When you delete data from your drive, it goes into the Recycling Bin by default (unless you’ve changed your settings). You would be forgiven for thinking that clearing out the Recycling Bin constitutes as permanent removal of the data. To the end user of Windows, it certainly seems that way, since there’s no search out the file anymore. But it actually still lives on the drive.
This is because when you delete something, the space that file occupied is now marked as free. When a new piece of data comes along, it knows that space is free and can overwrite it. But if that space isn’t overwritten, you can use data recovery tools in order to resurrect the data.
This is really helpful when you’ve accidentally deleted something or suffered data loss, because it means you get a chance to rewind time. It’s less helpful, however, when you’ve purposely deleted sensitive data that you don’t want people to be able to recover. This is especially important in business, where you might be dealing with company secrets or customer’s personal information.
As such, if you are getting rid of the drive, there are steps you need to take to ensure that you are correctly disposing of your data. Many manufacturers now include tools so that you can properly wipe the drive. Alternatively, you can use a third-party program like Eraser.
These tools are great when it comes to wiping the whole drive, but what about individual files? For that you’ll need something simpler.
You likely have a paper shredder for disposing of sensitive paper documents, which ensures the paper is very difficult to reassemble. As such, it makes sense that you should have something for the digital version too.
Now, one option is to encrypt the drive where you store the data. This means that if you even if you use the basic Windows delete function, none of your data is accessible without the encryption key. The safety of this method relies on using secure encryption methods, of course, but it’s actually good practice to encrypt sensitive data in the first place, so it’s a win-win.
The other option would be to use a secure deletion tool like Alternate File Shredder. This is a simple program where you can queue up all the files you want to securely delete and then process them in bulk.
You can choose how many times the data should be deleted, whether random data should be used to overwrite it, if the file name should be destroyed too, and more. The process will take longer to run depending on how many files you are shredding and how many times you have set the data to be overwritten.
You can also use the program to overwrite blank sections of your drive, if you previously deleted something without shredding it.
A word of caution: this is suitable for hard disk drives, but not for solid state drives. These work differently. Instead, if you have an SSD, enable TRIM mode in the drive software. This tells the computer when something is deleted, and the data block is immediately overwritten.
Tools to Correctly Dispose of Your Data to Prevent Recovery
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