Eight Ways to Permanently Delete Data Without Leaving Any Trace

When you delete a file, and clear out your desktop ‘recycle bin’, the data isn’t really gone - you essentially just ‘hide’ it, and tell the system that it’s OK to write over the data. This of course means that it’s possible in many cases to retrieve the ‘permanently deleted’ data using a variety of free tools. If you’re looking for a proper solution to wipe away those confidential files without hope of recovery, here are 8 FREE tools you can try.

1. How to permanently delete files with a simple click

DeleteOnClick is a very simple to use program that securely deletes files so they cannot be undeleted or recovered. It’s implemented as a Windows Explorer extension so you just need to right-click on the files then choose Securely Delete to wipe the files. DeleteOnClick completely deletes files in one click rather than sending the file to the recycle bin.

2. How to shred files on the Mac

Beginning with Mac OS 10.3, Apple enhanced its security by introducing the Secure Empty Trash feature, which follows the U.S. government’s pattern of overwriting data seven times.

Permanent Eraser provides an even stronger level of security by implementing the Gutmann Method. This utility overwrites your data thirty-five times, scrambles the original file name, and truncates the file size to nothing before Permanent Eraser finally unlinks it from the system. Once your data has been erased, it can no longer be read through traditional means.

3. How to wipe out data by overwriting it again and again

Heidi Eraser is an advanced security tool (for Windows), which allows you to completely remove sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns. Think of it as a PC version of Permanent Eraser for the Mac.

4. How to shred files on Linux

If you’re using Linux, you have several command line options revolving around the ‘Shred’ command and Secure-Delete tools. Check out this article for more details.

5. How to wipe out an entire hard disk

Darik’s Boot and Nuke ("DBAN") is a self-contained boot disk that securely wipes the hard disks of most computers. DBAN will automatically and completely delete the contents of any hard disk that it can detect, which makes it an appropriate utility for bulk or emergency data destruction.

DBAN is a means of ensuring due diligence in computer recycling, a way of preventing identity theft if you want to sell a computer, and a good way to totally clean a Microsoft Windows installation of viruses and spyware. DBAN prevents or thoroughly hinders all known techniques of hard disk forensic analysis.

6. How to wipe away your tracks on a PC

Web browsers can leave behind a telling trail. Delete History Free gets rid of everything from Internet browsing history, recent documents history, recycle bins, temp folders and more.

7. How to encrypt then destroy files

Secure Delete works by getting files removed in such a way that even if the file can be recovered, the content is nonsense, and cannot be decrypted. It does so by allowing you to specify a directory in which all files should be deleted. When each file is deleted the contents of the file are filled with random data prior to deleting the file.

8. How to pick your shredding options

Want more options? In File Shredder you can choose between 5 different shredding algorithms, all differing in speed and strength of shredding.

Which one is best? This can be debatable, and even standards of security vary from country to country. As a guideline, US Department of Defense standards require overwriting files at least 7 times before it’s deemed securely deleted. I guess if it’s good enough for them to wipe out classified documents, it should in theory - be good enough for the rest of us.

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