Security is finally a major focus for many PC owners and their concern is warranted. Malicious attacks on computer systems are a steady threat and with the knowledge that governmental entities are actively snooping for private data as well places an even higher value on the protection of important files. But, what about files that are no longer of use? Are your files safe after deletion?
Unfortunately, when a file is deleted from most PCs, it does not actually go away, even when finally cleared from the Recycle Bin. The bits of data still exist on the hard drive until the sector that contained the data is finally written over with new information. Even recently formatted drives contain data from previous installation until overwritten.
To securely delete a file, or even the contents of an entire drive, you will need to use software that will write over the specific drive sectors where the files were stored. Lucky for all of us, there are several free programs out there coded to do exactly this job.
Securely Delete Files With Eraser
The first free program is called Eraser. Eraser integrates directly with the Windows OS through Windows Explorer and provides an option in the right-click menu for files and folders. Simply located the file or folder that you wish to permanently remove from your drive, right-click the icon, and select Eraser. The program will even provide a solution for the deletion of files and folders that Windows delays. You can select to have specific files and folders deleted upon the next system reboot.
Securely Delete Files With CCLeaner
The second free option, CCleaner, provides the same service, but with a different process. To permanently remove files using CCleaner, you must simply delete and remove files and folders the same way as you have always before. Once the file or folder has been deleted and then the Recycling Bin has been emptied, bring up CCleaner and select the Tools tab. From there, choose the Drive Wiper heading and configure the program to overwrite all designated free drive space. This will obscure the deleted files enough that they are effectively and permanently deleted.
One Last Thing To Consider
One other free resource that will protect files that will eventually be deleted is encryption. An encrypted file is relatively safe and secure while stored on a drive, and even after deletion will continue to be encrypted until the moment that the data is over written with a new file. Combine your secure deletion program with an encryption program, like Truecrypt, and feel safe knowing you are doing all that you can to protect sensitive data on your computer.