Shredding vs. Encryption – Which is Better?

Whether it is a hard drive, a USB, an SSD, or a magnetic tape – it can certainly be a tempting prospect just to remove the storage media and store it somewhere. While it is easy and convenient, it is actually a really bad idea. The said hardware could get misplaced, or the place where it is stored can be broken into, translating to the unauthorized access of any confidential data.

To guarantee the security of your data on disposed media, two of the most widely used methods are shredding and encryption. Here, we will be comparing the two and helping you decide which is the overall better option.


Also referred to as ‘crypto-shredding,’ it entails the practice of deliberately deleting or overwriting encryption keys on the storage media. Thus, by doing so, any encrypted data is rendered unreadable – analogous to a safe without the combination.


Costs Less

Crypto-shredding can be a very affordable solution for complete data destruction. With the case of certain storage devices such as an SD card or a flash drive, app services exist that may even do the task for free.


Not all confidential data gets stored may be stored on local hardware; some (or most) of it may be stored on the cloud or on shared servers. With physical destruction of the storage clearly not the option here, encryption can safely ensure that only your part of the data stored is made unusable.



This method only works if the data stored is already encrypted. This does limit its use to some extent.   

Relatively Less Safe

As computer processing gets faster, encryption can get weaker over time, becoming more vulnerable to brute force attacks and other hacks. In addition, cold boot attacks could be used to retrieve encryption keys, and thus, gain access to the data. This ultimately makes encryption the less safe of the two options.  


Shredding involves the physical destruction of the storage media and thus, ensuring that there is zero chance of any useable data being recovered. How finely hardware is broken up into is dependent on how large its storage density is.


Data Security Guaranteed

With the storage media completely destroyed, there is no means by which anyone can possibly recover any useable data.

Better Compliance  

Shredding can help a business ensure compliance with the local customer privacy laws, providing no means by which confidential customer data on a disposed of storage could be accessed.


Costs More

Shredding is usually performed by a professional service, which can make it a relatively more costly option than encryption.

Which is Better?

In terms of data safety, shredding is obviously the better option. While it may cost more, it’s worth it if it means a guarantee that you would avoid compliance-related fines or have valuable data compromised. However, in the case of cloud or shared storage, encryption is better but only because it is the only viable option.