Can Magnets Damage or Wipe a Laptop’s Hard-Drive?

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Whether our computer hardware is brand new or a bit older, it never hurts to exercise a bit of caution in order to avoid damaging it. With that in mind, can magnets damage or wipe a hard-drive? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the answer to a worried reader’s question.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

Photo courtesy of John Keogh (Flickr).

The Question

SuperUser reader Rajesh Nielmbaram wants to know if magnets can damage or wipe a laptop’s hard-drive:

Suppose my younger brother is playing with magnets near my Dell laptop. Can a magnet wipe data from the hard-drive or otherwise irreversibly damage it?

Can magnets damage or wipe a laptop’s hard-drive?

The Answer

SuperUser contributor Josh R has the answer for us:

While you can damage hard-drives with magnets, it takes a very, very powerful magnet to do any damage. As this article explains, any magnet that your brother may be playing with will not be large enough to do any damage:

Article Quote: This myth was popularized by movies where hackers or criminals would quickly erase the contents of their hard disk drives with a few sweeps of a powerful magnet. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to do it with regular magnets, no matter how big they are.

Every hard disk drive actually contains two powerful neodymium-iron-boron magnets that control the movements of the read/write heads. Yet the data on the platters remain unaffected. It will take a very, very powerful magnet to affect the data inside the hard disk drive.

You can also read through the SuperUser Q&A post regarding various computer components that are vulnerable to magnets here:

What Computer Components are Currently Vulnerable to Magnets?


Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Akemi Iwaya is a devoted Mozilla Firefox user who enjoys working with multiple browsers and occasionally dabbling with Linux. She also loves reading fantasy and sci-fi stories as well as playing "old school" role-playing games. You can visit her on Twitter and .