Why Permanently Delete Files?

Pressing the 'Delete' button doesn't permanently delete files! There are some misconceptions about erasing information from our computers and here we'll put that right... along with information on what you should look for in file and disk deletion software.

Clicking delete, emptying the Recycle Bin, or even formatting the drive doesn't get rid of files. The digital information still remains on the drive we are using.

This is known as data remanence -- the residual representation of data that remains even after attempts have been made to remove or erase it. So, when we delete, it's simply the pathway to the file(s) that's removed and the data itself is reserved for overwriting with new content.

There are programs that can recreate this deleted data from the different hidden locations on the disk drive or from the swap file. You can read about recovery software in my article, Software To Undelete That Lost Data

We are particularly at risk when selling or disposing of our computer, or even putting it in for repair. Anyone with one of these recovery programs and access to our computer can see everything we've used our computer for... unless our unwanted information is deleted beyond recovery. To illustrate, in his book Database Nation, Simson Garfinkel writes that drives purchased on eBay regularly contain sensitive or confidential data, such as credit card data, pin numbers, financial spreadsheets, etc.

Here's what we're going to cover...

  1. Reasons To Permanently Delete
  2. Ensure Your Software Has These Features
  3. Recommended Software
  4. Supporting Articles

Reasons To Permanently Delete Files

Here's just a few reasons why you may want to permanently wipe information from your computer...

  • Your hard drive has become corrupted, so you want to clean your drive and re-install
  • You want to prevent identity theft and so are deleting financial and personal information 'on the go', so it cannot be retrieved by crackers and identity theft malware
  • Computer performance has dramatically decreased and you want to increase memory by deleting unused files and other data... but securely
  • There may be valuable, secret, private or company information on your computer that must never be recovered by a third party
  • You may be selling a hard drive, donating or selling the entire computer or disposing of it. Ensure a third party is unable to recover all that you've stored!
  • You may want to reassure clients, customers or patients that their confidential data will never be seen by anyone else, when it is no longer required to be stored

Ensure Your Software Has These Features to Permanently Delete Files

By using file or disk wipe software which meets a specific standard, files such as Internet history or the complete hard disk drive can be deleted so that they cannot be recovered by software or even forensic hardware.

Data destruction is achieved by repeatedly overwriting the 'deleted' files... but it is important to make the correct number and type of overwrites. There is a lot written about the DOD 5220.22M standard and its specified 7 passes with 3 different data wipes, but this is erroneous and the standard is not that specific. More can be read in my article,
Learn What The DOD Standard Really States.

So bearing this in mind, what software features should you be selecting to permanently delete files?

  • Well, first off, ensure the software specifically states it is 5220.22-M compliant. This is reported as the DoD standard but, as I mentioned above, this standard doesn't specifically mention an exact number of passes. However, 7 passes is recognized as sufficient to prevent both software and hardware recovery.
  • While the DoD hard disk wipe feature is important, you will also want to select a software program that makes the disk wipe easy and fast.

    Depending on how many passes you want and how much data you have, it can take hours or even days to wipe a large number of files.
  • Select a data wipe program that can not only wipe your hard drive but also allows you to delete selected sectors from your hard drive, such as individual files or documents.
  • The software you choose MUST also have the ability to wipe free space. What's 'free space'? Well, even if previously 'deleted' files are overwritten, it is still possible to make a partial recovery because the new data rarely fills the full area that was occupied by the previous file. This 'file slack' can be recovered, to provide some detail of what was there.

    Wiping free space ensures those files that have been marked as available space are actually overwritten and wiped, so that the original contents are non-recoverable.

Recommended Software to Permanently Delete Files

I recommend and use CyberScrub deletion software. It is installed on your computer to overwrite deleted data to your determined level... 1 pass or up to Gutmann (35 passes) and exceeds the features I listed above.

CyberScrub is used by the EPA, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Department of the Interior and the United Nations.

The program will permanently delete files all types, erase tracks and clean your internet history.

It also speeds up your computer by erasing the deleted junk on free space. This privacy software will locate and delete data from areas of your computer that store traces of your activity, from web surfing and downloads to sensitive information that you thought was gone!

CyberScrub Privacy Suite will probably suit most people but if you want to securely wipe external media, such as USB sticks, CD/DVD and external hard drives, CyberScrub Security is the one to go for.

For businesses that have Regulatory Compliance, then these programs meet document life-cycle policies for HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, FACTA and GLB.

I go into more detail about this software in my article,

Permanently Delete Files with CyberScrub

Alternatively, see,

CyberScrub Security Information and Try the 15 Day Free Trial


Supporting Articles

  1. How To Manually Delete Cookies and Internnet History
  2. Delete Browsing History To Stop Tracking Cookies and Snoops!
  3. CCCleaner Is A Fast and Effective Free Shredder
  4. Why You Should Use a File Shredder and The Best Free Software
  5. Learn What The DOD Standard Really States
  6. Learn More About How CyberScrub Software Operates

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