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When you hit delete on a file, in most cases, those 1s and 0s aren’t actually erased. Just because the file has been deleted doesn’t mean it’s gone. The operating system just marks the space they’re taking up as free for new stuff. So until a new file overwrites that particular space on the hard drive it can still be recovered.
If you want those files permanently erased, as in gone forever, you need to do more than simply delete them. What third-party eraser tools do is wipe over your sensitive files with random data, so not even the best recovery utility on the planet can bring them back.
Or at least that’s true for traditional hard drives. Modern solid-state drives (SSDs), and the flash memory in mobile phones, don’t work in the same way. If you are using a SSD drive, deleted files are harder to recover once they’ve gone beyond the Recycle Bin or Trash anyway.
Permanently deleting files in Windows
If you want a file on Windows to be immediately trashed without a visit to the Recycle Bin, just hold down Shift as you tap Delete in File Explorer. However, the file could still be recovered by someone smart enough to install a professional data recovery tool.
The key here is to install or use a portable erasure tool that completely rewrites the 1’s and 0’s have been completely over written and wiped.
Eraser is a simple but effective tool that’s for Windows XP (with Service Pack 3), Windows Server 2003 (with Service Pack 2), Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7,8 ,10. Point it towards a file or folder and it overwrites it with random data that should be enough to stop it from recovery. It also adds a link to the right-click menu in File Explorer, giving you even easier access to it.
Eraser is Free software and its source code is released under GNU General Public License.
Blank and Secure is a very similar, lightweight ‘portable’ tool that some view as having a more friendly user interface.
Add the files or folders via drag and drop on “Blank And Secure” or program icon on the desktop. Then press “delete”. The file(s) will be rewritten with NULL before deleting, so the content is now irreparable. Press the button “Fill the free space with null” this will remove the standard deletion tracks from the hard drive .
CCleaner is a favorite multi-use utility that has a disk wiper tool built into it in addition to all the other clean-up jobs it does. The full ‘wipe’ feature is limited to the premium version, but it’s also available in the trial version if you only need it for short term use.
It’s more suitable for wiping entire disks or all the free space on a disk at once rather than individual files, but in any case this is often a better way of securely wiping sensitive data, especially on the newer SSD drives.
Many people are choosing to simply encrypt their drives to prevent unauthorized entry.
If you have a solid-state drive, then encryption is certainly worth considering since you do not want to constantly over-write the memory cells on a SSD drive. You might also find the SSD manufacturer has provided utilities for encrypting and securely erasing the disk as a whole.
The safest option for ensuring files are not read is to keep your drive encrypted. The best path, or course, is to completely erase those files (on standard HDD drives) and keep your disk encrypted as well.
Be Safe – Backup Your Data Regularly!
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