Model scratches of the size found in hard disk drives are produced under controlled conditions at a series of applied loads on both longitudinal magnetic recording (LMR) media and perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) media using a diamond tip. The scratches are created at low speed, eliminating thermal considerations from the interpretation of the media response. Nanoindentations are produced as well. The scratches and indentations are characterized by atomic force microscope (AFM), magnetic force microscope (MFM), and also by the same magnetic reader and writer used in an integrated hard disk drive (HDD). A comparison of the response of PMR and LMR media shows the PMR media to have larger scratches and greater magnetic signal degradation than LMR media for a given scratch load. The extent of magnetic damage, as measured by MFM, is greater than the extent of surface mechanical damage, as measured by AFM. Analysis of scratches using the HDD reveals that the magnetic damage is irreversible and permanent damage in magnetic layer, which is confirmed by cross section transmission electron microscope image. The experiments reveal the mechanism for magnetic scratch erasure in the absence of thermal effects. This understanding is expected to lead to improved designs for mechanical scratch robustness of next-generation PMR media.