Deleting a file from your hard drive doesn’t mean that it is actually removed permanently. Even emptying the recycle bin doesn’t do the job properly. When you delete a file the system marks the space it was using to store it as empty. The file is hidden from you, but technically it is still on the drive. The space will only be overwritten when something else is assigned to it. The time this takes will depend on how often you’re using your computer and writing data to it.
This is the reason that data recovery programs work. They scan the drive and retrieve all the files that have been marked for deletion. Useful if you accidentally delete a file, since you can probably get it back, but it raises some security issues. If someone got their hands on your drive and you hadn’t properly deleted your data then it could be easy for them to get it back. This is a concern, especially for businesses that are likely to be holding confidential information.
To ensure that your data is definitely deleted you need to use a process called secure deletion. There are various programs out there that will help you achieve this. One of them is called R-Wipe, which is available to trial for 15 days and purchasable for $28.99. Not only does this delete files that you specify (be it financial documents or customer information), but also from over 600 third party applications that you might not think about. Things like internet browsers and Skype also hold information that you may wish to securely delete.
Another program available is Eraser. This is a free download and it securely deletes your files by overwriting them with random data. You can select how many times you want this process to be carried out (the more the better), all the way up to 35 times. You can also specify a time that you want the procedure to be carried out. There is also a portable version of the program that you can put on a USB drive.
In some instances it may be necessary to physically destroy the drive. Obviously it will make the drive unusable, but if it is something like a read-only CD or DVD then it is your only choice to securely delete the data. There are various different methods to use.
One such method is crushing. These machines can be purchased relatively cheaply and are good for destroying a small amount of drives. As the name suggests, it simply crushes the drive. The data is still there, but it’s far harder to get at in its deformed state. A second method is using a hard drive shredder, which is an industrial version of the standard office tool. Technically the data still exists on the platters afterwards, but it’s near impossible to piece the drive back together. Finally, the third method is degaussing. This makes use of magnetic fields to erase all the data on the drive.
These are all the ways to wipe your private data from a hard drive. Remember, simply deleting data from your hard drive doesn’t get rid of it permanently; you need to securely delete using one of the options above.
How to Wipe Private Data from a Hard Drive
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