid-State Drives (SSDs)

As the name suggests, Solid State Drives use solid-state memory rather than motorized disk to read and write data. 

To be more exact, SSDs utilize NAND flash memory to record and read data without any mechanical and magnetic components in it, and fewer moving parts would translate into faster and more reliable performance.

SSDs can read and write data much faster than standard HDDs with this technology: a 7,200 RPM HDD can deliver a read/write speed of 160MB/S, but SATA III SSDs can reach more than 500MB/s. Again, remember that SATA III is considered a "slow" connection technology by today's standards.

With that being said, there are high-end PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs that can reach a whopping 7,000 MB/s read speed.

Besides read/write speed, SSDs are also more durable since they don't contain any moving parts (and so aren't susceptible to movement or impact damages.) However, that's not saying SSDs are perfect.

For instance, SSDs are typically much more expensive than comparable HDDs with similar storage sizes. Also, while SSDs are very reliable in most cases, once they fail, recovering data from them can be easier said than done. So, when it comes to selling hard drives, a broken SSD can drop really hard on resale value. 

Hybrid Hard Drives

Hybrid hard drives, also often called SSHDs (Solid State Hard Drives), typically use the traditional motorized disk platters but also have a relatively small NAND flash memory in them, hence "hybrid."

With this combination of technologies, the hard drive will store the most frequently accessed data (i.e., data crucial for OS operations) on the flash memory, and the rest of the data is stored in the traditional hard drive portion.

This allows users to enjoy the speed and performance of an SSD at a lower cost. Also, using a single SSHD is relatively easier to manage than using two separate SSD and HDD (a common practice to lower cost). 

However, with SSDs getting more affordable in recent years, hybrid hard drives are no longer popular.

Storage Size/Capacity

The amount of data the hard drive can hold is among the most significant factors determining its value. The bigger its capacity, the more expensive it will be. 

Nowadays, hard drive capacity is measured in gigabytes or terabytes, and a 500GB HDD/SDD is considered pretty modest by today's standards. High-end HDDs and SSDs can have more than 10TB storage capacity.

For HDDs: Rotation Speeds and Physical Size

Traditional HDDs come in two physical sizes: 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch, and in most cases, a 2.5-inch HDD is more expensive than a 3.5-inch drive with similar storage space. This is due to the tighter and more complex construction, and typically a 2.5-inch HDD will consume less power. 

However, 3.5" HDDs can handle faster rotation speeds (which typically translates into speedier read/write speeds). 3.5-inch HDDs can come in 10,000 and 15,000 RPM models, but 2.5-inch HDDs can "only" handle up to 7,200 RPM.

The higher the RPM speed, the more expensive the hard drive.

Interface/Connection

Hard drives can use different types of connectors, and the different types of interfaces can also affect speed and reliability. 

For HDDs, here are the common interface standards:

  • ATA/IDE: Advanced Technology Attachment/Integrated Drive Electronics is an older standard interface for HDDs. Quite rare at the moment, as many HDD manufacturers have switched over to SATA. If your HDD has an ATA/IDE interface, it's probably a sign that it's an older drive.
  • SATA: Serial ATA is the standard interface for most HDDs manufactured after 2007. SATA revision 3.5 interface has just been released in July 2020. Not the fastest interface, but SATA connectors are available in virtually all types of home and enterprise computers.
  • Fibre Channel, SCSI, SAS: These industrial-grade interfaces are rare in home computers and typically are only found in enterprise-level servers and storage systems.

For SSDs, we also have several common interface standards:

  • SATA: similar to HDD. While SATA is slower when compared to other technologies, SATA SSDs can connect to older computers that don't have newer SSD connectors, which can translate into more potential buyers.
  • M.2 SATA: SSDs with M.2 SATA connectors are smaller and lighter, so they can be used on smaller computers and laptops. However, the speed is the same as a regular SATA SSD, up to 600 MB/s.
  • mSATA: mSATA stands for mini SATA, typically used in smaller computers, including mobile devices. Latest mSATA SSDs can reach 6GB/s in read/write speed with lower power consumption. However, mSATA SSDs are still very expensive.
  • M.2 PCIe: Latest SSDs use NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory express) controller to connect to PCIe interface bus, which can result in very high-performance speed (up to 2000 MB/s). Still relatively expensive at the moment, and only high-end consumer motherboards offer PCIe connectors.

Brand and Model

Hard drives coming from reputable manufacturers are obviously more expensive than those coming from unknown ones, and there may also be specific models that are more expensive than others.

Seagate, Western Digital, SanDisk, Dell, Hitachi, Toshiba, and HP are some of the top names when it comes to hard drive manufacturers.

Selling Your Used Hard Drive: Step-By-Step Guide

If, after you've considered everything, you are still 100% sure about selling your used hard drives, here we will discuss a few key steps to get your old hard drives sold securely and quickly while maximizing their value. 

Let us begin with the first step right away:

Step 1: listing the details of your hard drives

Accurately identify everything about your hard drive so you can know what it's currently worth. 

