Nonvolatile computer media: Computer media which does not lose the information stored in it when
electric power is removed. Floppy disks, hard disks, and CDs are nonvolatile. If you store
information on a floppy disk, remove it from your PC, and turn off the power, that information is still
on the floppy. Laptop computers usually have a backup battery in them which retains data in the
memory chips even when they are not in use. Computers which operate from battery power are,
The reasons for discouraging the processing of classified information on a computer which has a
"fixed" hard disk or battery- powered memory chips are that if classified information is processed, it
must be assumed that classified information has been stored on the hard disk or is still in the memory
chips. The computer user might not intentionally store classified information on the hard disk, but
through human or computer error, classified information can be stored on the hard disk without the
user being aware of it. Some word processor programs automatically store data on the hard disk
periodically. And, given the problems with purging and declassification, if classified information is
stored on a fixed hard disk, it may not be possible to purge it
If classified information is stored on a "fixed" hard disk, the hard disk unit and the computer must be
marked, safeguarded, and stored as classified material.
Part M: Destruction of Storage Media
When no longer needed or damaged, computer storage media should be destroyed. The approved
methods for destroying classified material, to include computer storage media, are found in Appendix
K, AR 380-5. And, as we know from paragraph 9-101 of AR 380-5, burning is the preferred method of
destroying classified information. Here is a summary of the approved methods for destroying storage
The preferred method of destruction is burning. The flexible magnetic disk should be removed from
the protective envelope and burned following the procedures in paragraph K-4b(1), AR 380-5. If not
burned, the disk should be cut or shredded following the procedures in paragraph K-5d, AR 380-5.
This paragraph describes shredders. Something that must now be kept in mind when burning
diskettes, however, is a provision in AR 380-5 which states that any device used to bum plastic-
based waste must comply with the provisions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Federal
Clean Air Act. As of this writing, the only device approved by the EPA is a pyrolytic furnace.
Hard disks: The aluminum disks should be removed from the hard disk unit and destroyed following
the procedures in paragraph K-5e, AR 380-5. This paragraph describes procedures for destroying
equipment and devices; burning, melting, sledge hammer and hacksaw demolition, and crushing. If
you ever have to destroy a hard disk by melting, your best bet is to go to the engineer yard and find
yourself an acetylene torch. If an engineer employee is going to perform the destruction, they must
have an appropriate security clearance.