You should list:

  • Type (HDD, SSD, Hybrid)
  • Brand
  • Model
  • Quantity (if you are selling more than one hard drive)
  • Serial number
  • Connector/interface type
  • Capacity/storage size
  • Condition 
  • Pictures of condition and serial number

If you are only selling one hard drive, this might not be a big issue, but consider creating a dedicated spreadsheet if you are selling multiple ones in bulk. A comprehensive spreadsheet can help you in offering your items to prospective buyers.

Step 2: Take pictures

Next, take pictures of the used hard drive(s), so you can offer the drive to prospective buyers.

The objective here is to provide an accurate representation of the hard drive, so it doesn't have to be a professionally-taken picture. Simple, clear photos taken by your phone would be sufficient. 

It's important to take pictures of the serial/model numbers, especially if you're looking to sell to ITAD companies.

Also, be honest. If there are any defects on the hard drive, mention them and take pictures of these defects. 

Step 3: Finding potential buyers

In general, you have two main options to sell your hard drives: finding your buyer on your own (direct-selling) or selling your hard drive to an IT asset disposition company.

Each of these options has its perks:

Finding direct buyers: Pros and cons

You can try finding your own buyer, for example, through friends or by listing your hard drives on online marketplaces like Amazon.

The main advantage of selling direct is freedom: you can set your own prices and wait for a buyer who'd like to make the transaction on your terms. Also, IT disposition companies may not want to deal with you if you are only selling one or two drives, but this won't be an issue in direct selling.

In short, you can potentially get more money per sale, but finding your buyers may not be easy. Also, if you are selling directly, secure data deletion is your responsibility.

Selling to IT asset disposition (company)

An IT disposition company specializes in buying and selling used IT assets, so they'll handle all the work while ensuring both themselves and your company stay compliant with relevant regulations.

A key advantage in selling through ITAD companies is that they can handle data deletion. Look for R2 recycling companies like Big Data Supply Inc. that not only ensures secure data deletion but will ensure all processes taken to your hard drives and other IT assets are environmentally friendly. 

R2 certification is awarded only to companies that have achieved responsible recycling standards that also have followed appropriate data security best practices. On the other hand, RIOS certification is an ANSI accredited standard that acknowledges the service provider's compliance to ISO:9001 (service quality), ISO:14001 (eco-friendly), and OHSAS:18001 (health and safety).

Big data Supply Inc. can also provide Certificates of Data Destruction after your hard drive has been securely wiped. In the events when you are needed to prove your company's responsibility to consumer data, these certificates are legally recognized.

Keep in mind that when selling to ITAD companies, you don't set your own prices. Typically these companies will send an offer for your drives, and you can either choose to accept or refuse that price. 

Step 4: Ensure data security

It's essential to securely wipe data stored in the hard drives before selling them. Not only do you want to protect your privacy, but depending on the industry you're in, secure data wiping may be a legal requirement for you to stay compliant with relevant regulations. 

If you choose to sell your hard drives through an ITAD company, then secure data deletion won't be an issue as they'll do it for you. 

However, if you choose to find your own buyers, you'll also need to perform secure wiping on your own. Below we will discuss how.

Secure wiping HDDs

If you have a Windows computer, you can use the DBAN utility (free) to easily perform a secure wipe on your HDD. DBAN is pretty reliable in ensuring the deleted data is unrecoverable. 

If you don't have a Windows computer and can only use Macs, then you can use macOS's Disk Utility for secure wiping. Go to the Utilities folder (Apple+Shift+U), run Disk Utility, and format the HDD three times. Make sure not to perform quick format instead.

Secure wiping SSDs

First, identify the SSD's manufacturer if you haven't already. Typically your SSD's manufacturer (i.e., Western Digital, SanDisk, Samsung, etc.) offers their own disk management software that can help you in securely wiping the SSD. Go to the manufacturer's website and try to find such software.

However, if you can't find the software solution for one reason or another, you can try to use Gparted (free).

Again, keep in mind that if you perform the data erasion yourself, you will not get any Certificate of Data Destruction. Check your local, federal, and state regulations whether obtaining Certificates of Data Destruction is legally required.

Step 5: Packaging and shipping

Depending on who your buyer is, you may need to ship the hard drive to them, or they'll pick it up for you. Nevertheless, you'd want to package the hard drive carefully, so you don't damage the hard drive. You wouldn't want to accidentally damage the hard drive before it's sold, which can cost you money.

If you need to ship your hard drive, it's best to buy insurance on your package just to be extra sure. Even if the hard drive has been packaged properly, shippers could accidentally damage or lose the hard drive, and without insurance, you'll need to absorb the cost.

Last but not least, if you are selling multiple drives in bulk and need to ship multiple boxes, it's important to label the different boxes correctly. This will help the receiver (buyer) when unpacking the hard drives so you can avoid confusion and disputes.

Wrapping Up

Selling your used hard drives shouldn't be a scary task, and there are ways to securely wipe your data and ensure it's unrecoverable.

Buying and selling used IT equipment, including used hard drives, is Big Data Supply Inc.'s specialty, and we are ready to be your partner in maximizing the value of your used hard drives.

Don't hesitate to leave any comments and questions below, and if you'd like to inquire for a quote on selling your old hard drives, contact us 1 (866) 411-4890 at or fill out the online form here.

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